Wednesday, May 28, 2014
George Harrison's sister gives re-birth to The Beatles
By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- For the past 50 years, Louise Harrison has lived the life of the Beatles.
Even before the Beatles were introduced to the world on the Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 1964, the sister of lead Beatles guitarist George Harrison was going from one radio station to another trying to get them to play Beatles music.
And still today Harrison is keeping the world abreast of Beatles music with arguably the No. 1 tribute band and certainly the only one with a direct biological link to the original Fab Four – the Liverpool Legends.
Headquartered in Branson’s entertainment capital of the world, it’s a “don’t miss” show for any Beatles’ fan. But because of the Legends’ popularity nationwide and worldwide, the time in Branson is limited to four months – June 3-Aug. 16 and Sept. 16-Oct. 23 at the Caravelle Theatre on Branson’s famed 76 strip.
“There are hundreds of Beatles tribute bands out there but I thought we could put something more authentic together,” says Harrison, still spry and energetic at age 83. “The one thing that was important to me is I wanted the guys in the band to be the kind of guys George would want to hang around and I think we’ve succeeded and it’s been quite fun.”
Band members were hand-picked by Harrison both for their striking physical resemblance to the original Beatles and their musical experience shortly after the passing of George Harrison in 2001. Attending a Beatles convention in Chicago, Harrison met Marty Scott, who had a striking resemblance to her brother and the musical talent as well.
Over the course of the next couple of years, the two discussed putting together a tribute band but it wasn’t until Scott, lifelong friend Kevin Mantegna and Bob Dobro took the plunge in 2005, Dobro providing keyboard and arrangements while Mantegna’s refined impersonation of the late John Lennon re-lives the distinctive persona and talent of Lennon. The band got an extra shot of realism when they spotted Greg George, a talented drummer who had an amazing resemblance to Ringo Starr. Bob Beahon, who had traveled the world performing as Paul McCartney, was the last to join the band to complete the current Fab Four six years ago.
Certainly no one knows the Beatles better than Harrison. Married to an engineer working for a coal mine company in Benton, Ill., Harrison started promoting the Beatles in 1963, visiting radio stations with her brother’s records in tow – although meeting with little success. “Everyone kept telling me this band is going nowhere,” she remembers.
George and his brother even made a two-week visit to Benton in the fall of 1963, making him the first Beatle to come to the U.S. He enjoyed complete anonymity in the visit to the town of 7,000. Today, a huge marker commemorates that visit.
Five months later, Louise was in New York two days before for the Ed Sullivan Show. “My brother invited me to come which was probably just as well because when he arrived in New York, he had a really bad strep throat and 104 degree temperature,” says Harrison. “I got roped into looking after him and helping him get back on his feet by Sunday night. When we got to the sound check, the doctor told me to make sure not to keep him out any longer than about an hour because he was really so ill.
“So after about an hour with all the press saying to do this or wave your hand this way or smile the other way and all that kind of stuff, I went over to Ed and said ‘I need to get him back to the hotel.’ ” Despite a temperature of 102, George was able to make it through the entire performance. “I think by Monday night he was feeling okay because we went to Washington, D.C. on the train and he was fooling around and pretending to be a waiter on the train and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.”
The craziness, however, had started with the Beatles much-awaited arrival in New York. “When they first arrived at the hotel, every TV in the suite was on to all different channels and we were running from room to room to see what the different people were saying about the Beatles’ arrival,” said Harrison, who had a front row seat for the Sullivan show that was watched by 73 million people.
“You didn’t really have time to think about what was going because you were too busy trying to make sure you escaped uninjured from the crowds. The police used to put up their arms into a great big tunnel so we could dive through the tunnel and get into the limo.”
“The Beatles are more popular today than they were in 1964,” says Scott, who manages the band that has taken trips to such wide spread places as Chile, Israel, Carnegie Hall, The Cavern Club in Liverpool and the famed Abbey Road Studios in London. “We sold out in Israel before we got there because the Beatles were banned there until 2008,” says Harrison. “Because this is the 50th anniversary the whole world is taking notice what the Beatles meant to the world.”
“It’s not only just their music but they affected so much more – politics, fashion and everything everyone was doing,” says Scott. “There’s so many people’s lives that have been affected by the Beatles. They’ve lived their entire lives around their music so for us, this is the greatest gig ever. There are so many songs. It never gets boring.”
A fixture in Branson since 2006 where they’ve been voted Best New Show, Best Band and Best Show, the Legends and Harrison were nominated in 2012 for a Grammy Award for their work on “Fab Fan Memories.”
They also were chosen over every other Beatle Tribute band by top television and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer to portray the band that change the course of music and the world forever been acclaimed the world.
Tickets and the Liverpool Legends schedule can be found on-line at www.liverpoollegends.com.
PHOTO: Louise Harrison, the sister of the Beatles’ George Harrison, is surrounded by her Liverpool Express foursome of (from left) Marty Scott (George), Kevin Mantegna (John), Greg George (Ringo) and Bob Beahon (Paul) appearing in Branson June 3--Aug. 16 and Sept. 16-Oct. 223. (Photo by Alan Hoskins)