Monday, April 29, 2013

Tommy Roe - Sheila!

Life was great for Tommy Roe in early 1963, having a hit single with Sheila and getting ready to begin a UK tour sharing top of the bill with fellow American singer Chris Montez who was supporting his hit single Let's Dance. Little did Tommy know that the ‘up and coming’ band signed a month earlier to open the tour had just released a fairly big single themselves and would upstage the two leading acts! After the first night of the tour, Tommy agreed to let the opening band close the show for the remainder of the tour. It would soon be well known that nobody could follow The Beatles.


If an artist was to be upstaged by anybody, The Beatles would have to be the most forgiving. But let’s forget about The Beatles for a moment and concentrate on this catchy single that started it all for Roe called Sheila.

Tommy Roe was born in Athens, Georgia. He started playing and performing music at the age of fourteen performing at high school dances and parties. Eventually, he ventured to record a song he had written called Sheila for a small record label called Judd Records. Once ABC got wind of this song, they signed Tommy Roe to their label and re-recorded the track for their own release. Sheila went on to be a smash hit reaching number 1 on the charts in Canada, USA and Austrialia and number 3 in the UK.
I’m a little stuck in the middle on my thoughts of this song. Sure it has a great catchy drum beat, steady rhythm guitar and fun lyrics, but it’s hard to not hear Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue throughout this single. Now I know it is well documented that it was heavily influenced by Peggy Sue, but this is an understatement. The similarities between the two are uncanny, if this single was released in today’s lawyer heavy world then a lawsuit would be sure to follow.

But in Tommy Roe’s defense, I’m sure he was just trying to give the audience what they wanted to hear and he didn’t have as much inspiration in the early 60’s like he would today. Regardless, originality definitely wasn’t there, but it's a catchy song nonetheless.

The original US pressing of this single would be on the ABC label with Save Your Kisses as the ‘B’ side. My copy is on the Canadian shadow label Sparton who pressed records for ABC until 1969. Sparton labels were fuchsia with black print for most of the 60’s (like my copy of Tommy Roe’s 1964 single Everybody shown below) switching to a yellow label in 1969. This makes my copy of Sheila a 1969 re-release.

The rest is history; Tommy went on to have a few more hit singles including the songs Everybody, Sweet Pea and Hoorway for Hazel and his last big hit Dizzy in 1969. He continued recording for twenty more years after Dizzy but failed to top the charts. A pretty impressive career on it's own, but he will go down in history as the man that The Beatles opened for on March 9, 1963.


  1. Halifax hip-hop guru Jesse Dangerously sampled a beat off a Tommy Roe record once, but for the life of me I can't remember which track.

    1. I'm going to try to figure it out.. I'd like to hear!

  2. The first time I heard Sheila I thought whoopee I found a Buddy Holly tune that I had never heard. I learned it and sang it a lot as a "Buddy Holly" tune until an older man at a concert in Eastport Maine, as I started to sing Sheila accapella, said "Sheila by Tommy Roe, that's a good one"


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