Tommy Roe

  • Pop singer-songwriter and musician born in Atlanta Georgia in 1942.
  • Roe grew up listening to early rock and R&B, and he was especially influenced by Buddy Holly. At 14 years old, he wrote a song that he called Frieda about a girl that he used to chase at the playground. He kept the song for several years. Meanwhile, he performed at frat parties in his high school band, playing R&B hits.
  • When he was 18, a record producer asked to hear some of his songs, and he played Frieda for him. The producer loved the song, but didn’t like the title, so it was changed to Sheila, since Roe’s Aunt Sheila was visiting at the time. He recorded the song with his backing band, the Satins, and it was released as a single in 1960, misspelled by the record company as Shelia. A couple of other songs were recorded and released, but Roe remained in obscurity outside of the Atlanta area.
  • He continued to perform, trying to sound like Buddy Holly. In 1962, another record label invited him to Nashville, and he recorded two songs – Save Your Kisses, which Roe felt would be the A-side of a single, and a re-recorded version of Sheila, which Roe recorded in about five minutes. The label promoted Save Your Kisses, which went nowhere. But a DJ in Baltimore started to play Sheila on the air, and it became a hit in Baltimore. Soon after, it was a national hit – it peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 and at #3 in the UK.
  • An album titled Sheila was quickly put together and released in 1962. It included a cover of Susie Darlin’, which charted at #35. His next big hit was in 1963 – Everybody reached #3 on the Hot 100. To support the song, he toured England, and the opening act during his tour was the Beatles. The following year, the Beatles had become the hottest act in show business, and Roe was the opening act for them during their U.S. tour.
  • While serving in Army Reserves in 1964, he wrote a song called Sweet Pea, envisioning a song that would have a different sound compared to his rockabilly earlier work. When he got out of the service, he recorded Sweet Pea – it had a sound that he called soft rock, but DJs gave it the name bubblegum rock. Sweet Pea was released in 1966, and it reached #8 on the Hot 100.
  • Over the next three years, Roe would continue to use the bubblegum rock sound, reaching the top 10 with Hooray for Hazel, Jam Up and Jelly Tight, and his second #1 hit, Dizzy. 
  • In 1969, he had a guest appearance on the television show Green Acres, playing a musician by the name of Tadpole Talbot. He also was a regular on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is, a variety show that aired from 1965 to 1967.
  • He continued to release music in the 70s, though by then bubblegum rock had run its course. As he entered the 80s, he turned to country music, and seven songs between 1979 and 1987 managed to make it to the Billboard Country chart, though he did not have any hits. He continued to perform in concerts, popular on the nostalgia tours along with other pop artists from the 60s. He retired from performing several times, but he returned to the concert stage, and he still occasionally performs. In 2020, he released a Covid-inspired version of Dizzy, and he appeared in the Netflix documentary Have A Good Trip: Adventures In Psychedelics. Here’s Roe with his best Buddy Holly impersonation with Sheila.

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