About A. J. Roach
Producer/songwriter/arranger Jimmy Basil Roach, born February 10, 1944, hails from the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, NY, the same neighborhood that the Chips -- "Rubber Biscuits" -- lived. He hit some licks with them, along with original member Sammy Strain, but was out before they cut their sole hit. He joined a neighborhood group called the Lyrics who worked the local talent show circuit, battling it out with the likes of Little Anthony's early group; the Lyrics had fun but never recorded. Roach took piano lessons at 14 from a private teacher; piano lessons were part of growing up in Roach's family, his four sisters learned keyboards as well. In 1963, he latched on as a staff writer with Chardon Music, staying two years before leaving to fulfill military obligations in 1965. At Chardon, he wrote primarily with Carl Smith and Gary Klein; his composition "The Kitty Kat Song" was the flipside of Lee Dorsey's first major hit "Ride Your Pony."
After the service, he resumed writing, sometimes with Rosemary McCoy, who introduced him to Pam Sawyer. Sawyer had severed ties with ex-partner Lori Burton and was seeking a new collaborator. Sawyer and Burton wrote some extremely soulful tunes, including the O'Jays' "It Won't Hurt" in 1965. Roach played keyboards, just what she needed. Roach, a heartfelt, soulful writer, cranked out "I'm By Your Side" for Brenda & the Tabulations, the Persians' "Too Much Pride," the O'Jays' "I Miss You," and others. He moved to the Motor City in 1969 to take advantage of the opportunities and landed a staff writer and arranger position at Hitsville USA, based on a song he wrote with Sawyer, "My Whole World Ended," recorded by David Ruffin; Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol are credited because writers had to share credits with the producer(s) to get tunes cut. Motown's vaults contain many unreleased songs by Roach, including an album on Jimmy Ruffin, his closet friend at Motown. He arranged most of the tracks on the Four Tops' Still Water and In Changing Times albums and the Miracles' Christmas album in 1970. When Motown moved to Los Angeles, Roach remained in Detroit and hooked up with producer/writer Don Davis.
Roach wrote "Hit and Run" for a young svelte, Roz Ryan. Ryan became a Broadway actress and later landed the choir director role in the '90s sitcom Good News. The transplanted New Yorker wrote some noteworthy songs for the Dramatics including "And I Panicked," two mini-dramas -- "I Made Myself Lonely" and "Learning to Love You Was Easy" -- "I Dig Your Music," and the breezy "I Get Carried Away." William "Wee Gee" Howard originally recorded the first three songs but left the group, so Davis had Roach redo them with Larry "L.J." Reynolds on lead. His songs have also been recorded by the Supremes, Esther Philips, James & Bobby Purify, the Dells, Gloria Gaynor, Houston Pearson, the Sins of Satan, Five Special -- with many of the tracks produced and arranged by Roach as well. He took the Spinners to Atlantic Records armed with a four-song demo he produced, featuring new lead singer, Philippe Wynne. A planned album was scrapped when Thom Bell chose the Spinners from a shopping list of artists to produce for the label. Just like that, Roach was out and Bell in. One of the four songs "Oh Lord I Wish I Could Sleep" surfaced on the Spinners' double-disc anthology album. In the '80s he delved into managing and promotions and secured a deal for a Detroit group, Everlife, on 20th Century Fox Records, but the company dropped the ball; Roach salvaged the product -- a whole album -- somewhat, by releasing it locally on his Jibaro Records. As a writer, he has more than 125 songs cleared with Broadcast Music Incorporated for performance fees. He stepped away from the business around the mid-'80s, citing the infusion of rap, and other drastic changes. He lives in Detroit, his adopted home, and runs the Accessories Boutique retail store. His family still lives in New York, where his mom celebrated her 100th birthday in Y2K. ~ Andrew Hamilton, Rovi