Tommy Roe was one of the Buddy Holly sound-a-likes. He grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where he was born in 1942. He went to high school with people like Joe South, Billy Joe Royal, Mac Davis and Ray Stevens. So, it’s not surprising they he turned to music. He wrote “Sheila” when he was fourteen, but didn’t get the song in front of anyone until 1960. He got noticed when he started a band and played all over the Atlanta area at fraternity parties and other events.
A new label, Judd Records, approached him and offered to record the song. Judd Records released the record (misspelling the name of the song as “Shelia.” This was 1960 and Judd didn’t have the means to properly promote the record, so it just laid there and didn’t sell. Thinking maybe his music career was over even before it started, Tommy graduated from high school and got a day job.
Along the way he met Atlanta disc jockey Paul Drew and Drew liked the way Tommy sang, so he introduced him to a fellow at ABC-Paramount Records named Felton Jarvis. Jarvis also liked the way Tommy sang and so offered him a contract. Tommy told him he had a day job that paid him $70 a week and he wasn’t sure he wanted to give that up. Jarvis told him, he would get a $5000 advance just for signing up. Tommy did not go back to his day job.
When “Sheila” was recorded, he used something called The Lubbock Sound, which had been made popular by Buddy Holly and The Crickets. Buddy Holly was long gone, but his influence was still being felt in the music world and would be for many more years.
“Sheila,” spelled the right way, quickly rose up the charts and when it hit the Top 10, ABC wanted Tommy to go on tour. The single was number three in England, so he went there to support the record. At one of the concerts he held in England, a new group called The Beatles opened for him.
Tommy Roe would continue to record for a couple years, until the British invasion took over American music. So, he joined the Army for two years and was out of sight until about 1966 when he came back to have several more hits. In the late Sixties when Bubblegum music was very popular, Tommy Roe fit right in. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Tommy Roe was one of the founders of Bubblegum music, although some might disagree with me. His second number one was “Dizzy” which charted in 1969. His last Top 40 song was “Stagger Lee” in 1971.
After fading from the mainstream, Tommy played the oldies circuit for the rest of his career. As far as I can tell, he is still alive, living in Beverly Hills, California. He is married to Josette Banzet, an actress from France.
“Sheila” entered the pop chart on August 11, 1962 and stayed at number one for two weeks.