FORGOTTEN HITS INTERVIEWS TOMMY ROE
On Sunday, March 13th, we went to the Tommy Roe / Chris Montez / Beatlerama Anniversary Show at The Arcada Theatre in beautiful downtown St. Charles, IL ... and before the concert, I had the chance to visit with Tommy Roe backstage for a little while. (Tommy and his band leader / guitarist Rick Levy have been big supporters of Forgotten Hits over the years so it was nice to finally meet both of them in person.)
Frannie came with me backstage to snap a couple of pictures ... (her very first comment afterwards was, "Boy, he's still really cute!" lol) ... and I've got to tell you that I have to agree with her ... Tommy still looks and sounds great. (He told me that he's about to turn 74 but he easily looks 20-25 years younger than that ... and displayed a lot of energy on stage during his excellent performance. (You'll find our complete concert review at the end of this interview ... along with THE TOMMY ROE HIT LIST.)
We talked about all kinds of things ... going back to the very start of his career ... on up through his headlining tour of England in early 1963 when The Beatles were one of the opening acts on the bill ... his stint in the army ... his big late '60's resurgence with some of the biggest hits of his career ... what he calls his "five retirements from show business" (lol) ... right up to his brand new 2012 Album "Devil's Soul Pile" and this new reunion / anniversary tour which has taken Tommy and Chris back to England, back to Washington, DC, where they opened for The Beatles' very first American concert and now out on the road so other folks across the country can enjoy the excitement of this music again.
Because we were all over the board when we were talking, I've reworked this interview to run in a more chronological order ... so get ready to join us as we talk to Tommy Roe!
Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits: You recorded "Sheila" a couple of years before it became a hit … a completely different version … and really a whole different sound … that got some airplay locally down in Atlanta ...
Tommy Roe: Yeah, while I was in high school.
kk: And then you re-recorded it again a short while later and that's the one that finally clicked ... it had a "Buddy Holly" kind of feel to it, which I'm assuming was a very intentional kind of sound you were going for on your part …
TR: Yes, yes it was … here's the deal.
I recorded "Sheila" when I was in high school with my band in high school called The Satins. We put a band together and we played at dances and sock hops and after the basketball games in the gym and so I recorded the song locally with the band in Atlanta and it got a lot of airplay in Atlanta. Paul Drew was a deejay there on the 50,000 watt WGST station and he played it on WGST so it got a lot of recognition and Felton Jarvis was in the marines at the time and he heard the record while he was in the marines and when he got out he wanted to become a producer and he got with Bill Lowery and they worked out a thing for him to start producing some records, which he did with Ray Stevens … and they produced Gladys Knight and the Pips' first hit "Every Beat Of My Heart", which was produced by Felton in Atlanta.
kk: And of course he went on to produce everybody!
TR: Yeah, he ended up producing Elvis!
So, Felton and I became real close friends and he said, "I'm gonna take you to Nashville and I'm gonna record you down in Nashville" and honestly, I'd already kind of given up because I'd made these records and they hadn't really done much other than locally so I was at a point where I was thinking "I'm not going to be able to make it in the record business" ... but Felton talked me into re-recording "Sheila" and he said "We're gonna do it different." He said, "You know there's a vacuum left of Buddy Holly … there are still a lot of Buddy Holly fans out there so we need to do something to draw attention to you so I'm gonna put 'Buddy Holly drums' on 'Sheila'" ... and I wasn't really crazy about that whole idea because I was a big fan of Buddy Holly's and I felt like we were sponging off of him and his whole sound. So anyway, that was Felton's whole idea … and we went to Nashville and recorded two songs … we recorded "Save Your Kisses" and "Sheila" and "Save Your Kisses" ended up as the A-Side of the record because "Sheila" … I HATED "Sheila" when we left the studio and I felt like we had really screwed my song up here.
And radio worked on "Save Your Kisses" for awhile and it didn't do anything and then Buddy Dean in Baltimore, he was a deejay there and he had a tv show kinda like "Bandstand" but it was a Baltimore show with Buddy Dean, and he flipped the record over, played it, and it became #1 at his station there in Baltimore … and next thing it was #1 everywhere.
And I was still working at General Electric at the time and Bill Lowery calls me up at work one day and says … and I had just taken this job and it was a great job … my cousin had got me the job … and he called me up at work one day and said that I need to think about turning in my resignation and quit my job at GE because it looks like I've got a hit record. And he couldn't talk me into it. I said, "Hey, I just landed this job!" and I was married and I had a little kid so he laughed and he said, "Come by the office and we'll talk" ... so that night I went by the office and we talked and I said, "Bill, I can't quit this job … I just got the job and I had a little girl and a family to support and it's a job that I can have for a long time and I felt secure about it" so he laughed and he leaned back in his chair and he said "So let me tell you what … let me give you an advance against royalties ... you take it home and you and your family talk it over and think about it" … and he wrote me a check for $10,000. I didn't make $10,000 in a year … this is back in 1962 … and my dad and I together didn't make $10,000.
So I was shocked with that and I went home with the check and my mom and dad looked at it and said, "Well look, you're young, so this is really your choice" ... and you know the thing that I was really upset about was that my cousin had got me the job. You know, Jackie Densmore was my cousin and he went out on a limb to get me this job and what hurt me more than anything was telling Jackie that I was gonna quit the job after he'd stuck his neck out for me. So I said "Dad, what's Jackie gonna think?" And he laughed and he said, "Well, don't worry about it, I'll take care of Jackie" … he said "Go ahead and do what Bill wants you to do and see what happens" and so the next thing I knew I was on the road and I really wasn't prepared for it. The very first tour I did was with Sam Cooke … I was just totally unprepared for it … I'd never played professionally before, just locally with my band so I had a learning experience here of what to do and I mean you fail and you learn from your failures. But that's how it all happened … and I hit the road.
Funny story ... right after the Sam Cooke tour they put me on a tour through the midwest and they had a lot of ballrooms in the midwest, if you remember, in the '60's and you could do like ten shows in a row in these ballrooms … so they sent me out on this ballroom tour with a promoter named Jimmy Thomas, who lived up in Minnesota, I think, and I was doing the tour and I was collecting cash, ya know, 'cause they used to pay you in cash when you were on the road.
So I come home and Bill asked me, "You know, you've got all this cash … what do you do with the cash when you're travelin' around" and I said "I just put it in my suitcase" and he said "What do you do when you're flyin' around?" and I said "I put it in my suitcase and I check it on the airplane" and he's like "WHAAAT?!?! You check your bag with $10,000 in cash in it on the plane?!?" ... but in those days I never lost a dime! It was a different time and you didn't think about stuff like that. And I was so naïve anyway but here I was going around and checking my bag with $10,000 in it and you do that today and man, it'd be gone in a minute!
kk: So it sounds like your parents were very supportive of what you wanted to do.
TR: Oh, they were. Well, my dad played guitar, you know …
kk: No, I didn't know that
TR: Yeah, he taught me to play the guitar so he was very instrumental in me getting into the business.
When he first bought me the guitar, I had wrote … and I'll tell the story on the stage tonight … I wrote this poem about this girl that I was going to school with named Freda and that's how that all happened. He taught me three chords on the guitar and I thought, "You know if I can put some music to these silly poems I'm writing, maybe I can be a songwriter", and that's how that all happened.
It was originally called "Sweet Little Freda". So yes, they were very supportive.
And my dad had a band … he passed away a few years ago … he was 94 years old … and he passed away a few years ago … he died in his sleep, and that's the way to go. Anyway, he had a little band, a little bluegrass band, in Alpharetta, Georgia, and he used to play at the barber shop and every time he'd go and get his hair cut, he'd sit up there at the barber shop and I used to love to listen to them play. I recorded them one afternoon at my farm in Georgia and I've got this old tape of my dad and his band playing all this old bluegrass music and it's really cool.
kk: That IS cool ... but obviously, even as a southern boy, it was rock and roll that did it for you.
TR: Well, dad didn't like that too much … he was a country guy, you know … and I was into … I used to listen to all that R&B stuff when I was a kid in Atlanta and you couldn't hear it in the daytime … you could only hear rhythm and blues, black music as far as that goes, in the south, late at night. And there was a station there called WALK and there was a deejay named Zenas Sears and he would come on like at 11:00 at night and I would turn my radio on and mother always wondered why it was hard to get me up to go to school because I was up all night till two in the morning listening to John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Bobby "Blue" Bland and all that stuff that they played, which you couldn't listen to in the daytime. That's how I got into it.
And then my band, when we first started out in high school, we did this stuff … I used to sing Jimmy Reed, believe it or not, all his songs I would sing ... and we had a harmonica player in the band called Drolet Bush and he would play the harmonica and we would do this blues stuff with my high little voice (lol) and play fraternity parties and they loved it, you know, they danced to it.
kk: I remember when I first started doing Forgotten Hits I would write about how I would go to bed at 10:00 and I always had my radio on under my pillow so my parents wouldn't know that I was still listening to the radio when I was supposed to be sleeping … and I'll betcha I got a thousand letters from people ALL over the country that said "You, too?" (both laughing), which is really funny because, you know, you thought you were the only one … and then you find out that EVERYBODY did that … EVERYONE was doing it … because back then we LIVED for this music … and we couldn't get enough of it. We absolutely lived for it ... and those are the people that Forgotten Hits connects with.
TR: Yeah, yeah. I love the way you manage your site because you tell the real stories and you get all these readers to open up and share their memories and it brings it all back.
I never will forget the first record player they bought me … we bought everything at Sears … you know, my dad and mother, they always shopped at Sears … and the first guitar I had was a Silvertone, which he bought at Sears, and it had a neck like a two by four ... I mean I could hardly get my hands around it …
kk: Yeah, and you needed like a vice to push the strings down! (lol)
TR: Yeah, Unbelievable. And so the first record player they ever bought me was a Silvertone and it always sat right next to the bed with the volume in the front so I could play it real low at night, you know.
kk: Yeah, once you're hooked you're hooked … there's just no escaping the music … no goin' back.
TR: Yep, those were the days … it's like you say, once the genie's out of the bottle, you can never put it back in there but it was a wonderful time to grow up as a teenager, in the '50's and '60's.
kk: I know that this is a show we were very excited to see come to Chicago ... especially after we heard about the Beatles Week show you guys did there at the Cavern Club Lounge in England and then recreating the very first Beatles concert here in America in Washington, DC, a couple of years ago for the 50th anniversary of that concert.
TR: Well, what they're doing here is cool because it kinda throws it back to the beginning with The Beatles and all that so it should work … I mean, let's see what happens … but the concept definitely works and Chris and I, we've done a few shows like these now and it's great to come out and play the hits and tell some of the stories about what it was like to be there at the time, headlining for The Beatles!
kk: Well if you think about it, it's like the EXACT anniversary of when that tour took place. I ran a poster on the website the other day that was dated March 13th, 1963 … and now you guys are here … ON March 13th ... doing the show 53 years later!
TR: That's amazing. Ron [Arcada President Ron Onesti] has a poster here that we'll be signing in the lobby after the show dated March 14th ...
kk: Which is TOMORROW ... so it's just all that much cooler to know that this is REALLY the anniversary of those shows. I mean who would have ever thought back then …
TR: I know, I know!
kk: So let's talk about that ... when this whole thing started with you and Chris Montez being invited to go over to England to headline a tour.
In hindsight it seems like kind of an unusual pairing ... plus an INCREDIBLE opportunity so early in your career. Let's face it, you guys really didn't have the stable of hits that you would go on to have and can perform at a show like this today. You guys were basically just kids who each had one big record under your belts. So how did that whole thing come about? You and Chris each had had one big hit at that point so how does the idea of packaging you both together to headline a tour of England come about?
TR: Well, it's interesting how all that happened.
"Shelia" and "Let's Dance" were both hits at about the same time … they were very close together and so when "Sheila" was #1 and I think "Let's Dance" was #2 here in The States, they booked Chris and I on a Sam Cooke tour and that's when I met Chris, when we were on the Sam Cooke tour, and we hit it off … we just clicked and we both enjoyed being with each other. The tour went great … and we always used to laugh about how that tour was such a great learning experience, working with Sam Cooke, because he was quite an entertainer.
So we did the tour down south, in the southeast, and I come to find out that it was an all black tour … Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Jerry Butler and the Impressions and maybe three or four other acts, I can't remember all of them … but it was a big African-American Tour … and this was in 1962, when you still had segregation in the south.
So as we're out on the road I come to find out that they always booked one white guy on the tour because they couldn't stop in restaurants, so I was kind of like the runner.
They would park the bus down the street from a mom and pop store … I mean they didn't have places like McDonald's and Burger King and all of that back in '62 ... so we'd stop at a little mom and pop roadside restaurant hamburger joint. They'd park the bus and then they'd send me out to get sandwiches.
I did for a few days and I thought, "Hey, you know, that's kinda weird … I've got the #1 record in the country and I'm runnin' out for sandwiches!" But they did that with all the white guys … in fact, Buddy Holly did it … all these guys that were booked on these tours … Dion did one of them … and that's just the way they did it down south at that time. And with me, you know, I never thought … I mean I was born into segregation and I had no idea about it until I turned into my teens and then I began to realize this picture ain't pretty, ya know. But when I was a kid, you have to understand, that I was born into a situation. You don't even think it's different because you've never been anywhere. You think that's just the way it is, right?
So here I am, a BIG fan of African-American music, all the rhythm and blues I listened to on the radio and I was just a huge fan so when I was booked with Sam Cooke I thought, "Oh man, this is fantastic!"
So that's how Chris and I met and we had a great tour in the south and then right after that tour, my manager got a call ... I think from Chris' manager … we were both of the same agency at the time … I think it was GAC … and they wanted to know if Chris and I would like to go to England together since we had kinda hit it off and do a tour together over there.
So they put the tour together, booked it, and we both had #1 records in England … "Sheila" was a big hit, "Let's Dance" was a big hit … and we went over to do the tour and The Beatles were like a featured act on that tour … and nobody knew who the hell The Beatles were at that time ... but we knew after the first couple of shows we did … I think Chris was closing the first half and The Beatles were opening the second half or something like that ... and it was just pandemonium once they got on stage.
We changed the show around after about the third day and The Beatles ended up closing the tour. And it's the only way we could have finished the tour because they would have just fallen apart, ya know.
And it happened the same way right after that with Roy Orbison. He was closing the show and then agreed that he would close the first half of it and let The Beatles close the night … because you just couldn't follow them.
They released their album right in the middle of the tour and "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do" went right to the top of the charts, so during our tour they were getting a HUGE fan following … they were really developing their fan following and that was really the whole kick off to their whole thing of Beatlemania.
Remember "A Hard Day's Night", the movie? That's EXACTLY what it was like … that's what our tour was, the pandemonium of that movie, you know, running from the fans and all that … and it was a GREAT experience and it worked for all of us and after that I ended up doing so much work in England thanks to the exposure of that tour. We got so much press all over Europe … went to Germany and all these different places and it worked.
You know when you're young, you're 22 years old, the ego's huge and you don't want to see yourself upstaged by another act but, you know, we were upstaged by one of the best!
kk: Did you end up moving to England for some period of time after that? I thought I read somewhere that you had moved to England.
TR: Yeah, people thought I moved there but what actually happened was I was over there so much that the press said "Tommy Roe lives in London now" ... but really I lived in hotel after hotel ... I never really got an apartment over there … but in '63 and '64, before I went into the army, I was over there more than I was over here. I just sorta stayed over there and did a lot of work … worked with all the British acts before they came over here.
kk: There seems to be a REAL affection for the American artists over there ... even now, some 40 or 50 years on … they've never really lost sight of the fact that this is where it all started.
TR: Oh, absolutely, and they know rock and roll began as a southern thing down south but all over the US it spread in the '50's and they're big fans in England … HUGE fans … and LOYAL fans, too.
kk: Now Rick [Rick Levy, Tommy's Musical Director and Guitarist] was telling me that when you came back from that tour you actually brought some Beatles records with you and went to ABC with them.
TR: I did … well, we got to be real close friends on the tour and this is a story I can tell now … it's even more interesting now because John Lennon's acoustic Gibson guitar just sold at auction for I think $1.2million dollars … and on that tour he had that guitar with him all the time and him and Paul were writing songs and he would let me borrow that guitar … and I actually wrote "Everybody" on that guitar … so now I like to joke that that guitar's gotta be worth at least $2 million dollars now (lol - both laughing) since I wrote one of my hits on it.
And what happened during the tour was I got to talking to Brian Epstein … actually he was talking with my manager at the time about managing me in Europe, so we were actually trying to put together a deal for Brian to manage me over there. I mean he had no clue The Beatles were going to become The Beatles! Nobody did … they didn't either!
So we were negotiating for him to manage me in England and all of Europe and by the end of the tour, we had developed a good working relationship and they never dreamed that they would actually get to come to America. I mean their whole dream was to come to America but they thought that they would never get there.
So Brian asked me if I would take their records back with me and see if I could maybe get my label … I was on ABC-Paramount … maybe get my label to sign them … which I did. And I hyped it … I called Felton Jarvis, who produced "Sheila" and "Everybody" and I took the Queen Elizabeth back from South Hampton … it was a five day trip across the Atlantic and I landed in New York at the docks there and Felton met me at the docks with my luggage, my guitars and everything and we went right from the docks to the president's office over at ABC-Paramount Records 'cause he was so excited about The Beatles because I had been talkin' to him the whole tour about The Beatles and how fantastic they were.
So I went up to the president's office and we walked in and I was prepared because I had a little promo pack with me … which was actually just a NEMS Music Store bag that Brian had given me and it had all The Beatles stuff in it … it had the first album and a bio and the normal kind of promotional kit … and so I walked in with my little promo kit and they congratulated me on the tour and Sam Clark, who was the President and Larry Newton, who was the Vice President and they knew I was all excited so they say "And Felton tells us you found an act you'd like us to sign to ABC Records" and I said, "Yeah, it's The Beatles … and they're really phenomenal … I was really sellin' it, you know what I mean … I said "They're like Elvis Presley and they create pandemonium everywhere they go and their music is great … it's so different" … and I'm doin' my whole schpiel, and so Sam says, "Well let me hear 'em … have you got something we can hear?"
And I pull the album out … and that first album, remember, they were in that stairwell with the hair and everything and the whole office just got quiet when they saw that album … and they must have been thinking "Holy Crap, what has this kid brought us?", right?
So Felton blurts out something to the effect of "Well, you've gotta hear 'em" … so he takes the album out of the cover and puts it on the turn-table and puts the needle down and the first song was "Love Me Do" or "Please Please Me" or one of those and he plays a few bars and picks up the needle and says "Kid, that's gotta be the worst piece of shit I've ever heard in my life!" Let us be the talent scouts. WE know music … you just concentrate on writing us some more hits and we'll put your records out and you'll be a big star … don't you worry about finding us other acts." And I was like Man, you just feel like you're so sold on something … and then to have it shot down like that was pretty disheartening.
kk: Well, you had experienced it first hand, too …
TR: Right and later on I realized that if you just heard The Beatles without seein' 'em, I don't know if they would have took off like they did because it was the image … you had to see them … and then hear the music … and of course you didn't have videos back then … you had to go to the concert or see them on TV … and it was that whole thing of not visualizing the act and just hearing the music. Because you know their early records were really basic … I mean they were just a four piece band playing simple stuff … it wasn't like the stuff you would hear in The States at the time … we were making great records, ya know … so that was an interesting experience.
kk: So a year later, I imagine there was a heavy round of "I told ya so's" going on …
TR: lol … less than that! I think it was February of that next year when they came over and then I opened for them in Washington, DC, and then every time they would see me comin' they would run for the exits … they just couldn't face the guy who brought them The Beatles. It was funny 'cause I remember we had a deejay convention in Miami the following year and I used to always go to these conventions to promote my records and they were all sittin' around the pool and I come walkin' up with Felton and they're smokin' their cigars and everything and then they said "Hey, that's the kid that brought us The Beatles!"
kk: Well, think about how Ed Sullivan first discovered The Beatles … he had never heard a note … he just saw the thousands of fans waiting for them at the airport and thought the Queen must be coming in … and said "What's this all about?" Then when he found this reaction was for a rock group, he signed them up for three shows on the spot!
TR: That's right! (lol) Everything fell in place for them. I mean, you could credit a lot of that to Brian … he was a great manager and there ended up being a lot of controversy between the group and him … some people hated him, some people loved him … but without Brian they never would have made it the way they did.
kk: Well it's known that he left a lot of money on the table because it was all so new … and so much bigger than anything anybody had ever seen before … but he TRULY believed in them and that's what made it happen.
TR: Boy he did, he sure did. And then when they did the show with Ed Sullivan and they invited me to open for them in Washington, DC, three days later, which I did, it was the same thing … the pandemonium came right to the American shores just like it had over there in England.
kk: And actually, that's one of the things I wanted to ask you about … because obviously, something was struck there during that month in England when you guys were performing together that they would invite YOU back to be part of their opening performance here in America.
TR: Oh yeah, we were close … and we got close … John and I were like pub buddies … we hung out together and he was a big drinker … and so he got me drinkin' the Guinness, which I'd never experienced before … so we turned out to be real good friends.
Once they made it … once they took off in The States … I lost contact with them 'cause they were in a different world and you couldn't get to them and there was no sense in trying to pursue the relationship because it was just pandemonium again.
kk: Yeah, I wondered about that because they were here quite a bit at that time.
TR: Yeah, and in California, which is where I lived …
kk: I wondered if you were able to keep in touch with them once they clicked over here. Which reminds me of something else I wanted to ask you … I know when Del Shannon toured over there with them, he came back and recorded "From Me To You" … and his version pretty much flopped but he obviously saw or heard something in the music that he felt would work over here … so I was just wondering if you ever had any thoughts about trying to record some of their songs and see if you could capture some of that magic back here in The States.
TR: I did record a couple of things … I recorded "I Wanna Be Your Man" in Muscle Shoals (sings a little bit of it ... "I wanna be your man ... I wanna be your man) … I think Ringo sang that … so I recorded that in Muscle Shoals when I came back and recorded "Everybody" … you know I wrote "Everybody" on the tour and I went to Muscle Shoals to record it and I cut "I Wanna Be Your Man" on that session and I also cut "A Taste Of Honey" which was on their first album.
And I recorded another song that was a big hit at the time, "Dominique", which was sung in French in England and they wanted me to do it in English … the label thought it could be a big English hit but it wasn't.
I recorded their songs, I brought their album back … LOVED their music … and the whole experience of them live on stage … you know they were very good on stage, too … I mean what they did, they did well … I mean they were a tight band, very tight.
kk: Until they couldn't hear themselves! (lol)
TR: You couldn't hear them. Even backstage, on the sides, you could tell out in the audience you couldn't hear them. Like I said, it's like when I saw Elvis, they just ran over me to get to Elvis.
kk: Talking about recording some of their songs, I'm sure you're aware that The Beatles used to perform "Sheila" as part of their stage act before making it big on their own. Did you guys talk about that at all when you first started performing together? (I believe George Harrison sang it. In fact, it was probably within a month or two of your tour together that The Beatles were still singing "Sheila" in clubs!)
TR: Yes, the Beatles were doing "Sheila" in their show before I met them on our tour. On our first day on the bus John came to me with his now famous Gibson acoustic guitar and said to me, “You know we have been doing your song “Sheila” in our show.” John then started playing “Sheila” on the guitar and asked me if the chord progression he was playing was correct. Well, the chords he was playing were correct but in the wrong order. He handed me his guitar and I started playing “Sheila” with the proper chord progression. John said I knew it, I just knew we were playing it wrong.
After this initial interchange with John, he was very generous and allowed me to use his Gibson guitar during the tour and I actually wrote my next big hit, “Everybody" on John’s guitar.
kk: It was a pretty exciting time.
TR: You know, I don't know if there'll be another time like that because of our media situation today …
kk: Yeah, well it's a much more immediate, instantaneous situation today.
TR: It's true … there's no mystery today … there's no mystery about anything anymore … it's all out on the table.
kk: Think about it … it was all word of mouth back then … yeah, you had newspapers and tv with three channels and kids listened to the radio but it's not like the world is today where something happens now and five minutes later it's all over social media and youtube and everybody's talking about it. And then wait another five minutes and there's two million hits on it already! It's just not the world we grew up in.
TR: I think Michael Jackson may be the last one … we'll see. Because you had Frank Sinatra, he was a phenom, and then Elvis, The Beatles and Michael Jackson … and that's it. Everybody else did great but I'm talkin' about just totally phenomenal success, superstar status.
kk: Really though, and we were just talking about how quickly things happen today in this "instant society" but quite honestly, things happened pretty quickly back in 1963, too. We didn't have things like the Internet or Twitter and Instagram and all of that but if something big was happening, the news spread pretty quickly, all things considered. And it all happened because of good word of mouth and radio airplay and TV. I mean think about it, you had a record out and within a couple of weeks, boom, you're going to England … I mean I would imagine this was like your first major tour … first time out of the country …
TR: Oh yeah, it was … well, the Sam Cooke tour and then The Beatles tour were like my first two big tours … I mean, I started right at the top!
kk: I was gonna say, you can't get much bigger than that! (both laughing)
TR: But when we made records back then, you're right, it was very instant. I mean we walked out of the studio with a record under your arm … you didn't do tracks … I think when I cut "Sheila" we had two tracks and then it was a monaural record … I don't think there's a real stereo version of "Sheila" out there … there may be one of those rechanneled things for artificial stereo and then when I cut at Muscle Shoals, we cut right to quarter-inch tape … everything was done live in the studio and the engineer mixed it as we went … there was no going back and changing things … it was all done at once. So when we left the studio we had the master under our arm and all we had to do was press records and they'd be out the next week … in days, actually, the radio would be playin' 'em. I used to walk into radio stations with my records and say, "Hey, I've got a new one", and they'd put it right on the turn-table and play it on the air.
kk: Yes, a much more exciting time to be sure … and that was back in the day when you had to do four singles a year! Now people take four years just to do an album and back then you'd be putting out four singles a year.
TR: Yeah, it's amazing how many singles they put out on me after "Sheila" was a hit … I think I had SIX out in one year. (lol) That was incredible!
kk: So you got out of it for awhile, right? … Got out of the music biz?
TR: I did … in the '70's. I had a lot of conflict in the '70's … personal problems … plus the music changed drastically with the disco and all that … and so I stopped touring during the '70's from like '72 on up to the latter part of the decade. Then, in '78, '79 I started getting calls about doing nostalgia shows, oldies shows, so I started doing those thru the '80's and I did a lot of those with Bobby Vee … we worked together a lot … and all the guys from that era. And then even thru the '90's I worked quite a bit and then in the early 2000's I just got tired of all the traveling and after 9/11 it got REAL difficult to travel and I think around 2005 - 2006 I started slowin' down and then Rick, my guitar player ... we were old friends and we worked together for years before I retired ... and then he would call occasionally and say, "Hey they want to book ya here" and I said, "Rick, I'm retired, man, I've had it" … and then finally he talked me into doing three dates up in Canada … we did three casinos up there and I had a great time with him … and the whole band … I'd worked with them before for years before I retired and I had a good time with them and so we decided we'd try and do some things but I wanted to just do like "An Evening With Tommy Roe" where I could do some of my new music and it worked for awhile … we started back in 2012 and it worked great but now I think I'm getting' ready to retire again. You know, it runs in cycles like that. I miss performing … I mean being on stage is just … I love it … I love playing to an audience and I love the fans … the fans are just great … the feedback from the fans and all of that … but I'm going to be 74 in May and I'm still healthy but you know you just get tired of traveling. Even a short trip up from Atlanta to here and I'm thinking "Oh shit … back on the road again!"
kk: Well, I'm glad that I finally get to see you! As you know, I've been trying to get you out to Chicago for a few years now, especially after the release of the new album and it being such a strong album. I wonder how long it's been since you played here in Chicago … I've gotta think the early '70's at best.
TR: It was. McCormick's Place … I believe it was McCormick's Place … do you remember that? Probably about 1972.
[Actually McCormick Place, a very big convention center and home to The Arie Crown Theatre, which burned down in 1967 but was rebuilt in 1971, evidently right before Tommy's final show in Chicago. -kk]
kk: I was talking to Frank Jeckell, one of the original members of the 1910 Fruitgum Company, when they played here last year and I remember asking him afterwards "When was the last time you performed in Chicago?" and he said "1969" … and that was their peak and that was it and they've never been back since.
They were part of a big show here last year that had a whole bubblegum flavor to it and I remember going to Ron Onesti and telling him, "This is the time … this is the time to bring Tommy out here", and Ron said, "Tommy Roe? He's not bubblegum!" And I said, "Are you kidding me? Tommy Roe is like the KING of Bubble Gum! If you're going to do THIS kind of a show and you're going to have The 1910 Fruit Gum Company and Ohio Express and one of the guys who was, I guess, like a 17th generation Bay City Roller … and they had all these different guys together … they had the guy from Looking Glass, who was FANTASTIC by the way … sounded JUST like the record all these years later … and I said THIS is the guy who should be headlining this show … this show was MADE for Tommy Roe!
I know Rick Levy [Tommy's Musical Director and Guitarist], who I talk to all the time … and he plays with SO many different bands … has been pushing for it, too, but he always wanted to do it as "An Evening With …", which may have been a tough sell after not performing here in so long … and I said "If I can't get you 'An Evening With …' what about Tommy just coming out here with some of your other artists and just headlining the show? Because he's going to blow these people away, especially with the new album and everything because obviously he's still doin' it and the music is great and it'll speak for itself." And then I met one of the women who runs Dennis Tufano's Facebook page … and I guess she also does Chris Montez's Facebook page … so together we kinda started pushing to have you and Chris here and now it's finally all worked out ... plus we get to enjoy The Beatles anniversary show in the process!
TR: I like doing the "An Evening With" shows because it allows me to go a little deeper with the audience … tell a few more stories and talk about the music and the times. Plus I always do a Q&A with the audience, which goes over very well because you never know what they're going to ask you. There are some VERY knowledgeable people out there who know some of my records better than I do! I've had people at shows ask me about a particular song that I don't even remember recording … or find out that it was something that I cut that only came out in England … or maybe I recorded it over there and it never came out here in The States … so it's always fun because it's a learning experience for both of us and really let's your personality come through.
kk: You should really talk to Ron about that because he's real big on the Q&A shows … he's put on quite a few of them … and they don't necessarily draw the big crowds … but the bring out the die-hard fans ... and it makes for a much more intimate performance. Do something like that where you just sit on a sofa … have your guitar there on the side so if you feel like playing a little bit of a song to illustrate a point, you can … because really then the sky's the limit … if something comes up, YOU can do it because you're not confined by the band who aren't going to know every single song, because they can't … they have to concentrate on the hits and the set list … but on your own you can tell a story, play a little something and pretty soon it's like the whole audience is just sitting there in your living room … very intimate and informal … very relaxed. [I've since heard that Ron Onesti has already talked to Rick Levy about bringing the show back to The Arcada … but this might make for an interesting "side feature" … or follow up show like he sometimes does. Stay tuned to Forgotten Hits for more details as this develops.]
We tend to get a lot of the same acts again and again in the city and one thing I really like about Ron and this theater is that he loves this music just as much as we do … and he'll experiment a little bit and bring out some people that you just don’t get to see all the time and as such, we're treated to just this HUGE, wide variety of music and talent and it truly comes down to something for everybody.
TR: I see he's got Paul Anka coming … this guy is a Vegas act!
kk: Yes but he'll be playing in a 900 seat theater doing a real intimate show with the fans.
TR: And I LOVE that!!! You know the intimacy of working with an audience like that is exactly the kind of thing entertainers love … and yeah, he's a Vegas kind of guy so that'll be great.
kk: There are some great places around town to play but I don't know that you'll ever get treated better than you do right here … it's a very loyal audience that makes the acts feel welcome.
TR: I think that's why Ron kind of experiments … because he LOVES the whole music thing and he loves the oldies and an old theater like this has such an incredible sound because it dates back to when all of this started … and there just aren’t that many of them left. Unfortunately this is true of some of the artists lately, too.
kk: This has been a VERY rough year … we have lost some great artists recently.
TR: My friend Joe South just passed away … and Billy Joe Royal … we used to tour together and I've lost quite a few friends. Paul Revere.
kk: Paul was here several times and I got to know him a little bit … and he was just the nicest guy you could ever wanna know … a GREAT guy. So sad. It's almost like a reality jolt that just sort of hits you and reminds you that we've all got this limited time here to enjoy life. We're all getting older, every one of us ... and, unfortunately, there IS an expiration date for each and every one of us.
TR: Yeah, well, it's life.
I never will forget when I moved from New York to Los Angeles … and Dick Clark invited me to come to Los Angeles … he said "Tommy, I have this new TV show and I'd like for you to come out and be a regular on it … and it'll only last for about six months … and it was called "Where The Action Is". And I was living in New York at the time and I thought "Well, I was only 21, 22 years old at the time … what am I gonna lose by giving it a try?"
And so I didn't move … but I went to LA to do the show … and then ended up living there from like 1966 till now! So I can thank Dick Clark for that!
And I never will forget the first day I was on the show … and Paul Revere and the Raiders were already regulars on the show and, ya know, I was a little nervous … I'd never really done TV before … and Paul came over and just made me feel so at home, like welcomed me into the group … I want you to feel comfortable, we're all here to have a good time … and he just calmed my nerves completely and he was great at that … he was a real leader, Paul … he was very good at that. And then him and Mark had this big falling out … I never quite understood the whole thing .. but boy, when you get on Paul's bad list, there's no going back. I mean they never made up … they were mortal enemies right up until Paul passed away.
kk: You know it's funny, and I see that SO much with so many of these artists … it's like 40 year old wounds … isn't it time to just put it behind you and move on? You all achieved what you achieved together ... as a direct result of working together ... doesn't that outweigh anything and everything else? Why do they tend to single out the unpleasant memories rather than the favorable ones? It just doesn't make sense to me.
kk: You mentioned the camaraderie of yourself and Paul Revere and the Raiders ... in fact, you ended up writing several songs with Freddy Weller of The Raiders, including your biggest hit "Dizzy". How did that partnership come about? And what was that like after writing solo for so long?
TR: Right after I joined Paul Revere and The Raiders as a regular on Dick Clark's “Where the Action Is,” Paul lost his guitar player and asked me if I knew any guitar players he could audition for the gig. Freddy Weller was a good friend of mine and at the time was playing guitar for another friend of mine, Billy Joe Royal. I put Paul in contact with Freddy and Freddy got the gig. For awhile Billy Joe was upset with me and every time I would see him he would jokingly accuse me of stealing his guitar player. I would always reply; "I was only the intermediary, Paul is the thief!”
The Raiders and I started touring together on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars and this brought Freddy and me together as song writers, and it turned out to be very productive for both of us. During this time Freddy and I wrote “Dizzy,” “Jam Up and Jelly Tight,” and “Pearl,” along with many other country songs which Freddy would record.
kk: For the most part, though, you always wrote a lot of your own material … certainly all of the biggest hits yourself.
TR: All of the big hits I wrote except for "The Folk Singer" … and I know that was a big hit in Europe. And the follow up to "Sheila" was "Susie Darlin'", which was a remake of a Robin Luke song.
kk: I talked to Robin not all that long ago … and I don't know if you know this or not, but he recently retired after an entire career after music as a college professor … and he told me that the one thing he was hoping to do now that he had the time was to maybe be able to go out and do a few shows and get back up on the stage again! Even after all this time the bug was still with him!
TR: Yes, it never really leaves you. Even when I was retired I still kept up with the music. I've never stopped loving the music and the fans ... it's just the traveling and the time on the road.
kk: And I've got to tell you that I've ALWAYS enjoyed your version of "Stagger Lee" … I thought that was a GREAT version … and that wasn't a song you expected to hear in '72 and yet you still made it sound like it BELONGED in '72, and I always liked that one … but pretty much everything else you wrote or at least had a hand in writing it.
TR: I think that was really my secret to survival of The British Invasion because in '64 I had to go in the Army so I was kind of out of the loop for a whole year in '64, so I had "Sheila" and "Everybody" was a hit … and then I redid "Carol", the old Chuck Berry hit "Carol", which was a pretty big chart record … and those were all cut in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and then while I was in the Army all I heard on the radio was the Beatles and British stuff and I was thinking, "Holy shit, when I get out of here what am I gonna do? I mean, how do I fight this? They're not playing any American artists anymore." All the American acts were being pushed aside for all this British stuff.
kk: In hindsight you might say that you went into the army at the most opportune time - by 1964-1965 you virtually couldn't get any airplay at all unless you were part of the British Invasion - but your comeback was timed perfectly / by 1966 the mania had died down some and you were able to come back with a bunch of hits that took us thru the rest of the 60s. The musical tapestry had changed drastically in two short years - yet pure and simple feel good music has never gone out of style.
TR: It was because of that that I consciously came up with the idea of doing what I called soft-rock and that became what they called bubblegum later on. When I first wrote "Sweet Pea", I thought to myself "I'm going to do something that's soft-rock" … I mean, they're doing rock and hard rock and acid rock and pop, so I'm going to do soft-rock. So when I got out of the service I cut "Sweet Pea" and it was a hit and there I was, back on the charts again. And if I hadn't been a songwriter, I don't think I would have survived that because most of the artists that were pushed off the charts, they were not writers … they depended on The Brill Building in New York for their material.
kk: But really you wrote some catchy music … and "Sweet Pea"'s a perfect example … I mean you hear it and it just sticks in your head.
TR: Well, that was the whole point, really … I did that … keep it simple … I was always trying to write a melody under three minutes and if you had a song over three minutes you could forget about it because it wasn't going to get played … in fact "Everybody" was less than TWO minutes … it was like 1:59! And I never will forget Bill Lowery saying, "Write a song like two minutes" … and I said "Bill, that's not even long enough to get into a song" and he said "Yeah but radio stations LOVE songs like that 'cause they can come out of the news with it" … and that was the thinking back then … they were trying to think of ways to get deejays interested in playing your record, not just for the music but so it worked in their programming, you know.
kk: (laughing) That's how a lot of the instrumentals got played back then … they would play the instrumental running into the newscast and then just cut it off or fade it out right at the newscast.
TR: Yeah, it's amazing. What a funny process.
kk: Funny thing, too, you mentioned a record having to be under three minutes in order to get played and I'll never forget Simon and Garfunkel put out a record in '67 called "Fakin' It" and it ran just a little over three minutes … but they had the labels printed to say something like 2:74 and they actually pressed the record that way … because if the radio station had seen three minutes, they might not have played it!
TR: (both laughing) Shows you how much attention they paid to the seconds, right? That's funny. It's interesting stuff to be part of … you know, the history of the music business … it's quite a trip.
kk: Well, I hope you're able to stick with it, at least on your own terms 'cause it's good to know that you're back out there and doing some stuff … recording some new material … when you record an album as strong as what you just did it shows that there's still a passion and a certain amount of enjoyment that comes with performing.
TR: There is … it's just the travel that's so tough. I keep thinking that I'm about to retire for the fifth time and time now!
kk: I mean, looking back you had a gap there of almost 40 years between releases … were you writing during all that time?
TR: I've always been writing … there was just no reason to record .. and I have my book coming out this year …
kk: Oh, I didn't know that. Not THAT'S something I'll have to pick up!
TR: Yeah, I've been working on this for like the past three or four years now and it's gonna be out before the end of the year … we're in editing now so I'll have it out before the end of the year for sure. And it kinda tells the story of why I backed off and the whole thing and it's a little different than a regular rock and roll book because what I've done is I've tried to parallel what was happening in our society with what was happening with music at the same time … and I talk about the politics of the time along with the music relating to the politics … so it's a different take … not your typical tell-all rock and roll book … so hopefully it'll work … but even if it DOESN'T work, it's MY story … and I wanted to get it out there. I talk about a lot of the ups and downs in my career and the reasons behind it and it's quite interesting … I think it's really good.
kk: What about writing for other people? Have you ever thought about writing music for other artists?
TR: I haven't … I've had my songs covered by different people … "Dizzy" mostly … 'Everybody" was covered by Brinsley Schwarz, a big heavy metal band … you ever heard of that band? They did a GREAT version of "Everybody". "Sheila"'s been done by a lot of people … in fact this French singer, Sheila … she took the name Sheila from the record … her version of "Sheila" in France was a big hit and it was sung in French. [Rick Levy even sent us a special version of "Dizzy" sung inChinese!]
I haven't ever really written for a specific artist … just sit down and say "OK, I'm gonna write this for so and so". Writing for me is funny … I'll get in a mood to write and I'll turn out a dozen or more songs within a year period and then I may not write anything again for four years, five years. It's not like the Nashville writers … they go into the office everyday and force themselves to write and I can't do that.
kk: Let me ask you about this 'cause I know we did the whole "California Chrome" thing together … we were the ones that sorta launched that whole thing … did a sneak peek of your new song …
TR: Oh yes, that horse … I guess I was one year early, right … this past year it was American Pharaoh that won the Triple Crown … the following year! If that horse California Chrome had won the Triple Crown, that song would have got played a lot.
kk: Well, I played it … I definitely played it! [Tommy even sent us an exclusive recording of the follow-up song that was to be released AFTER California Chrome won The Triple Crown ... if he did ... which he didn't ... which means Forgotten Hits is likely the ONLY place the "winners" song was ever played!!!]
I like a lot of the new stuff … "Devil's Soul Pile" is a VERY strong album … and it got some really great reviews … anything new that you're working on?
TR: I don't have anything new. I've put out "Devil's Soul Pile Revisited" … I've changed the order of the songs and added some new songs to it and that's on my website or you can download it on iTunes and Amazon and the regular thing and, of course, streaming because you knows streaming is now what's going on.
kk: I've got more and more artists telling me that they're not even making physical CD's anymore because that's not the market anymore … but I LOVE the idea of having the CD in my hand, and holding it and reading the liner notes …
TR: A lot of people do … well, that's how we grew up. I used read all the liner notes on the albums and it drew you into the music.
kk: Exactly … I mean that's how people knew who Felton Jarvis is! (lol)
TR: You're right 'cause otherwise you wouldn't know … you'd never know. The CD's are almost obsolete now … I mean, we sell 'em at the show … I think most acts now, that's how they make their money, thru merchandising and live shows. You know digital airplay now is so ridiculous, you don't get paid anything for it. The streaming … I got a statement the other day and it was something like 600 and some thousand plays on "Dizzy" and I think it made fifty bucks. I read a thing where Billy Joel was talking about he had over two million airplays on one of his songs and he made less than a thousand bucks so you know, how do you fight that? The only way you can make money in the business now is by performing.
kk: Which, as you said, gets harder and harder with all the travel.
kk: What do you listen to nowadays? What kind of music do you like?
TR: I still listen to the oldies stations … in traffic I listen to classical music … but I listen to a lot of college radio … I enjoy that … you can hear some really good stuff on college radio because they don't necessarily have to follow a set list of music … they're able to play more of what they want to play and I like that freedom and exposure to new sounds. I don't like country music much anymore … I think country music has gotten into a real rut … and I know it's popular and everybody likes it …
kk: Well, it is … country has become kind of the new "pop".
TR: Actually it's more rock and roll in a way … I mean, it's not country at all to me … it's real slick rock and roll.
kk: Lots more glitz and glamour these days.
TR: Which is cool … I mean, it sells … but country to me is Merle Haggard and George Jones … and I LOVE listening to those old country records. They're really classics … great melodies and great lyrics.
kk: Thanks again, Tommy, for taking the time to visit with us today ... I really appreciate it. And all I can tell everybody who wasn't there Sunday Night is that you missed a really good show … you can read our whole review of the concert here …
And be sure to check out all the latest news and information on Tommy Roe's website here: http://tommyroe.com/The_Official_Tommy_Roe_Web_Site/Home.html
OUR ORIGINAL CONCERT REVIEW:
It was EVERYTHING we hoped it would be ... an entire evening of "feel good" rock and roll ... as The Arcada Theatre recreated the magic of the UK Tour that took place exactly 53 years ago this weekend ... Tommy Roe and Chris Montez, co-headling the show with the then still-unknown ... but rapidly rising in popularity Beatles opening the program.
As Tommy Roe told us backstage, it didn't stay that way for long ... with THREE hit singles now under their belts ("Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and the just-released "From Me To You" climbing the charts) and their first album hitting the streets mid-tour, The Beatles were a force to be reckoned with ... there was NOBODY on the planet at the time who could have followed these guys on stage in the wake of the pure and utter pandemonium they caused during their performance.
To best set up the events of this earlier time Ron Onesti booked Beatlerama, a great Beatles tribute band, who opened the show Sunday Night with a short set of early Beatles favorites ... "I Saw Her Standing There", "Please Please Me", "All My Lovin'", "From Me To You", "She Loves You", an outstanding version of "This Boy", "Boys", "Do You Want To Know A Secret", "Misery", "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and the show-stopping closer, "Twist And Shout".
The set was then cleared to bring out Chris Montez, who displayed PERFECT voice on his soft-rock hits "Call Me" and "The More I See You", as well as a loving tribute to Ritchie Valens ("Donna", "Come On, Let's Go" and "La Bamba", all performed to perfection), a cover of the Eric Clapton ballad "Wonderful Tonight" and his set-closer "Let's Dance", Chris' first big hit, during which he went out into the audience and danced with several female audience members. (We're hoping to talk with Chris later in the week so be sure to stay tuned for that!)
After a brief intermission, Tommy Roe took the stage. Tommy looked and sounded great, offering up a full assortment of greatest hits ("Sheila", "Everybody", "Come On", "Carol", "Sweet Pea", "Hooray For Hazel", "Heather Honey", "Jam Up And Jelly Tight" and, of course, his BIGGEST hit, "Dizzy".)
He also did some other rock and roll standards as well as a track he says he had written for Elvis that never got recorded called "Glitter and Gleam". (Tommy and Elvis shared the same record producer, Felton Jarvis.) He had some more fun (and the audience in stitches) singing the Elvis tune "One Night" to an audience member in a VERY inviting way after she had requested that Tommy sing an Elvis tune during the soundcheck earlier that day.)
In between he told some great stories ("Sheila" started out as a poem called "Freda", written for a girl 14-year-old Tommy had a crush on) and played some other well known rock and roll classics before bring Chris Montez back out on stage with him for the grand finale medley of early rock hits like "Johnny B. Goode", "Rock And Roll Music" and "Bony Moronie".
All in all, a fun night of "feel good" music, performed to a very receptive audience. (At one point Tommy asked if he could bring everybody along for tomorrow night's show to insure another satisfied crowd.)
Our FH Buddy Rick Levy has assembled a HELL of a band, all certainly deserving of a mention.
Besides Rick on guitar (and he wailed on that thing all night long), you've got Lee Brovitz on bass (who was all over the stagelast night, livening up the stage show and slapping his bass in all the appropriate places), Michael Liddy on keyboards and Michael Campbell on drums, all of whom supplied an excellent musical backdrop along with some rich harmonies and filler
Here's Tommy's VERY Impressive Hit List ...
Some Classics To Be Sure!
THE TOMMY ROE HIT LIST:
1962 - Sheila (US - #1 / CHI - #1)
Susie Darlin' (US - #34 / CHI - #19)
1963 - Everybody (US - #3 / CHI - #3)
1964 - Come On (US - #27 / CHI - #28)
1966 - Sweet Pea (US - #5 / CHI - #9)
Hooray For Hazel (US - #4 / CHI - #3)
1967 - It's Now Winter's Day (US - #21 / CHI - #11)
1969 - Dizzy (US - #1 / CHI - #1)
Heather Honey (US - #12 / CHI - xx)
Jack And Jill (US - #31 / CHI - #24)
1970 - Jam Up And Jelly Tight (US - #4 / CHI - #3)
Stir It Up And Serve It (US - #27 / CHI - #21)
Pearl (US - #30 / CHI - #17)
We Can Make Music (US - #35 / CHI = #16)
1971 - Stagger Lee (US - #19 / CHI - #9)
And here's a list of the biggest tracks Chris Montez put on the charts ...
THE CHRIS MONTEZ HIT LIST:
1962 - Let's Dance (US - #4 / CHI - #1)
1963 - Some Kinda Fun (US - #43 / CHI - #9)
1966 - Call Me (US - #22 / CHI - #17)
The More I See You (US - #14 / CHI - #10)
There Will Never Be Another You (US - #31 / CHI - #24)
Time After Time (US - #28 / CHI - #17)
By the way, the guys celebrated ANOTHER anniversary this past week ... on March 7th, 1969, Tommy Roe's #1 Hit "Dizzy" wascertified GOLD!!! Congratulations, Tommy!
COMMENTS AFTER OUR SERIES RAN IN FORGOTTEN HITS:
I was totally impressed with the first installment of your interview with Tommy Roe - I thought it ranks right up there with some of your best work. But then part two came out and I was completely blown away. You have really outdone yourself with this one - and Tommy is a fascinating storyteller. (Now I wish I would have made the drive up to Chicago to see him in concert!)
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, part three came out - honestly, I don't even know what to say - this is, without a doubt, your finest piece ever.
Kudos to Forgotten Hits for ALWAYS bringing their A-game. I've been reading you now for about twelve years and I swear it just seems to keep getting better and better.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us - ALL of your readers owe you a great debt to your incredible service and the wealth of knowledge you provide.
Thanks, David ... this was a real fun interview to do ... and Tommy makes it SO easy, being such a personable guy. (kk)
By the way, before I forget, VERY special thanks to Tom Diehl for going above and beyond the call of duty to track down that Tommy Roe version of The Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man" the other day ... NOT an easy track to find digitally. Thanks, Tom! (kk)
Ron Onesti explains the excitement of booking this tour in his Daily Hearald column here:
I am enjoying and looking forward to the rest of the interview with Tommy Roe this weekend in FH.
I would like to make a comment or two about the earlier version of SHEILA on Judd.
First, I was reminded of an earlier record on Judd that Tommy recorded called CAVEMAN.
Now about his version of SHEILA on Judd.
On the label itself it does mention the group that Tommy said backed him up known as the Satins. Underneath that it says with THE FLAMINGOS. This probably isn't the Flamingos of doo-wop fame. One final thing about his Judd version of SHEILA.
My copy of the record misspells SHEILA. On my copy it is spelled S-H-E-L-I-A, SHELIA.
Maybe it was like this on all copies ... that I don't know.
I have always enjoyed the records of Tommy Roe. He seemed to make music for EVERYBODY.
I found several photographs of Tommy's Judd version of "Sheila" online and they all misspell the title. I seem to remember reading MANY years ago about The Flamingos being on this record ... DEFINITELY a different group than the one we're all familiar with. (kk)
Here's your answer, right from Tommy Roe himself ...
Hi Kent ...
I remember when I first saw the record with the misspelling of ‘Sheila” and I complained. It was Sam Phillips' brother Jud Phillips' label out of Memphis, and he just said his secretary made a mistake. And it was never corrected.
The back up singers were called the Flamingos and I heard the label gave them that name because we were called the Satins. Very forward executive thinking back then.
Kent, great job on the interview ... we're getting a lot of positive comments from the fans.
Fantastic job on the Tommy Roe interview, Kent!
I just posted an interview with Mark Moore, author of The Jan & Dean Record.
Glad to have you link to it or post it all - want to take a look at it?
Here's my Tommy Roe story.
Several years ago I organized a reunion for our small junior high class from the early 60s in suburban Chicago. One girl named Sheila hadn't seen anyone in years and came in from Canada. We were talking before the reunion about some of our classmates and she asked about one particular boy. She asked, "Will Tommy Roe be there?" I laughed and said, " Do you mean Tom Roy?" She said yes. I thought it an odd little slip of the tongue until I thought further and it made perfect sense. Tommy Roy had easily changed to Tommy Roe as she heard "Sweet Little Sheila" sung lovingly to her over the new radio over and over. In fact I had been trying to set up a sound track with songs for several of the girls like "Wendy" by the Beach Boys, "Peggy Sue", and " Sweet Little Sheila" for Sheila herself. Next reunion I will definitely do it.
Here's one just for you, man ... this is the very underrated Bobby Womack at his best, doing "Across 110th Street".
Hey, man, I know you love Tommy Roe, but please tell you never danced to "Hooray for Hazel" ... and tell me that Chris Montez wasn't constructed to be the next Richie Valens!
Nope, never danced to "Hooray For Hazel" ... tough song to listen to as I could never get the image of Shirley Booth out of my head whenever that song played! (Hey, how many other Hazels do YOU know??? Come to think of it, wasn't there a Hurricane Hazel right around that time, too?)
And, much as Tommy Roe's sound was built to capitalize on that of Buddy Holly, Chris Montez's career early one was marketed as the second coming of (or at least the very next) Ritchie Valens. Montez did a COMPLETE about face when he signed with Herb Alpert's A&M Records label and did the whole middle-of-the-road / bossa-nova thing with hits like "Call Me", "The More I See You" and "Time After Time", some of my absolute FAVORITES to this very day. (I had really hoped to talk with Chris Montez for a follow-up feature to our Tommy Roe interview but he never got back to me.) kk
Thanks for the very informative interview with Tommy Roe. He and Chris Montez were truly there at the start of Beatlemania in the UK in early 1963. I can only imagine that he and Chris Montez must have chuckled, when, one year later, the whole thing took off in the US.
Tommy’s affection for the UK was born out by his 1965 single, “Diane From Manchester Square”, written by Paul Hampton and Buzz Cason. Manchester Square was the London HQ of EMI Records, of which HMV (Tommy’s label in the UK) was a subsidiary and a Diane was supposedly an employee there.
The record can be heard on You Tube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vegrjfom_eI
Tommy was backed by the Roemans on this disc. Here is some information on them and how they hooked up with Tommy Roe (including some great pics): http://www.m3cats.com/roemans.htm
Another interesting 45 from Tommy was his original version of “Wish You Didn’t Have To Go”, which became a hit for James & Bobby Purify, when they released it as the follow-up to “I’m Your Puppet” in 1967. Tommy’s original version can be heard here:
Ace Records included Tommy’s version on their 2011 CD, “Sweet Inspiration - The Songs of Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham”
That sure was a long interview you did with Tommy Roe ... by the time I was done reading it, I was DIZZY!
All kidding aside, you did a GREAT job on this. Congratulations on yet another outstanding piece of work.
The first two parts of your interview with Tommy Roe were very interesting.
Highlights = John Lennon's guitar and trying to sell the Beatles to his record company and buying sandwiches on the Sam Cooke tour.
I'm saving part three for 6 PM tonight, while I'm listening to "Wild Wayne's Memory Machine."
HI KENT -
Perhaps you can post this from RICK LEVY, Tommy Roe's bandleader, tour manager and friend ...
Friends and fans ...
If you believe, as many do, that TOMMY ROE should be in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, please take a minute and drop a snail mail line to
THE ROCK and ROLL Hall of Fame Foundation Nominating Committee
1290 Ave of Americas
NYC, NY 10104
After all, TOMMY had 23 Billboard chart singles, 11 Top 40, 6 Top 10, 4 GOLD, and he wrote and recorded 6 TOP TENS during the 60s ... more than any other American solo artist of the time.
The Beatles opened for TOMMY ROE on the famed 1963 UK tour, and they asked him to open for him on their first North American live concert in Washington, DC, on February 11, 1964.
He invented the bubblegum / feel good genre ... and he's a great guy.
Why the Hall passes over pop artists, I don't know ... but if we all band together, maybe we can get TOMMY ROE in the Hall of Fame!
I'm happy to run it ... but it will have absolutely ZERO effect ... I've been down this road WAY too many times in the past. (Think about it ... it took 28 years of eligibility before Chicago finally got in ... and acts like The Moody Blues, The Guess Who ... and countless other deserving artists still haven't even been so much as nominated.)
It's a convoluted mess that factors in one man's opinion over all others ... FAR too many acts make our "Deserving And Denied" list every single year. (kk)
Tommy Roe is a great guy who becomes an instant friend in interviews. Your conversation with him is excellent and I'm looking forward to reading the rest.
Thanks, Gary ... and the best is yet to come ... wait till you read Part Two!!! (kk)
Wow ... you're right ... Part 2 is even more impressive than Part 1 of your Tommy Roe interview. As I mentioned before, I interviewed Tommy in L.A. in 1977 and he was just as good at telling eye-opening stories then. Tommy, in fact, is such a good interview subject that brief interviews with him turn up between the tracks on his "12 In A Roe" greatest hits LP.
Tommy didn't mention back in 1977 about writing "Everybody' on Lennon's guitar -- or that he approached ABC Paramount about picking up The Beatles. The label's reaction, though, paralleled that of the execs at Capitol, as they also turned the group down in 1963 -- which was why so many early Beatles tracks wound up getting issued stateside on Swan, Tollie, Vee Jay, etc.
We featured Tommy Roe talking about "Shelia" and "Everybody" in our History Of Rock ANd Roll series
Thanks again for this interview ... you did a really great job. We really covered a lot and I believe the fans will enjoy reading it ... in fact, I'm already receiving a lot of positive comments from fans ... so thanks again.
Thanks, Tommy, I appreciate that.
Our interview is now permanently posted ... so you can link to it from your own website and/or Facebook page so others can enjoy it as well. I have a feeling people will be reading this one for a long, long time. (kk)
Copyright Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits, 1998 - 2017 ... All rights reserved