Louise Harrison’s Liverpool Legends plan
In 2014, the Liverpool Legends, a Branson-based Beatles tribute band, will get back to where they once belonged–the Caravelle Theatre in Branson–and Marty Scott, who portrays George Harrison in the group, couldn’t be happier.
“We’re going back to our roots,” Scott said.
The Liverpool Legends started in Branson in 2006 and opened their second season at the Caravelle. Since then, the band–comprised of Scott, Kevin Mantegna as John Lennon; Bob Beahon as Paul McCartney, and Greg George as Ringo Starr–has toured the world and finished its seventh season in Branson, most recently at Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.
As the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ coming to the U.S. looms, Scott anticipates a big year for fans and the bands that pay tribute to the Fab Four. But the Liverpool Legends has something that other tribute bands do not, and that is Louise Harrison, George’s big sister, who lived Beatlemania.
A Beatle in Benton
Feb. 7, 1964, wasn’t the first time George Harrison visited the U.S. Five months prior, George and brother Peter in 1963 visited their sister, Louise, at her southern Illinois home in Benton. At the time, she was married to Scottish mining engineer Robert Caldwell. The couple had relocated from Toronto, Ontario, to Benton.
Although The Beatles had a No. 1 hit in England (From Me to You), they weren’t yet known in the U.S., so Harrison contacted radio stations in the region to promote her brother and his mates. She has said a small station in West Frankfort, Ill., WFRX-AM, was the first U.S. radio station to play a Beatles’ record.
When The Beatles arrived in New York City, Harrison was there to meet her brother and John, Paul, and Ringo. But George arrived with strep throat and a fever, putting The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in jeopardy. The big sister instinct kicked in and Harrison took care of George while he stayed at The Plaza Hotel in New York. By Sunday night, he was ready to make entertainment history.
“During 1963, I put a great deal of effort into helping their manager Brian (Epstein) learn about the music business in the U.S.,” Harrison said, adding she had become a permanent resident of the country in March, 1963. “So it was no surprise to me when they flew into New York in February of 1964 to an outstanding welcome. For me, it was the successful conclusion to almost a year of hard work.”
“A Really Big Sheeww”
Scott met Louise Harrison in 2002 at a Beatles’ convention in Chicago. He was performing with another tribute band; she was a guest speaker. Two year’s later, Scott asked her to become a promotional spokesperson for a band he and Mantegna were putting together. Eventually, she agreed, and handpicked the band’s members.
Harrison and the Liverpool Legends have toured the world, performing in Europe, Japan, and South America. In 2012, the band was nominated for a Grammy Award. Last year, they were the only U.S. act to play a Beatles festival in Holon, Israel.
“It was crazy,” said Scott. “We felt like rock stars.”
Scott said he recently booked the band to play an event in Iceland.
“Everywhere we go, it seems to be bigger than the last place. People are up dancing, singing out loud–and they don’t speak English,” he said.
Fittingly, the show this year will be marked with plenty of 50th anniversary nostalgia and music. Scott said the band will re-create The Beatles’ appearances on Sullivan’s shows, song-by-song, down to the last detail. He said they study tapes and “whatever we can get our hands on” to get the Beatles’ gestures just right.
And yes, the show will have an Ed Sullivan; impersonator Neil Harvey will portray the legendary television host.
Also new this year will be an “unplugged” acoustic set that will showcase some of the B-side Beatle gems.
“We’ve always played the No. 1 hits, so we’ll see how it goes,” Scott said.
And, like in all other performances, Harrison will be on stage during intermission to field questions and share personal stories about her fab brother.
The anniversary date will be observed with a show the weekend of Feb. 9 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, a northwest suburb of Chicago.
From June through August, the Liverpool Legends will be in Branson. The Caravelle Theatre (3446 W. 76 Country Blvd.), will be transformed inside and out into the Yellow Submarine. The exterior will be painted yellow, and plenty of Beatles’ memorabilia–from Louise Harrison and other collectors–will be on view.
“We’ll have a bit of a Beatles museum. We have so much stuff,” Scott said. “Plus the Caravelle is about the same size as the Ed Sullivan Theatre (in New York), about 720 seats. It’ll give us a vibe we’ve been missing playing the bigger theaters. It should be cool.”
After August, there are more tour dates, and then they return to the Caravelle in October for six weeks.
“This actually is more (dates) than we’ve done in Branson for a while,” Scott said. “We love Branson and always will keep a presence there.”
Scott may not have been born in 1964, but he doesn’t see Beatlemania ever going away.
“Sometimes we wonder when is it going to die off, but all these young kids are obsessed with it. The music and personalities still hold up. I mean, what other group has that?” Scott said.
Harrison said her brother George always enjoyed his work, the music, and his relationship with John, Paul, and Ringo. But he did confide to her that fame became “rather tiresome.”
“When the lads’ fame turned into riches, he was dismayed at the amount of predators who came along,” she said. “Two joking remarks he had made to me (were) ‘usually when people become rich, they are regarded as tycoons…we are just regarded as targets.’ The other, ‘Seems like everyone these days is singing Gotta get you into my life! ’ ”
Pass it on
“At first, the kids are nervous, but we play the first half way more rocked out and cooler than they thought it was going to be,” he said. “It’s completely insane.”
In many smaller schools, Scott said these concerts draw an audience from several communities.
“Honestly, the most fun is when you walk away after hearing kids say they’ll tell their grandkids about this show,” Scott said. “It doesn’t matter what age you are; that’s the beauty of it.”
Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Midwest Traveler magazine.
Jan/Feb 2014 Issue
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