Dave Rowland, born January 26, 1944, known to many in the music business as the founder and lead singer of hit-making group Dave & Sugar died November 1, 2018 in Nashville, due to complications from a stroke.
Before forming Dave & Sugar, Rowland was part of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet (who was touring with Elvis Presley at the time), and later the Four Guys. The Stamps Quartet was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1988. He also was a prominent member of Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride’s road show.
By 1975, with Pride looking for a backup band, Rowland hired Jackie Frantz and Vicki Hackeman, and Dave & Sugar was formed.
After signing on with Pride’s management team, Dave & Sugar signed with RCA Records and recorded their first album. The trio’s first single, “Queen of the Silver Dollar” (written by Shel Silverstein) broke into the Top 25 of Billboard magazine’s country singles chart in early 1976. Their second single “The Door Is Always Open,” shot straight to the number one spot on the country charts, a driving, lushly produced track which expertly combined Rowland’s resonant baritone with soaring harmonies.
Two successive singles, “I’m Gonna Love You,” and “Don’t Throw It All Away,” used the same basic formula as “The Door Is Always Open,” and also became huge hits in 1976-77. Their peak run garnered nearly one dozen Top 10 singles, including two more No. 1 hits – “Tear Time” (1978) and “Golden Tears” (1979). Overall, Dave & Sugar charted 16 times on the Billboard country charts.
Dave & Sugar was a slick sounding, soulful vocal trio that during their heyday was labeled “the country ABBA.” Although their career was much shorter lived than that of Bjorn and crew, Dave & Sugar did share the Swedish group’s knack for catchy tunes, sparkling production, and full, rich, male/female vocal arrangements. Their touring took them throughout North America, Europe, New Zealand and Italy, where the group played a command performance for the Mayor of Rome.
Rowland also toured with Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings, and Barbara Mandrell and was an opening act for Kenny Rogers for two years.
Rowland disbanded the trio briefly during the early 1980s to try a solo career, releasing an album entitled (appropriately) Sugar Free and charting two singles of his own. Rowland later reformed the trio with two new sets of “Sugar” partners.
Dave Rowland is survived by his wife Terri Rowland, mother Ruby Rowland and sister Donna Fort and her husband Bob, of Palm Desert, Calif., sister-in-law Angie Billis of Nashville, Tenn., niece Vicki Martinka and husband John in Pennsylvania, and nephew Bobby Fowler and wife Belen and their two children in Argentina.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in the name of Dave Rowland be sent to the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. In 2014, Rowland was honored by the Music City Tennis Invitational in recognition of four decades of event participation with proceeds to benefit the hospital.
Arrangements are pending for a celebration of life service.