February 18, 2014
By Kathleen R. Merrill
Beatles tribute band nears third decade performing
You might, like me, envy people who were able to see The Beatles live. We lost that option Dec. 8, 1980, when John Lennon was killed.
But if you really love the Fab Four, you can see the next best thing at a BeatleMania Live concert.
If you’ve been to Snoqualmie Casino the past couple of years to see this band, it’s the same one. If you haven’t been, you are missing a great show.
John Preston, who has run the band and portrayed Ringo since 1985, will tell you there is a major difference between this band and the many other Beatle tribute bands you can find in an Internet search.
“Unlike many other shows, everything that’s coming off that stage, we do live,” he said last week from his home office in Florida. “All the orchestration parts, all the guitar work, all the keyboard work, everything you hear is live.”
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Other Beatles tribute bands use audio tracks, vocal and instrumental, blended in with their live performances.
Sure, you might think, they probably kind of sound and kind of look like The Beatles. You would be wrong.
Preston works hard, and has for 29 years, to find the best musicians and ones who closely resemble the Beatle they’re playing.
“They have to be better than normal, have to be able to play keyboard, know all of the harmony parts, be good singers,” he said.
And they don’t just learn the songs and that’s it. They continue to work to get better.
“You have to keep listening to it, even if you think you know it, because it burns into your brain, and you want to be able to perform it live as much as possible like the recording that people have in their heads,” Preston said. “We try to be as close to the record as possible.”
The other members of this band — Jon Fickes (John Lennon), of Seattle; John Perry (who actually plays left-handed as Paul McCartney), of Baltimore; and David Brighton (George Harrison), of Los Angeles — are very talented musicians who have done all kinds of original projects, Preston said.
As BeatleMania Live, they have played private, public and corporate shows all over the world, including for and with superstars. They once played at a golf tournament hosted by Arnold Palmer. The band even played for President Bush’s second inauguration.
There’s an interesting story about how Fickes came to the band.
“We needed to replace the John Lennon character a few years ago,” Preston said, “and I was talking to this guy. He saw us in Moses Lake when he was 15. He said the group was so good that he got bit by The Beatles bug.”
It was “the overwhelming presence of The Beatles” that got Preston started.
“I’ve been a drummer since I was a little kid, 5 years old. I took lessons, played in nightclubs when I was too young,” he said with a hearty laugh. “It’s funny how the thing happened. In college, I was an apostle of The Beatles. Years later, someone called and asked if I would think about replacing a guy in a local Beatles show.
“That led me to get involved with the people with the Broadway bunch, and I got involved in one of those groups.
“Several different casts were out on the road, got in the tail end of the original ‘Beatlemania’ show on Broadway,” he added. “I decided to hand pick a cast of the best people, I thought, at the time, and kept it going. It wasn’t much later that we got involved with Wolfman Jack, and we were part of his touring show.
“That was a tremendous experience to be onstage with him. He was so famous. The Beatles segment got to be so powerful, he started to travel with us.”
That power has kept Preston and the show going.
“Aside from the success of the show and making a good living,” he said, “there’s something that’s timeless about The Beatles’ music and the excitement generated, the people’s reaction to the music, their enjoyment, hearing it performed live. It’s very uplifting.”
Although nothing special has been planned for the shows to celebrate the recent 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Sullivan impersonator Fred Whitfield will give the band a Sullivan-style introduction at Thursday’s show.
BeatleMania Live performs four “eras” of the Fab Four — Ed Sullivan, Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road and later — complete with original model guitars and drums as used by The Beatles in combination with theatrical makeup, original costumes and stage choreography.
You don’t want to miss it.