The city of Birmingham, England, has spawned its share (and then some) of music stars: Steve Winwood, Roy Wood, Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Lynne, Carl Palmer, Denny Laine, Christine McVie, et al. Terry Rowley isn't listed among them, but based on his musical ability a lot of people who saw and heard his work in the 1960s and early '70s say he was a prime candidate to join their ranks. Rowley was part of the huge wave of rock & roll performers who seemed to sweep across the British Midlands in the early '60s, even before the press and public discovered a similar phenomenon to the north in Liverpool. He revealed himself to be a prodigiously talented guitarist from an early age, but was also proficient on the piano and other instruments. It was mostly the guitar that mattered in the early '60s, as part of bands such as the Scotty Wood Combo and the Vikings (not the group later fronted by Carl Wayne).
By the time he joined his first major group, the Mountain Kings, in 1963, he was regarded as one of the best guitarists on the burgeoning local club scene. What's more, the Mountain Kings were talented enough to make a serious name for themselves locally, and to get a short-lived recording contract with Decca Records. Rowley's playing is heard to great advantage all over the four songs they left behind on the Decca LP Brum Beat, all very much in the prevailing Merseybeat rock & roll style of the period, but with considerable class and some special inventiveness in the playing and the hooks. In 1966, he joined the Montanas, a band that had begun getting national exposure on a regular basis, and also had a contract with Pye Records. In the course of switching groups, Rowley also made the transition to keyboard player, but he also became the Montanas' unofficial recording manager, helping them work out and tighten up their sound on their records -- in some respects, he played the same role within this pop/rock band (which only just missed national stardom, by most accounts) that Paul Samwell-Smith did with the early Yardbirds.
Rowley lasted for two years with the Montanas, but in 1968 he and lead singer John Jones both jumped ship, joining a Wolverhampton-based outfit, Finders Keepers. This group had also enjoyed some considerable local and regional success, working mostly in a pop/rock vein, but by the time Rowley and Jones came in, they had reached the last of what the old name and their old sound could do for them. But instead of breaking up, the members rebuilt their sound and image from the ground up -- with Glenn Hughes on bass, Dave Holland on drums, and Mel Galley on guitar, they had the core of a solid hard rock band, which is what they became, taking the name Trapeze, with Rowley resuming some guitar chores as well as keyboards.
It was when Trapeze cut their self-titled debut album for Threshold Records that Rowley's presence bloomed across the music, expanding to include flute and various exotic keyboard instruments. Additionally, as a reflection of his greater musical proficiency compared with the others, he managed the entire recording, serving as de facto producer. The album was a critical success, mixing elements of hard rock and progressive rock, but in its aftermath, both Rowley and Jones left the band and returned to the Montanas. He worked with that band into the mid-'70s, and since then has turned up on records by Glenn Hughes and Justin Hayward. He is best known today for his work with Trapeze.