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Dave & Sugar Biography

Last updated: 08/09/2014 08:02:12 PM

During the middle 70’s and through the early 80’s, Dave & Sugar were among the most successful vocal groups in Country music. Dave Rowland and an assortment of lovely and talented ladies (in twos) purveyed what has been described as "Tuxedo Country." The son of a Gospel minister, Dave started out as a dance band vocalist and then, after being drafted, in 1965, he became a trumpeter with the 75th Army Band and while at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he formed his own group. During his Army period, he became the only serviceman to receive a theatrical scholarship from the Entertainment Division of the Army. He also studied acting under Estelle Harmon. He graduated from the Stamps School of Music in Texas and moving to Nashville, became a member of the Stamps Quartet, in 1970. He also qualified for a real estate license. For a year and a half, he toured, as a member of the Stamps, with Elvis Presley. He and Presley became friends because of their common interests in Karate and Gospel music. Dave left the Stamps to get into Country music, and joined the Four Guys, replacing Richard Garrett, in 1974. During his nine-month stay with the group, they played the Grand Ole Opry and more importantly, they supported Charley Pride. When he left the Guys, Dave acted as a singing waiter at Papa Leone’s in Nashville and had a Country-Rock group, Wild Oates, until he heard that Pride and Tammy Wynette were both looking for a harmony backing group. He held auditions and recruited Jackie Frantz and Vicki Hackeman, and signed on with Pride and Chardon, the company managing Pride. Vicki (b. Louisville, Kentucky) moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, at an early age. She was active in church choirs and school chorus and sang in a local group while in high school. She was part of a trio that won a statewide contest. She worked with the group, the Dallas Star and worked in Nashville as a back-up singer. Jackie (b. Sydney, Ohio) made her musical debut, winning on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, at age 15 with a trumpet solo. While at Western Kentucky University, she sang and played trumpet with an all-girl group that played USO tours in the Caribbean and Europe. After graduation, she moved to Nashville, to develop as a singer and songwriter. She worked as a solo and did a lot of studio work. She became lead singer of Friction and toured with the Buck Findley Show.

On September 18, 1975, Dave & Sugar signed to RCA Records, with a little help from Charley Pride. They hit the Country charts at the end of the year, with Shel Silverstein’s Queen of the Silver Dollar, which reached the Top 25. They followed up with the No.1 hit, The Door is Always Open. This opened up a door to a string of major hits from 1976 through 1979. They closed out 1976 with the Top 3 single, I’m Gonna Love You. In 1977, they had three major hits with Don’t Throw it All Away (Top 5), That’s the Way Love Should Be (Top 10) and I’m Knee Deep in Loving You (Top 3). That same year, Jackie Frantz decided that she had enough of being on the road and Sue Powell joined. Sue (b. Gallatin, Tennessee) was raised in Sellersburg, Indiana. Her mother was a singer, and her father built his own recording studio in their home. Sue began singing in shows around Louisville at age 7. A year later, her father recorded her first single. During her teen years, she was spotted by Brenda Lee’s step-father, Jay Rainwater, who signed her to a management contract when she was 13. As a result, she had a local hit with Little People. The group had two further hits in 1978, Gotta’ Quit Lookin’ at You Baby (Top 5) and the No.1 hit, Tear Time. That year, Vicki left the group and was replaced by Melissa Dean. Melissa had built up a following in Kentucky. During the spring of 1978, the group appeared at the Wembley Festival in London, England. Dave & Sugar, hit 1979, with another No.1, Golden Tears, the Top 10 single, Stay with Me and the Top 5 double-sided hit, My World Begins and Ends with You/Why Did You Have to Be So Good. Toward the end of the year, Sue left the group to go solo, having signed a record deal with RCA. She went on to have a pair of mid-level hits in 1981, Midnite Flyer and (There’s No Me) Without You, and then in 1982, she co-hosted the Nashville on the Road TV series. She was replaced by Jamie Kaye (from Lexington, Kentucky), who had been a back-up singer and had landed a record deal with Mercury Records, while still in high school. In 1980, the group had a Top 20 entry, New York Wine and Tennessee Shine and a Top 40 single, A Love Song. During 1980, the group toured with Kenny Rogers, and gained even more public attention. Rogers was one of Dave’s tennis opponents; Dave being a highly proficient tennis player. That year, Jamie left and was replaced by former member of Jamboree USA, Patti Caines. Dave, Melissa and Patti, remained together as Dave Rowland and Sugar, until 1982 (Melissa, having gotten a divorce, reverted to her maiden name of Dean). Their final chart records occurred in 1981, when they had It’s a Heartache (Top 40), the Top 10 single, Fool By Your Side and The Pleasure’s All Mine (Top 40). The last two records being on their new label, Elektra. Elektra persuaded Dave to record a solo album, Sugar Free, but two singles that charted for him during that year, failed to make much impact. They were Natalie/Why Didn’t I Think of That and Lovin’ Our Lives Away. Dave now got together with Sue and Melissa for a re-formed Dave & Sugar, but that was short-lived and that year, he enlisted Cindy Smith and Lisa Alvey. Cindy competed in "Miss Georgia World" and sang and danced on the Country Music USA show, while Lisa recorded Gospel music with her parents and won 1st place in the "Wrangler Country Starsearch," for Kentucky. In 1984, Dave was asked by Helen Cornelius to play "Frank Butler" in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. By the time Dave & Sugar cut their 1986 album, which was produced by Nelson Larkin, Tina Pappas was the voice of "Sugar," due to the fact that the other new member, Penny Cardin was in the hospital. Penny was a former "Miss Nashville" and was an award-winning pianist. Upon Tina’s departure, another former "Miss Nashville," Velvet Williams (from Jacksonville, Florida), came on board. Velvet played piano, organ, guitar and banjo, as well as being an adept singer. By 1988, Penny had departed and was replaced by Regina Leigh (from Marshville, North Carolina). A former "Miss Union County," s
he played bass guitar, piano and drums. Although Dave & Sugar were one of the top vocal groups in Country, and although they were nominated for several awards, including ACM’s "Vocal Group of the Year," they did not receive the acknowledgment they deserved.