Music News & Reviews

Tommy Roe ready to share how he was upstaged by the Beatles

Singer-songwriter Tommy Roe will talk about his music career Tuesday at Fresno State.
Singer-songwriter Tommy Roe will talk about his music career Tuesday at Fresno State. Special to The Bee

If nothing else, singer/songwriter Tommy Roe is honest when he talks about why it was the right time to team with Michael Robert Krikorian to write his autobiography, “From Cabbagetown to Tinseltown and Places in Between” (Michael Krikorian Publishing/Createspace, $22.50).

“I’m 74. I don’t have a lot of time left,” Roe says.

The Atlanta native who is credited with creating a genre of music called bubblegum brings that honesty to Fresno State on Tuesday for “An Evening With Tommy Roe.” His appearance is in connection with the university’s music department, which will get proceeds from the event. Everyone in attendance will receive a personally autographed copy of Roe’s book.

Tommy Roe’s musical career includes 23 Top 100 Billboard singles, five of which hit the Top 10, including No. 1 hits “Sheila” (1962) and “Dizzy” (1969).

Roe has plenty to talk about, especially since his career has included 23 Top 100 Billboard singles, five of which hit the Top 10, including No. 1 hits “Sheila” (1962) and “Dizzy” (1969). That’s a major accomplishment considering he was recording at the peak of the British invasion lead by the Beatles.

Roe says he is happy to be associated with the bubblegum genre because he sees how the tunes always put a smile on people’s faces. The secret to the genre was to record the tunes at a slightly faster speed. This helped change the sound for the mono broadcasting of AM radio.

British bands sparked Roe to develop the bubblegum genre. He knew the invasion was serious after a tour he and Chris Montez did in England: The Beatles were their opening act.

“When they came in, I thought they were our backup band. 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,” Roe says.

When (the Beatles) came in, I thought they were our backup band. 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.

Tommy Roe, singer who helped created bubblegum music

He quickly learned who the Beatles were, even though their popularity had just started to grow. The tour lineup had to be changed, moving Roe and Montez to the openers because fans would be in such a frenzy after the Beatles that they couldn’t perform.

If he needed any final proof of the popularity of the Beatles, it came from his mother. Roe took a lot of photos during that tour, include plenty with the Beatles. His mother put the pictures in an album. Each time she allowed someone to look at the photos, she later would discover several missing. It finally got down to where Roe only had a couple of pictures left.

Roe finally decided to share his life story both as a way to document his rise to stardom and to kill some of the inaccurate rumors about him. The most ridiculous, he says, was that he was connected to organized crime.

Writing the book was a slow process that took three years. It was both a cathartic and painful process for Roe, and there were some times when his co-writer had to draw the stories out of him. He admits that part of the slowdown was his fault: He is a perfectionist and kept rewriting parts of the book.

The trip to appear at Fresno State is a return to Fresno for Roe. He and the Ventures performed here in the mid-1960s.

To purchase tickets, go to www.fresnostate.edu/artshum/music/concerts/.

At the Hop

Five Valley writers will participate in a “Bookhop” to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Arte Américas, 1630 Van Ness Ave. The authors will be on hand to talk about their works and writing in general.

This month’s lineup includes Mario Sifuentez, “Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest”; Armen Bacon, “My Name is Armen – Outside the Lines, Volume II”; Doug Hansen, “California, the Magic Island”; Mas Masumoto, “A Sense of Yosemite”; and Mas and Nikiko Masumoto, “Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm.”

Other news

Book signing: Annette Cravera Goggio, author of “Healing: A Conversation” (Hay House, Balboa Press, $42.95), will hold a reading and book signing from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Branches Books in the Vons Shopping Center in Oakhurst.

“The book is about healing, but within the context of soul evolvement, in that every life we have presents us with a specific lesson plan, much like school, and as we move through life events, which might include illness and incapacitation, we learn something important that matures the soul. It is in the genre of mind-body-spirit but also speaks to people who just want more clarity on the meaning of life,” Goggio says.

Spy game: “007Obie” (Images Publishing, $15): The memoir by Obie R. Silverwood has a James Bond feel to it, according to the author. It is 254 pages full of adventures, such as skiing the Swiss Alps, playing in Monte Carlo and racing Aston Martins.

The book can be ordered at www.007Obie.

Last work: The last new works of Philip Levine, whose career included a long stint at Fresno State as a professor and a term as poet laureate of the United States, are now available. Levine died in 2015.

Just released are “The Last Shift: Poems” (Knopf, $13.99), which is a collection of poems Levine was finishing when he died. Also available is the prose book, “My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry” (Knopf, $13.99) that is a collection of his essays.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Tommy Roe book signing

  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wahlberg Recital Hall, Fresno State
  • Admission: $20 general admission (includes autographed book), $5 for students (book available separately)
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