After overseeing the Stargazers’ 1953 number 1, ‘Broken Wings’, he became recognized as a key producer and talent spotter of the UK record industry. Later 50s singers who also thrived under his aegis as Decca’s head of A&R included Lita Roza, Dickie Valentine and Billy Fury. For a while, Rowe left Decca to work for Top Rank for whom he procured a chart entrant for John Leyton via Joe Meek. When the label folded, he returned to Decca to minister further hits including Jet Harris And Tony Meehan’s ‘Diamonds’ in 1963. Rowe had been instrumental in the signing of several acts of the 50s svengali Larry Parnes, and was also a favourite with other managers, including Phil Solomon and Don Arden. Unfortunately, one manager with whom he failed to establish any rapport was Brian Epstein. For all his Top 10 triumphs, Rowe has earned a historical footnote as ‘The Man Who Turned Down The Beatles’ on the grounds that ‘four-piece groups with guitars are finished’. He preferred the more pliant Dagenham sound of Brian Poole And The Tremeloes who auditioned that same 1962 day - but, in fairness, executives with other companies were just as blinkered. Provoked by the quartet’s infuriating success with EMI, a chastised but cynical Rowe saturated Decca with Merseybeat acts in the hope that one of them might be a New Beatles. In January 1963 alone, he made off from Liverpool with the Big Three, Beryl Marsden, Billy Butler and, because their drummer was ex-Beatle Pete Best, Lee Curtis And The All-Stars. On George Harrison’s recommendation, Rowe signed the Rolling Stones in May. Dave Berry And The Cruisers, the Nashville Teens, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Them, Unit Four Plus Two, the Moody Blues, the Applejacks, Marc Bolan and the Zombies were among further acquisitions but for each such hitmaking unit, there was a Beat Six, a Bobby Cristo and the Rebels, a Gonks, a Falling Leaves... Although Rowe continued to strike lucky with outfits such as Small Faces, Animals and Marmalade, he was more at home with ‘real singers’ like some of his pre-Beatles finds had been - and so it was that Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck led a counter revolution on behalf of middle-of-the-road music when contracted by Rowe in the mid-60s, before his calculated withdrawal from a business in which his critical prejudices no longer fitted.
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