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There are two pictures on Tommy Roe’s website of him with The Beatles.
I glanced at them last night and then moved on, looking for ideas about what to ask the man behind such immortal 1960s bubblegum hits as “Sheila,” “Dizzy” and “Jam Up and Jelly Tight.”
This morning, I got to thinking about it some more. Those were some very young Beatles in those photo, gathered around behind Roe. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are dressed alike in suits and ties, not unlike what they wore on the cover of their first album, Meet The Beatles.
TOMMY ROE podcast excerpt: “At first, I thought The Beatles were our backup band in London in 1963! I’d never heard of them, didn’t know who they were. They came in with all that hair and I thought that was kind of strange lookin’. After the first night, I knew Chris Montez and I were going to have a tough go of it because they created such chaos during their part of the show.”
Hair is about the same length, too.
So I did a little more research and this is the moment when my eyebrows shot up. Two days after The Beatles made their American debut, February 9, 1964, on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” they made their first-ever U.S. concert appearance at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. According to a website called PopHistoryDig.com, the opening acts on the bill were Jay & The Americans, The Righteous Brothers… and Tommy Roe.
But wait, it gets better: The Beatles already knew Roe; they were one of the featured acts on his top-billed tour of the UK a year earlier! And they recorded a cover of his #1 hit from 1962, “Sheila”
TOMMY ROE: “The Beatles were full of questions. John and George got me aside and John said, ‘Y’know, we do ‘Sheila’ during our shows. But I’m not sure if we’re playing it correctly.’ So John played it and was playing chords backward! He was playing A-D-E-D instead of A-E-D-E. He said, ‘I knew something was wrong.'”
Let me give you a quick overview of Tommy Roe’s success: he had his first #1 with “Sheila,” of course, and subsequently charted a number of songs on the Top 10, including “Everybody,” “Sweet Pea” and his biggest single, “Dizzy,” which was #1 in the US, UK and Canada in 1969. And as much as I love that song, I’ve always had a special fondness for his other ’69 hit, “Jam Up and Jelly Tight.”
On February 11, 2014 – 50 years to the day – you can join Tommy Roe to relive a moment of rock ‘n’ roll history as he returns to the historic Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C., to open a show by the tribute band, Beatlemania Now, replicating the original. You can get tickets online at BeatlesYesterdayAndToday.com.
TOMMY ROE: “I sat with Ringo a lot on the bus, or George. John and Paul stayed together because they were writing on the bus all the time, just as I was. I wrote ‘Everybody’ on that tour. John let me borrow his Gibson guitar on the bus and I wrote ‘Everybody’ on it.”
INTERVIEW BONUS: Watch for the moment when Tommy picks up up the guitar behind him and demonstrates how a few songs came together and plays the one hit he thinks got away from him!
TOMMY ROE: “I really admired the Grateful Dead because of their songwriting skills. When I started writing songs at 14 years old, I idolized Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Sam Cooke, and Chuck Berry — all songwriters. And they sang their own songs. Songwriting has always been the key to pop music or rock music. Being able to write my own songs is what helped me survive the onslaught of the British Invasion in the 1960s.”