Tommy Roe shares his story about becoming a 196o's Bubblegum pop sensaiton
I started so young. I was like 14 years old when my dad taught me a few chords on the guitar, and I wrote Sheila soon as I learned how to play the guitar. That was one of the first songs I wrote, it was originally called Freda, sweet little Freda. It was the tune that I had written for this little girl I used to chase around the playground. And I kind of had a crush on. Her name was Freda so once dad taught me the three chords on the guitar, I thought, you know, maybe I could put some of these little points to music and maybe become a songwriter. So, my whole initial thinking was I wanted to be a songwriter. I never dreamed of being a performer, really. But I love the idea of writing songs. So, I just started writing songs and play and talent shows, and I would play wherever they let me play, you know, when I was, like, 14 or 15 years old, and I had a little band in school. So we played at school dances. The song had a kind of a terrible ending. Because, you know, before I was able to give her the poem, she just didn’t show up at school anymore. She moved away. And so, she never knew about the poem. She never knew about the name becoming Sheila, as far as I know. I mean, I’ve never heard from her. But it was kind of unfortunate because I really had a crush on the little girl. We used to have a lot of fun together on the playground at 14 years old.
Freda becomes Sheila but where is that girl today?
And you don’t know whatever became of her? I don’t know. I mean, would that be an interesting thing to put it out on the internet and see if you could find it? It sure would. I mean, she deserves to know. Well, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve talked about this for years In interviews, and I always thought one of these days I’ll be at a concert she’s going to show up, but it’s never happened so it’s just one of those mysterious things hopefully she’s still with us.
How did it get to be called Sheila?
I auditioned for a record producer in Atlanta, and he wanted to hear my songs. I think I sang Freda for him. And he said, Man, I really like that song Freda. But I’m not crazy about the title. For some reason. He didn’t like the title. I mean, I thought it was kind of cool, you know. But anyway, he talked me into changing it. And then we changed the title. We just changed it to Sheila because it fits so well and sang so well. Then I recorded it. And it was the first version I did. I was still in high school. And it was kind of a hit around the South. And then after I graduated from high school, I met my friend who became my producer, and he wanted to record me. He wanted to re-record Sheila. And they said, we’re going to do it as like a tribute to Buddy Holly and we’re going to put some different drum sounds in it because my original version was just for drums it didn’t have the rolling thunder as drums. You know Sheila was supposed to be the B-side of the record, and Save your Kisses was supposed to be the A side when they released it. And there was a DJ in Baltimore who flipped the record played the B side. And it just became a huge hit in Baltimore, Maryland. And it just went from there spread all over us. My first number one my first gold record!
All in all, you wrote, and recorded six top 10 hits between 1962 and 69. And that, of course, was more than any single artist or songwriter during that period of the 60s. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I had two number ones. Of course, then Dizzy went to number one as well.
Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars
Tell me a little bit about Dizzy. Well, Dizzy came about when I was invited by Dick Clark to come to California. And he was doing a new show out there in 1965. And so he wanted me to be a regular on the show. So I moved. I came out to California, we did the shows and everything. And I never went back to New York. I fell in love with this place. So I ended up staying in California and I was the first three years I was a regular on that show where the action would air every afternoon about four o’clock and Paul Revere and the Raiders were also on the show as regulars and Paul lost his guitar player. He didn’t want to be a Raider anymore. And he was asking me one afternoon if I knew somebody that might want the gig and I suggested he call my old friend in Atlanta, Freddie Weller, so he got in touch with Freddie. Freddie came out and auditioned and got the job. Well, we were touring a lot in you know, together with I was touring a lot with Paul Revere and the Raiders on the Caravan of Stars. And all of a sudden, we were on the bus together, going from gig to gig and we started writing songs, and we wrote a couple of songs and then Dizzy was like the third song we wrote, we started writing it one out on a trip on the after a show we had to drive all night to get to the next gig. And we started writing it on that bus tour that night and we finished it up later. And then I went into the studio and recorded it I knew that was one of the few songs that I recorded that I knew when I left the studio it was a hit. We released it became a number one is turned out to be my biggest song. It’s been covered 22 times spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 What was the inspiration for that song? What are you talking about in the lyrics? You know, I don’t know what inspired it really was just I always started writing songs I would try to get a catchy title and just a short title not a long title. One word titles were great you know I had called Sheila and everybody. Sweet Pea of they’re all very short titles, and the word Dizzy just kept attracting me because there’s a lot you can write about that. We went in that direction just to try to make it a fun song.
So what were you so dizzy about? I was always I was dizzy from the beginning. I’m still dizzy. Is that a word that describes you? Yeah, very much. So I, you know, I’ve had an incredible career and I’ve traveled all over the world. I was talking to my granddaughter the day she’s, she’s on her way out here to California now. But she, she’s a real jewel, I really love hanging out with her. She just came back from Israel, she went to Israel to she went to college there in Haifa, University of Haifa. And she just got back and she’s kind of getting suited everything back in the States, you know. And I love talking with her about music because it’s so different in her generation, you know, she looks at my record collection, like it’s a big blob of nothing. And I was like, where do you store all that stuff? You know, kids today, they don’t give them a backpack and a phone and they’re ready to go. So that’s it. That’s all we need. So we talk about music, like she calls me the Justin Bieber of the 60s. So that’s kind of what I was, you know, I was kind of a teen idol during the 60s. And the whole idea of my, my recording career was, you know, in 1964, I, I opened the show for The Beatles, their first concert in Washington, DC. And after they did the Ed Sullivan Show, shortly after that, in the spring of that year, I had joined the Army Reserves. So I went to boot camp about April or May of that year. So the whole of 1964. I was out of out of the loop. But that was when the British invasion started in America, and they were pushing all the American acts off the charts. And all you’d see on the charts were British records, you know, X from England, you know, during the pacemakers, The Beatles, of course, you know, Freddie and the Dreamers, you name it, they were just filling up the charts.
I was thinking in the army, how am I going to compete with these guys, I mean, they’re just burning up the charts. And I’ve got to come up with something really different. So that’s when I got the idea to write a tweet. I called it soft rock, I said, I’m going to write something that’s so safe. It’s going to call it soft rock and it’s very safe deejays back then were looking for things that could play that would kind of be over the top, you know, they were looking for what they call Safe records back then. So I wrote Sweet Pea and when I got out of the service, I went in the studio and recorded it and it became a huge hit for me. So I was back in the charts again after being in the service. And Sweet Pea was kind of started the bubble gum thing for me as I became a collector, they started calling me the king of bubble gum. Because I guess the little kids at the skating rinks love Sweet Pea and they love Dizzy and they love all my records.
How did you feel about appealing to that generation? Well, at first I kind of resented it because it was kind of a dig from the DJs you know, they’d kind of poke fun at me because it was kind of soft music, you know, and they love the heavy stuff and the spoke stuff. So it first I resented it. But after a while I just, I just embraced it and ran with it turned out to be such a wonderful way to entertain because it’s like when you go on stage and you have an audience full of young people plus their parents. It’s like a family kind of show. And the whole idea of my show is to put a smile on the face of my audience and it’s just a wonderful feeling to have that reaction from the crowd. You know, when I sing Sweet Pea or dizzy one of my songs, so it worked out well. He was on top of the world being this teen idol and and the father of bubblegum pop. I tell you what it was so everything moves so fast you really worked I really wasn’t able to enjoy it. When I look back on it I’d see it completely differently you know even the way I dress and everything I mean I look at those pictures and I think is that me I became a I became a character books because of my music I kind of became this character this bubble gum character you know, you know it was it was great. My last big hit was Stagger Lee that was in 71. Then the disco craze started in the 70s. And it was really hard for me to transition into that, you know, I just I didn’t really care for disco too much. And so, you know it kind of put an end to my recording career as far as hits go. But although I still record to this day, it’s just something I love to do.
Look out for the re- released version of dizzy, and Tommy Roe’s autobiography called ‘Cabbagetown to Tinseltown’. What is it that you’re that your granddaughter calls you that the Justin Bieber of the 60s? I’m not I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not? she I think she means is that as a compliment, but I’ll take it as a compliment!
Bluesman Walter Trout loves his life
Iconic blues rock guitarist Walter Trout knows better than most, that no matter how fast or far a man travels, he can never truly outrun his past. I caught up with Walter following the release of his 29th album.
I had a liver transplant six years ago, and this is the fifth album I’ve put out since I came back. I love making music. I just love it more than anything. And this one was very personal. I think I think it’s about as honest as I can write. My previous album was called Survivor Blues. When I did that one, the original plan was I was going to do two albums. Simultaneously, I was going to do an album of old blues songs. And I was going to do an album of all original songs. And I was supposed to record them all at the same time. And they were going to come out as a package deal. I finished the blues album, and I did seven or eight songs of the original album. Then I had to go out on tour. And the tour lasted for months and months. So it became well let’s release the blues album. Right so when I got back from the tour and it was time to finish the original album, I listened to it again with fresh ears and through most of it out and start it over and rewrote pretty much the whole thing. Are you that sort of a perfectionist that you’re never 100% happy with what’s gone before? Well, I can tell you this. I think I’m happier with this record, almost than any record I’ve ever done most of the records I do. I listened to him once or twice, then I don’t want to hear it because all I hear is oh, I should have sung that different. Or I could have done a better solo there. Why did we have that drum beat in this song it should have been, you know, a different symbol line or something. This one I don’t get that. I’ve listened to it 1000 times and I still go. I’m not hearing anything that I would change. I’m really happy with it. But I have to say I worked harder on it. I can give you an example of a ballad on there. It’s called My Foolish Pride and the rhythm guitar on that song I redid maybe four times with four different sounds for different amplifiers for different approaches. I would go in and I would spend half a day getting it where I thought it was perfect. Then I would get up the next morning go no, that’s not it. And originally if you listen to it now it’s got a very clean, very pretty rhythm guitar that it’s an old Gretsch with a whammy bar. I wanted it to sound kinda like a Buffalo Springfield rhythm guitar. It took me four different tries before I got it right. This album was pretty special to you before it was even created, you set out with a different mindset from the start. That’s true. This album, Ordinary Madness, everything was thought out in advance. And there was a lot of planning and then things changed. There was a lot of fun. It was really creative. If you had to pick a favorite tune, which one would you say it was? That would depend on what day you asked me, I can tell you that I just had to go into the local town, which is a half an hour drive away today. And on the way back, I listened to heaven in your eyes about six times. I think what moves me about it is that it is truly a collaboration between my wife and I, we were sitting in our house in California. I was strumming my acoustic and I said well, I have this melody. And it’s really pretty. Listen to this melody, listen to these chord changes. And it’s almost McCartney esque. And I said but it’s got all these syllables, edited, edited in it and then it’s got all these words I have no idea what to do with this thing. And she said well play it again for me. And I played it again and her eyes glazed over and she walked out of the room and came back a half an hour later and said here’s your lyrics. The music is me the lyrics are her. It tears me up.
Life Saving Surgery
You certainly did the hard work. It’s quite amazing that you’ve come back better than ever before. Why did that experience leave you with you obviously must see life very differently. Having gone through all that? Well, I can tell you, your perspective on life changes drastically. And your idea of what’s important and what’s not really important changes drastically in your appreciation for every moment that you’re here changes drastically after you stare death in the face every day for months and months and months. And in that liver ward. There were people dying all around me every day and really why I’m here is I go through that all the time. I did an album called Battle Scars when I got back and that album tells the story it’s the story of the whole thing it’s it ends with a song called gun to live again. And that song was me asking the higher power Why have you kept me here in the last verse. I know that when I play gigs, every night I have a roomful of people there and they’re listening to me and I tell this story every night. And I asked them, I want you to understand how important it is that you sign up to be an organ donor, because some stranger signed on the dotted line to be an organ donor and that person saved my life. And I’m here playing for you now. And it’s only because of that little gesture that stranger did and I become a preacher I become an evangelist but my mission and my preaching is organ donation that’s the reason I think I’ve been kept here.
Herman's Hermits' Peter Noone on getting older
You probably remember Peter known as the lead singer and founder of that 60s English band, Herman’s Hermits, he was also an accomplished TV and stay jacked up. To my greatest surprise, Peter turned out to be one of the funniest and most uplifting guys I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to. I caught up with him on the occasion of his 75th birthday, and giggled my way through this chat. All my life I wanted to be older, you know, when I was in a boy, and they wouldn’t let me have a beer, because I wasn’t old enough. I want it to be older. And, and now I’ve got there I kinda like it as sort of like being a bit older than everybody else. I can make jokes about myself, you know? Like, give me a lift. Yeah, you know, like, oh, ladies opened the door for me and stuff like that. Now, you know what I mean? Stuff that never happened when I was a kid. I see that you’re going out on tour again in a minute. Yeah, I’ve got another 11 years. I used to say 10 years, but now it’s 11 because we lost one. So I’ve got to make up for it by doing more years. So another 11 years, and I will quit. You really gonna keep working for another 11 years. If I can. As long as you know, my dad is Mick Jagger. Look, he’s still going! I didn’t realize that you were 15 when you started with Herman’s Hermits. Yeah, well, I started before them. That’s when we became famous sort of when we first you know, we when I was 15, we were playing at the cabin. And we were, you know, with all those famous Liverpool bands and not in a competition, but you know, head to head and we were the youngest by about 10 years. And look at that 10 years. This all these years later, I’m still 10 years younger than them and now it feels better. I also didn’t realize the name Herman’s Hermits actually came about because they say that you looked like Sherman and Peabody.
Sherman and Peabody
Yeah, when I put my glasses on, they thought I looked like Sherman. So we went with Herman Herman and the Hermit’s. So who actually came up with the name? We were in the pub, we used to rehearse in this pub. And I was doing a what I thought was a brilliant Buddy Holly impersonation. I had these homeroom and rimmed glasses, and he walked up to the little stage. And he said, all the bloody hell is that and, and I looked at I said, You idiot, it’s body. Holly. Can’t you tell you because you don’t look like Buddy Holly. You looked like Herman from the Bullwinkle show. And everybody laughed. And he said, what you’re not laughing at you can be the bloody hermits. You dress like whom it’s already. And that was it. The name stuck. We’ve got our name, you know, and I can’t remember the chaps name, which is really, really bad luck, you know, because you’d be nice to give him some credit for finding the name. But we just never went back to that pub again. And Herman’s Hermits sold over 60 million recordings. That’s insane! Yeah, we suddenly got famous, you know, the name change was just at the right time, because we were playing at the Cavern. And we’d been Pete Novak and the Heartbeat and everything. And the name was sort of silly like Freddie and the Dreamers and Gerry and the Pacemakers, and all that that was all the bands that were around at the time, and we just went with it. In 1965, we sold more records than anybody at any other acts in the world. You know, we just was one of those weird years. We did 360 concerts. We did a couple in Australia. And on the way back from Australia, we stopped in Hawaii and met Elvis Presley. What was Elvis like? He was a lovely man is very easy going, and a great comedian. He was, see people never got to interview him. So they don’t know him. You know, it was always like, hidden behind the Colonel Parker thing who played him like some country bumpkins. Because that’s what they wanted to they didn’t want him doing interviews and stuff like that. So I was lucky. I think I did one of the three interviews with him. And it was a really terrible interview, my sister asked me asked me to ask him does he dye his hair, and I kept looking at his hair all the way through the interview. They get let me interview him. I did an interview for British radio and for American radio, which was like the British Invasion meets Elvis Presley. And it was, you know, pretty amazing, but I was rubbish. It was a rubbish interview. I’m still embarrassed.
A chance to Interview Elvis - so embarrassing!
I did an interview for British radio and for American radio, which was like the British Invasion meets Elvis Presley. And it was, you know, pretty amazing, but I was rubbish. It was a rubbish interview. I’m still embarrassed. Back to Herman’s Hermits. You had all of those hits too many for me to name and you wrote and sang all of them, didn’t you? Well, I sang on all the hits. And I wrote some of the good ones but I was home and and they were the home it’s we made fantastic fun records. And they were of the moment Sandy we made records for that week. You know, they were really feel good songs were heard that well, we felt good but what more could well how could good could it be to be 17 in a rock and roll band is famous all over the world, which was your favorite song. I liked him into something good. You know, the first one we made we were all kids good. I like this kind of hush and I liked it was number one in Australia. My sentimental friend. That was my best performance ever.