Born Joseph DeSimone in Augusta, GA, he was later redubbed Roscoe Des Moines by his dyslexic manager Jack DesMoines, who merely thought he was doing a relative a favor. While some truly gifted gospel singers at some point in their career decide to take it to the next level and become ministers in order to devote all their time and talents in the service of the Lord, Roscoe Des Moines had something of a reverse epiphany.
“I was sitting here in my studio apartment when I had a visitation from the Almighty and He flat out told me to stop singing gospel music. I asked Him, “Lord, guideth me. How should I sing the Lord’s praises? What should I sing?” And He replied, “Sing anything. Just don’t sing gospel.” I kept waiting for another sign and when I walked into an appliance store and heard two radios blaring at the same time, I decided to combine gospel with some of the more rocky sounds that KSAS (a local radio station) was broadcasting at the time. The resulting noisy record did in fact achieve the claustrophobic sound Des Moines was going for and became a surprise regional hit in DesMoines, Iowa, where they thought they were doing a local boy a favor.
A very special BONUS B-SIDE of DUBIOUS DISTINCTION? Depends on who you ask. Roscoe Des Moines had the dubious honor of singing “Terminal Love” on a very special two-part episode of NBC’s short-lived action series Ambulance. For two seasons, actor Garrick Connelly starred as Rip Cartilage, a hotheaded ambulance driver who has no time for traffic lights, mind games and most of all, petty moralizing from his superiors. In this two-parter, Rip falls for a terminally ill patient with only seconds to live. When she expires in his arms, Rip flips his lid and takes a side trip to his parent’s farm in Wilmington for a much needed reality check. “When I read the script for ‘A Toe Tag for Penny,’ I thought what we needed there was a strong love theme for the show that we could repeat over and over and compel people to rush out and buy,” says Connelly. “I suggested this because I was just about to launch my own singing career on 20th Century Fox Records. They loved the idea but instead of commissioning a song for me to sing, they gave it to some loser I’d never heard of,” fumes Connelly, a slight that still rankles to this day. “I could understand if they’d passed me over for Trini Lopez or someone hot at the time. But this guy was a nobody. And deservedly so, in my opinion. I think they were doing some creep named Jack Des Moines a favor or something.”