This Little Girl Is Fine

Tommy Roe was born Thomas David Roe, on May 9th 1942, in Atlanta, Georgia.  He is a singer and songwriter that has achieved several RIAA gold records for his songs and he is sometimes described as the father of Bubble Gum Music.  Roe developed a unique style that, combined with his all-American clean-cut image, made him a popular musical performer throughout the 1960s.  He has teamed up for projects with Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.  Tommy’s material often bordered on the plight of a hopeless romantic always ready to kiss and tell.  Once he appeared in an episode of the TV show Green Acres.

‘Sheila’ was written by Tommy Roe and it was first recorded by the High School group The Satins that he formed and they played at local dances around Atlanta.  The 1960 single was unsuccessful and after high school, Tommy signed as a solo act with a local label called Judd and later with ABC-Paramount.  In 1962, he recorded a song called ‘Save Your Kisses’ and to fill the flip side of this record, Tommy used his songSheila’.  The single charted #3 in the UK and it went to #1 in the US. Tommy Roe wrote this innocent song about young love when he was 14 years old.  The song was influenced by Buddy Holly’s hit ‘Peggy Sue’.  Jerry Reed was on guitar, Buddy Harman played drums, Wayne Moss was on guitar, Floyd Cramer played piano and Bob Moore was on bass.  The backup singers were The Jordanaires, who sang behind Elvis Presley on many of his hits.

Roe wrote this poem for a girl that he had a crush on from Brown High School where Roe attended, and her name was Freda. His dad had just bought him this three-chord guitar, and he thought, “You know, if I can put some music to my poem, maybe I can write songs.”  So he composed a melody to this poem, and it was “Sweet little Freda, you’ll know her if you see her, blue eyes and a ponytail.”  The interesting thing was that before he could tell her how he felt and give her the poem, she moved away, and he never saw her again.  Roe auditioned for Jud Phillips, brother of Sun Records Sam Phillips, for Judd Records with this song ‘Sweet little Freda’.  Jud told him that he liked the song, but he thought that something should be done about that title.  When Roe arrived back at his home, his Aunt Sheila was visiting and the rest is history!

Roe was working as an electrician when ‘Sheila’ hit #1, and his bosses at RCA reportedly had to advance him $5000 to get him to quit his General Electric job and go out on tour.  Roe had been cranking out singles for a couple of years before ‘Sheila’, working with The Satins as they cut their first record in March 1960, ‘I Got A Girl’ with the flip side being ‘Caveman’, for Mark IV, a custom label set up by Cleve Warnock, who was Roe’s first manager.  The very first tour that Tommy did was with Sam Cooke.  He was totally unprepared because he had never played professionally before, just locally with his band doing fraternity parties.  The tour was down south, in the southeast, and it was an all black tour with Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Jerry Butler and The Impressions and maybe three or four other acts.  Roe became the food runner, because he was the only white guy on the tour and the blacks were not allowed to stop in the restaurants.  Buddy Holly and Dion also did the same thing back in the days of segregation, because that was the way things worked in the South.

In 1962, Roe scored two Top 10 hits with ‘Everybody’ and the critically acclaimed ‘The Folk Singer’ written by Merle Kilgore. In 1963, Tommy Roe and Chris Montez headlined a tour with the Beatles, but after the first performance they realized it was impossible to follow The Beatles.  Roe said, “It was complete mayhem at the theatre with hundreds of screaming girls rushing the stage like lemmings.  They were completely out of control, with only a few theatre staff and usherettes trying to keep some sort of order.  How could you possibly follow that?”  Subsequently, Roe and Montez agreed to drop down the bill, letting The Beatles close out the shows.  John Lennon told Tommy Roe that they also play ‘Sheila’ during their shows, but he wasn’t sure if they were playing it correctly.  John played it and Roe discovered that he was playing the chords backward, and John said, “I knew something was wrong.”  Roe followed this with an enormously successful tour of the United Kingdom along with his friend Roy Orbison, and then he moved to England where he lived for several years.

In 1964, five young musicians who called themselves Lanny and the Impressions, teamed up with Tommy Roe and the band changed its name to Roemans.  In 1965, the Roemans played a show in Statesboro, Georgia as support to the Rolling Stones.  The Stones were booed off the stage by a crowd that was impatient to see The Roemans!  In 1965, he and Jerry Lee Lewis combined with Orbison to create an LP for the Pickwick International label.  During the 1960s, he had several more top forty hits.  In 1969, Tommy Roe had another #1 hit with ‘Dizzy’, a bubblegum-pop song.  His final Top 10 single which was also produced in 1969 was ‘Jam Up and Jelly Tight’ (a track co-written with Freddy Weller) and this was another gold record peaking at #8 in the US and #5 in Canada.  Tommy had one last Billboard Top 40 hit with ‘Stagger Lee’ in the Fall of 1971.  His last chart entry on the pop charts was ‘Working Class Hero’, which reached # 97 in 1973.  Tommy had a total of eleven records to reach the Billboard Top Forty and twenty-three records made Billboard Top 100 charts.  In 1986, Tommy Roe was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Everything about ‘Sheila’ is sonically weird.  Roe wanted this song sound like Buddy Holly, and it sort of does.  The Holly echoes are all over it, but Holly died on February 3rd 1959, and music had changed quickly since then, so Roe’s song sounds like a throwback.  ‘Sheila’ is weirder than anything that Holly made, and Holly’s records were plenty weird in their own ways.  ‘Sheila’ incorporates this tribal pitter-patter of drums, which gives it a unique sound.  It also features these echoing, reverb-drenched guitars, which swirl and sparkle along with Roe’s voice, which has a deep twang that turns his vowels into different vowels, especially when he sings, “Her name drives me insane.”  Versions of those sounds were all there on Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’, but Roe somehow improves on them.  It’s a sweet and meaningless little trifle of a love song, but it’s also a sharp and it comes complete with a deadly collection of hooks, and every moment of it feels heavy and dreamy in equal measures.

Sweet little Sheila, you’ll know her if you see her
Blue eyes and a ponytail
Her cheeks are rosy, she looks a little nosy
Man, this little girl is fine

Never knew a girl like-a little Sheila
Her name drives me insane
Sweet little girl, that’s my little Sheila
Man, this little girl is fine

Me and Sheila go for a ride
Oh oh oh oh, I feel all funny inside
Then little Sheila whispers in my ear
Oh oh oh oh, I love you Sheila dear

Sheila said she loved me, she said she’d never leave me
True love will never die
We’re so doggone happy just bein’ around together
Man, this little girl is fine

Never knew a girl like-a little Sheila
Her name drives me insane
Sweet little girl, that’s my little Sheila
Man, this little girl is fine

Me and Sheila go for a ride
Oh oh oh oh, I feel all funny inside
Then little Sheila whispers in my ear
Oh oh oh oh, I love you Sheila dear

Sheila said she loved me, she said she’d never leave me
True love will never die
We’re so doggone happy just bein’ around together
Man, this little girl is fine
Oh, this little girl is fine
Yeah, this little girl is fine
Oh, this little girl is fine

2 thoughts on “This Little Girl Is Fine

  1. Tremendous, and the video was followed by Chris Montez with Let’s Dance, the first record that I ever bought. I purchased that, and Duane Eddy with “(Dance with the) guitar man” at the same time. Cost was 6 shillings and 8 pence each, that is 34 pence (46 cents). Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

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