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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Pop music legend Tommy Roe traces career from Atlanta's 'Cabbagetown to Tinseltown' in n

Tommy Roe "Dizzy"

One of the great names in 1960s pop music has a new memoir in Tommy Roe's From Cabbagetown to Tinseltown and Places in Between, which documents his move from the "Cabbagetown" cotton mill section of his Atlanta hometown to Hollywood via such classic hits as "Sweet Pea," "Sheila," "Dizzy," "Everybody" and "Hooray for Hazel."

Indeed, Roe tallied 23 Top 100 hits that were way more varied in style and depth than indicated by the tight "King of Bubblegum" crown bestowed upon him in some quarters; "Dizzy," for example, boasts 11 key changes, while "It's Now Winter's Day," like "Sweet Pea" and "Hooray for Hazel," was a production by legendary "sunshine pop" producer Curt Boettcher, who worked with the Beach Boys and borrowed their “Good Vibrations” electro-theremin from the studio next door for the session. And Roe was so big in the early '60s that the Beatles opened for him in England prior to breaking in the U.S.

But "if you’re into sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll you probably will not like my book," says Roe, who wrote it with Michael Krikorian. "That story has been told by numerous other authors, so I decided to avoid redundancy."

Rather, Roe relates the stories of many of "the fellow entertainers who have crossed my path, including the Beatles and Elvis. But what I really wanted to accomplish was to show the influence of the music industry on our culture and politics, especially during the decade of the '60s: Our world changed during that decade and the results of that upheaval is still with us today."

Specifically, Roe talks about his conscious decision in 1964 to change his style and genre from "rock-o-billy" (he is in fact included in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's "Legends List" and is a Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee) to bubblegum, "so I could compete with the so-called British invasion. Many of the American artists were being pushed off the Billboard charts by the Brits, so I decided I would write what I called at the time 'soft rock,' which was totally different from the other chart-toppers."

Roe was in the Army Reserve at the time.

"When I got out of boot camp in the fall of 1964, I went into the studio with [late hit producer/singer-songwriter] Gary Paxton as one of the producers and recorded my first bubblegum hit, 'Sweet Pea.' I was back in the charts with another Top 10 hit and on my way to finishing out the decade with two No. 1’s and six Top 10 Billboard chart records."

And Roe is still at it, performing a few concerts each year with his band.

"My fans have been so loyal through the years, and I still enjoy seeing a big smile on the face of my audience when I sing one of my hits," he says. "It really feels great, and I'm blessed, after 55 years of touring, to be able to continue what has been a wonderful adventure and career."



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