Created by two Akron, Ohio, bandmembers as an outlet for their love of Beatles music, “1964” … the Tribute is now in its 21st year entertaining fans of the Fab Four’s music.
In fact, “1964” which performs one show at Robinson Center Music Hall on Thursday, July 28, has been together far longer than the Beatles managed.
“We had no intention of it being a full-time vocation,” says Mark Benson, who emulates John Lennon on stage. “We were all kind of getting out of the popular music thing in the 1980s and thought this would be fun in keeping our hand in performing. Because it was the Beatles, we thought we could do oldies parties, reunions, maybe a club or two every two months.
“Our agent got us a couple of gigs and we were thinking, they’d say this is stupid. But it just hit, and we played colleges in Canada and the U.S. coast to coast. It was really one of those things that, once we started doing the college thing, it just took off and was a surprise to us.”
Theater shows, corporate meetings, festivals and the like have taken over from the college tours the group enjoyed for several years, said Benson, who added that he and co-founder Gary Grimes had always possessed a harmonizing style in the Lennon-McCartney mold. “1964” does about 140 shows a year. The band was the among the first to go into communist Germany, and they’ve played London and Liverpool.
Grimes, the Paul McCartney of the band, promises an assortment of recognizable Beatles hits from 1964 to 1966, from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “Taxman.” Both he and Benson say they enjoy seeing children in the crowd enjoying songs with their parents and grandparents.
Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year dubbed “1964” as the No. 1 Beatles tribute band, and the band has been featured on several TV variety and entertainment shows. Louise Harrison, George Harrison’s sister, honored “1964” with a party at her home, and Apple Records present Alistair Taylor said the band’s resemblance to the Fab Four “is uncanny … never have I seen a group to such detail.”
Grimes was so committed to being McCartney on stage, he learned to play the Hohner bass left-handed. The members of “1964” are now in their 50s and don wigs for the 1960s-era look, play through Vox amps, and feature the full early Beatles regalia, complete with boots.
“It took me two years to get the dexterity to play the bass left-handed,” said Grimes, who grew up playing guitar and also has a background singing jingles for several professional sports teams. “I fought it for a while, but decided if we were going to do this thing right, I had to play the bass left-handed.”
Benson and Grimes saw McCartney on his tour in Cleveland last year. “Most of what you see about the Beatles is their 20-year-old stuff, the movies, all of that from 1970 or before, where they are still young guys,” Benson said. “Two of them are gone now, and Paul and Ringo are over 60. It kind of hits you hard.”
Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $35 and are available through Celebrity Attractions (www.celebrityattractions.com), Third and Spring streets, or by calling 244-8800. Ticketmaster outlets (975-7575, www.ticketmaster.com) also have tickets.
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