Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Tommy Roe

Admittedly, Tommy Roe is not the best known rock & roller of the 1960’s, but he has a claim to fame that is immensely important and also highly unique in that the Beatles once opened for him.  It is hard for us to remember this, but Tommy Roe, an American rocker who found equal success in the UK as in the US as a singles artist, was able to do headlining tours in the United States and UK during the early to mid 1960’s in support of songs that he had written when he was a teen and young adult.  And if his music might seem a bit bubble gum pop at this point, it was certainly rock & roll at the time and also has managed to endure to the present day, where Tommy Roe’s music has been frequently sampled and covered to great success even if he is a somewhat obscure artist whose albums are not well known.  His Beatles connection as well as his songwriting (including some country hits late in his career) mark a strong case for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as he was able to provide some help to the Beatles in encouraging them as they transitioned form a cover band seasoned through the club scene in Germany to smash success in the UK and then in the US.  That sort of help deserves to be recognized.

The Influence Of Tommy Roe

Although he is best known as a bubble gum pop artist today, Tommy Roe has been celebrated as an artist in other genres as well.  Besides being a major contributor to the rise of Beetlemania in the UK, Tommy Roe has been inducted by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame as well as the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  And if some of his music was apparently destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire, he did perform his hit songs (and he had several of them) with other artists as a legacy act long after he had stopped having hits on his own.  He was also an artist with a diverse set of interests, including acting in an episode of Green Acres and marrying a Golden Globe-winning actress [1].  Before becoming big, the Beatles themselves covered Sheila, demonstrating his influence on their own musical style.  MC Lyte has also sampled “Sweet Pea” in his own song “Lyte As A Rock.”  All of this demonstrates Roe’s continuing influence on the world of music and culture.

Why Tommy Roe Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

We have already discussed Tommy Roe’s influence on the Beatles and others as well as his role in Bubble Gum, rock, and country music, which has been honored by several halls of fame.  He did end up with six top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with two #1 hits (Sheila and Dizzy), as well as the #3 hit “Everybody,” the #6 hit “Hooray For Hazel,” and the #8 hits “Sweet Pea” and “Jam Up And Jelly Tight.”  In addition to being popular in the United States, he also had hits in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany, and has four gold singles so far.  Even after he stopped having hits on the pop charts he was able to continue charting on the country charts with some success for a few years [2].  This sort of success has been enough for other people to enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame from the 1960’s and the Beatles angle as well as his own body of work are certainly well worth appreciating.

Why Tommy Roe Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It seems pretty likely that Tommy Roe hasn’t been inducted because there hasn’t been a big push to recognize him among the forgotten acts of his decade.  Given the fact that he headlined on a tour with the Beatles, had half a dozen big US hits including 2 #1 hits, and had songs covered by others besides his role in helping to develop the American rock and Bubble Gum pop response to the British invasion, this is a solid record that deserves recognition.

Verdict:  Put him in.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Roe

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Roe_discography

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Tommy Roe

  1. mothfire says:

    I don’t necessarily believe that bubblegum pop should be excluded, but the fact is that most bubblegum groups and artists are one-trick ponies (Sweet being an exception). Tommy Roe is a one-trick pony. His songs are pretty much about boys pining for girls. In his career, he has never strayed from that. And that is fine. There is nothing wrong with being a craftsman and churning out song that entertain people for the moment. But I would argue that playing it safe and making money and entertaining people but that is not enough for the RRHOF.

    I listened to Sheila for the first time last night and I was surprised to hear echoes of Buddy Holly in the music. Listen to Sheila next to Peggy Sue and you will see what I mean.

    I had my 18 year old daughter listen to some of Tommy Roe’s song last night and she described them as being bland (which I really never thought of before). That there isn’t any musically or lyrical dynamic range in the songs. She also thought that the songs were a little creepy. After that we talked a bit about how a songwriter will write songs from a viewpoint that isn’t necessarily his. But I did concede that a 40 year-old Ringo Star singing “You’re Sixteen” was not in the best taste.

    • Songs about underage girls are seldom in the best taste, that’s true. Tommy Roe did give an interview where he talked about his songwriting craft and how it developed later on.

    • Shawn Crossen says:

      A lot of people make the “Buddy Holly” connection to the song “Shiela” but what a lot of people don’t realize is Tommy Roe wrote that song in 1956 when he was fourteen years old, which is an entire year prior to the release of “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly. Not that this fact means anything, but just saying. More importantly, Tommy Roe did something that a lot of American acts were not able to do in the mid sixties and that is he survived and managed to stay on the charts during The British Invasion. Not only did he have hits with the “bubble gum” sound, he pioneered it. Until Tommy Roe, the bubble gum sound never existed, he was the one that started it where he referred to it as “Soft Rock” at the time. Jut look at all the other acts that followed him with that same sound. This alone is enough to put him in the HOF in my book.

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