Dave Rowland, who led the country group Dave & Sugar to major success in the ’70s, died Thursday. He was 74.
Rowland died at his Nashville home after suffering a stroke, according to Billboard.
Dave & Sugar featured Rowland backed by two female vocalists; they were often considered a country-pop counterpart to Tony Orlando and Dawn. The original lineup featured Rowland with Vicki Hackeman and Jackie Frantz, but the membership of Sugar fluctuated throughout the group’s life. Before finding solo success, country singer Sylvia unsuccessfully auditioned to join Sugar.
Signed to RCA Records, the group’s first single, “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” reached the country top 40 in 1975. The follow-up, “The Door Is Always Open,” became the trio’s first No. 1 single. “Tear Time” and “Golden Tears” also reached No. 1.
Rowland conceived the group and shaped its image.
“We don’t do tricks on stage,” he said in a 1978 interview with the Associated Press. “Nothing explodes. Nothing happens except our music, which is the best possible music we can produce. We try to sing positive songs. … We can dress up and go into Carnegie Hall and put on jeans and go into the Lone Star. Wherever we play, I feel people are going to like us.”
Dave & Sugar scored 16 top 40 country hits between 1975 and 1981 before disbanding. In 1982, Rowland released a solo album, appropriately titled “Sugar Free.” But he never achieved similar success. Later incarnations of Dave & Sugar also failed to recapture the earlier magic.
Rowland was born in Sanger, California, and raised in Los Angeles. In the days before Dave & Sugar, Rowland was part of J.D. Sumner’s Stamps Quartet. The gospel outfit toured and recorded with Elvis Presley between 1971 and 1977; Rowland would wear a gold lightning bolt on a chain with the letters “TCB,” a gift from Presley.
Rowland later went on to work as part of Charley Pride’s band before forming Dave & Sugar.
Members of the country music world posted about his death on Facebook. Kathie Baillie of Baillie & the Boys called him “my dearest friend and brother.”
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