Tim Rose - in session for John Peel - 1968 - Photo: Trevor Neal

Tim Rose - A checkered career - a fickle audience - a formidable personal demon. (photo: Trevor Neal)

Tim Rose - in session for John Peel - 1968 - Photo: Trevor Neal
Tim Rose – A checkered career – a fickle audience – a formidable demon. (photo: Trevor Neal)

Tim Rose – in session for Top Gear (John Peel) – recorded July 1, 1968 – broadcast July 7, 1968 – BBC Radio 1 –

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Tim Rose for Sunday night. A name that may ring a few vague bells – but a remarkable talent whose career went through numerous peaks and valleys and who left us way too soon. An American who wound up settling for a time in the UK and was greatly admired by John Peel, who helped promote his work via Top Gear, and who featured him in session no less than five times during the late 1960s

Some background (via Wikipedia):

Rose was born in Washington, D.C., His first band was The Singing Strings, which included his friend Scott McKenzie, who later joined with John Phillips (eventually of The Mamas & the Papas) in a local group called The Abstracts, later The Smoothies and eventually The Journeymen. Other members of the Strings were Buck Hunnicutt, Speery Romig and Alan Stubbs. In 1962, Rose teamed up with ex-Smoothie Michael Boran as Michael and Timothy. Jake Holmes, Rich Husson and Rose formed a group called The Feldmans, later known as Tim Rose and the Thorns.

In 1962 Rose met singer Cass Elliot (also eventually of The Mamas & the Papas) at a party in Georgetown and formed a folk trio with her and singer John Brown called The Triumvirate. Later, after Brown was replaced by James (Jim) Hendricks, they changed the name to The Big 3. They soon landed a job at The Bitter End, a folk club in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Their success grew, with appearances on national television, and they recorded two albums: The Big 3 (1963) and The Big 3 Live at the Recording Studio (1964). Songs included “Grandfather’s Clock”, and an anti-war dirge written by Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff, “Come Away Melinda”, a re-recorded version of which was one of Rose’s most successful solo singles several years later.

In 1966, Rose was getting a lot of airplay with his version of “Hey Joe”. It was written and had been copyrighted in 1962 by singer Billy Roberts, but Rose claimed he heard it sung as a child in Florida, and as of 2009, Rose’s official website still claims the song is “traditional”. Prior to Rose’s recording, The Leaves, The Surfaris, Love and The Byrds had all recorded fast-paced versions of the song. Rose’s version (crediting himself as author), unlike the others, was a slow, angry ballad, which received US radio airplay and became a regional hit in the San Francisco area in 1966, as well as upstate New York cities like Buffalo and Albany. Jimi Hendrix had seen Rose performing at Cafe Wha? in New York City, and released a similarly slow version in 1966 which became a huge hit, first in the UK, then worldwide. It was Linda Keith, Keith Richards’ girlfriend at the time that played Rose’s recording of “Hey Joe” to Chas Chandler (Hendrix’s manager and former bass player for The Animals).

In 1968, while his song “Roanoke” was getting some airplay in the UK, Rose was considered while replacements were being selected for Brian Jones’s place in The Rolling Stones.

Rose worked in the late 1960s and 1970s with his short-lived LA band and appeared on bills opening for Traffic, The Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, Uriah Heep, Johnny Mathis, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Procol Harum, the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, The Band of Joy, and Tim Hardin.

By the mid 1970s, his career had stalled. He recorded The Gambler in 1977, with a group that included guitarist Andy Summers, only to find that the record company refused to release it. He returned to New York for a number of years. After a while, he lost his contacts in the music industry and was forced to work as a construction laborer until an opportunity arose to sing jingles for TV commercials in early 1980. Rose sang on many jingles, including Big Red gum and Wrangler Jeans, and voiced ads for the Big Apple Circus. This work funded his much-delayed college education, which he began at the age of 40. Rose graduated in 1984 from Fordham University with a degree in history. He became a Wall Street stockbroker and a teacher, got married, and eventually divorced. While working on Wall Street, he met Dennis Lepri, former lead guitarist for the folk rock group, Gunhill Road. They became friends and together collaborated on new material, performing in clubs throughout New York. After the 1987 stock market crash, the two parted ways and Tim got out of the business. He continued writing and performing at select venues, such as The Bitter End. He also battled with alcoholism.

By the late 1980s, Rose had reached the lowest point in his career. After his marriage broke up, he gave up drinking. In 1986, Nick Cave included “Long Time Man”, a version very close to Rose’s, on the album Your Funeral, My Trial. Cave went on to assist Rose in recovering his career, and encouraged him to play live shows again.

In 2002, Rose had completed a successful tour of Ireland with co-writer and guitarist Mickey Wynne and had a number of gigs planned around the UK. He died at Middlesex Hospital, London of a heart attack during a second operation for a lower bowel problem on September 24, 2002 at the age of 62. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

As a reminder of his late 60s period – here is session #4, recorded on July 1, 1968 for John Peel and Top Gear at BBC Radio 1.

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