Friday, July 26, 2013

Going Global pt. 2

We officially played outside the U.S. earlier this year with a show at Harrah's Resort in Cherokee, N.C., which is on property owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. But that's a technical departure.

Now Dennis is in Italy, traveling with his wife Lori and son Ryan. But Dennis never stops working on behalf of the WannaBeatles - it's part of his nature, and a major factor in the recognition we've received in our semi-illustrious history.

Two days ago, Dennis sent us this message:


The calendar looks clear for Sept 13th for TN State Fair. Unless I hear otherwise pronto (Italian for "soon") I am going to book it.

The European office of The WannaBeatles is in full swing.


Among the replies, David wrote this:

Wow! We're in Europe now. 
They better watch out! 
A dynamo has just landed in their midst.  

Yes, a dynamo has landed. The next day Dennis was in Florence, where he found the local Hard Rock Cafe ("Italy's newest") and set up a meeting with their talent buyer, who's name is Tommaso (Italian for "Tommy"). 

Dennis sent him a follow up email, and Tommaso sent this reply: 

Dear Dennis,
Really thank you for your visit, it has been a nice and interesting meeting, hope we’ll move forward to plan something together, it would be great to see The WannaBeatles live on our stage!
Have a great day

It certainly helps that foreign club owners can speak English so well, but then, Rock'n'Roll is fundamentally an English language phenomenon. 

Gotta say, it's exciting to contemplate the possibility of playing in Europe. How to overcome the practical detail of paying for the trip is a separate question, but maybe with some other gigs over there  and a kickstarter campaign we can make it happen. 

Just to keep the excitement alive, here's a screen shot of their website:
The address of the Hard Rock, on Via De Brunelleschi, is named for the Renaissance architect who designed the famous Il Duomo of Florence Cathedral. Il Duomo is to Florence like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris - every tourist sees it. I'm sure Dennis will take pictures to show us when he gets back.

Meanwhile, the Nashville office of the WannaBeatles is in full swing, with Nathan filling in for Dennis. Here's part of a message he sent yesterday:


The WannaBeatles Nashville office is functioning despite the absence of Boss.  This morning I initiated contacting string players in Lebanon through the Cumberland University. The instructor was very friendly and glad for my contact, but we'll have to see if any of his students are available. 

Also: We have a Radio Interview on Monday morning, August 5th, at  9:05 a.m. for the Lebanon, TN, Capitol Theatre gig. The interview can be by telephone, or we can drive to Lebanon. They're planning on telephone. I'll find out if they can do Skype… Stay tuned.

And Dennis, or Boss as Nathan sometimes calls him, responds from overseas with this message:

Way to go, Nathan! As we say in Italian, "You Make me proud."

Then David comments: 

Great work Nathan!
The WannaBeatles are now international with offices in two continents. 

So, whether we end up going to Europe or not, we still have some shows to think about. Coming up August 8 is a show at the Capitol Theater in Lebanon, Tennessee. Nathan has confirmed that we will have a group of string players with us at that show. 

Further down the road is a concert August 24 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach. Nathan, who has already written half a dozen string charts for an entire orchestra to perform with us at that show, has just confirmed that a harpist will be joining us there. This will give us an authentic way to present "She's Leaving Home," the beautiful ballad from the Sgt. Pepper album.

We're also planning on doing a fully orchestrated version of "I Am The Walrus," and our special original song "In '63," which appears on our new album. The song contains lyrics about Virginia Beach, to help celebrate the fact that the town was officially founded 50 years ago.

Thanks to Dennis for carrying the torch to the other side of the globe. And thanks to Nathan for keeping the home fires burning. It's great - and exciting - to be a WannaBeatle.

Bloggin' Bryan 26July2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Workin' the Weekend

Last weekend we had three shows on three successive nights, covering 1350 miles, which was pushing the envelope for these Nashville based boys.

It fell together as it should, with a Friday and Sunday at places we'd played before, and then a Saturday night at a new venue for us, falling in between, "on the way."  They were all very enjoyable shows, and we survived the travel without much more than a minor traffic jam to slow us down along the way.

And now we can say we've played in Dizzy Gillespie's home town.

Friday July 12 was our return to the Marshall Theater in Lewisburg, TN, which is about an hour south of Nashville. It was originally called the Dixie Theater, and it's celebrating 100 years of existence. We had the Marshall County Children's Choir join us onstage, singing along with "Yellow Submarine," "Obla-Di, Obla-Da," and "All You Need Is Love." 

It was great to connect with local folks. We were delighted to discover next door to the theater a recently opened classic soda shop called 50's Ice Cream Parlor. They fed us complimentary sandwiches before the show, (nice selection of subs) and we couldn't resist returning after the show for their delicious ice cream. Part of our rationalization was that we had to drive that night 136 miles to get to our hotel in Ringold, Ga., so eating something sweet would help us stay awake for the drive. 

                  The storefront of 50's Ice Cream Parlor in Lewisburg, TN

     Jo, Tammy, Elvis, Hannah and Sarah, who is Hannah's mom, and the co-owner of the newly opened restaurant. She said she wanted to come see us play, but had to tend to the shop. They usually stay open till 10 pm, but when customers are still there ordering ice cream, they stay open. We were there at ten, and beyond, along with people who'd been to the show.

Kids of the Marshall County Children's Choir with their director Elise Dumser, backstage, excited about the show.

Putting up the letters that say "A few balcony seats left."

And the crowd before the show, with the sign lit up. (photo by Allan Waugh, our sound man.)

We had a great time, signed autographs, ate ice cream, packed up and left the town square headed toward Shelbyville, heading east to connect with I-24. We crossed the time zone just before Chattanooga, losing an hour, then pulled into a nice Hampton Inn at Ringold, Ga. at 3:30 am EST.

That put us closer to our next destination, but still required us to rise at 7:30 to leave by 8 am. 

This might be a good place to mention that we're no longer in our 20's, and sleep deprivation is not as easy as it used to be. 

But we made it easily through Atlanta (except for one moment where Dennis, our New Yorker, pulled across four lanes of traffic in less than 15 seconds to catch the exit for I-20 East, making us all feel like we were in the Big Apple for an instant), across Georgia, through Augusta (where I was born,) stopping at a Chick-Fil-A outside Columbia, SC, then continuing on to Cheraw for our Saturday night show there.

Being a jazz fan, I had heard of Cheraw as the home of Dizzy Gillespie. I suspected it was a small town, and one to escape from, if one is destined to become a legendary trumpet player. What we discovered is that it is also very historic, being one of the oldest inland towns of South Carolina. 

It turned out that the theater, called Theater on the Green, was next to the statue of Dizzy Gillespie. 

Statue of Dizzy
The inscription: John Birks Gillespie, 1917-1993
On the adjacent block, the front of the restored Theatre On The Green, where we played that night. There's a poster on the door with our picture advertising the concert.

A local photographer named Mark Moore took some shots of our show.
This is the link to his site, for those who may be interested in prints: 
During the segment when we recreate the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, which puts me in the middle.
David came to the front of the stage to play tamborine and sing harmony on "Norweigian Wood."
And lots of folks came up to dance on "I Saw Her Standing There."

We also had a talented local guest, Francis Santo Domingo, who did a beautiful version of "Yesterday" and a rockin' rendition of "Back In The USSR."

Instead of a hotel, we were invited to stay at a local B&B, two blocks from the theater. It's called Spears Guest House, owned by Larry and Kay Spears. They had four rooms for the four of us, each one designated by the name of a Beatle. I stayed in "George," or The Garden Room. 

Our host Larry is a great storyteller with lots of music in his past. He talked about guitars and some of his old pals from the area, like Bunky Odom, who ended up as a roadie for the Allman Brothers, in the famous black and white photo on their "Live At the Fillmore" album.

Larry and Kay had left us their charming house to ourselves, with the kitchen stocked with breakfast goodies. It was our first night to sleep more than four hours on this weekend tour, so we appreciated it.

I woke up early, and enjoyed walking around the town, after sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee. Here's how it looks on a summer morning:
And here are some local sights: 
         St. David's Episcopal Church - the one built in 1916, not the original, which is down by the river.
 A pretty house on Market Street.

Another pretty house.
And another, with an especially generous front porch.
The link between past and present, via technology - but the call wouldn't go through because of poor cell phone reception. However, it's worth noting that the original town square was laid out in 1768 by Joseph and Ely Kershaw. The same year St. David's was founded under King George the Third. That was before there was an Episcopal Church in the US, and before there was a nation known as the United States. 

In 1865, General Sherman came through Cheraw, but left it essentially untouched. The local Merchants Bank was "the last bank in the entire south to honor Confederate money," according to the brochure that comes with the cell phone tour.

All of this makes a fascinating background for the emergence of Dizzy Gillespie, their most famous son. There's a park honoring Dizzy at the site of his birth, another two blocks from our B&B.

Here's the marker at the park: 
And here's the fence made to resemble musical notation, portraying the impish melody of Dizzy's famous bop tune, "Salt Peanuts."
A creative trumpet sculpture: 
A wacky bench:
                And another bench, quoting Dizzy's famous introduction.
 On our way out of town, we stopped at the Dizzy statue once more, and posed puffing our cheeks out.
We only needed four hours to get to Hilton Head, so we left at 10 am, heading for Florence, SC, to catch I-95. We were warned by Larry that Society Hill, a small town on the way, was a speed trap. He said if you go too fast, they'll catch you for speeding, but if you go too slow, they'll steal your hubcaps.

When we got to Society Hill, the speed limit was 35, and I was driving, very careful to stay below that limit, but also watching out for potential hubcap thieves.

At Hilton Head, we played the Magnolia Theater at Sun City. We were delighted to hear it was sold out. We had friends and family in the area, but we couldn't get them seats, so they patiently sat in the wings of the stage during our show: Mina and Bennett Burnside, sister and brother musicians, Jam Camp stars, who were there on vacation, and Nathan Bistis, my nephew by marriage, an Episcopal priest who was recently assigned to a local parish.

The Magnolia Theater is modern, spacious, well-equipped, and versatile, but it couldn't accommodate our need for a medium sized projection screen behind the drum riser, so we ended up doing our show "old style" -  just playing the songs and entertaining people. 

It went fine. We had enthusiastic audience participants on "When I'm 64," "Betty," and "Live and Let Die." We enjoyed the show, the hospitality in the dressing room (cheese and crackers, pizza, fruit trays, soft drinks, etc.) and meeting people in the lobby after the show.  We met one guy who had been in the audience for the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964; he said he couldn't hear the Beatles playing because the screaming was so loud. 

That was the conclusion of our 3 day tour. The next morning, David woke up especially energized, and was ready to drive us all the way back to Nashville, which was about 8 hours in nice weather.

We appreciate Lewisburg, Cheraw, and Hilton Head, all great places to visit and play music. We had a great time, and hope to return. Thanks to Dennis for making these things happen, and to Nathan for covering the transportation department. Thanks to Cheraw's local radio guys Jay and George at WCRE 93.9 for a wonderful interview and a special wood and cardboard guitar built in 1964 that we showed off onstage. Thanks to Mark Moore for some great photos.

And thanks to Dizzy Gillespie for playing Theatre on the Green, giving us another link to music history.

Bloggin' Bryan 21Jul13

Friday, July 12, 2013


A photographer is not just a person holding a camera and clicking it. A photographer is a person who sees something and captures that vision.

That distinction became more vivid to me when I looked at the photos Peg Fredi took of the WannaBeatles from some of our recent shows. She was onstage with us, swept up in the energy, and caught things I've never seen before. 

Let's let the photos do the talking. 

                                    Dennis rocks!
(This revelation alone could change WannaBeatles history)
Dave on the drums. He's not smiling because it's hot and he has to wear long sleeves, vest, and tie.
Nathan on his Hofner (which he only started to play after he joined The WannaBeatles....great "can do" attitude, along with plenty of talent.)

During "Oobla-Di" I moved to a different mic, and Dave and I both clapped for the intro - Peg caught that moment.
Here's the famous high note of "Penny Lane," Dennis smiling as I lean back to get the note.

Here's one from Red Caboose Park, in Bellevue, showing all four of us up at the front of the stage, during the singalong chorus of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away."

It was at that concert that I had a chance to talk to Peg, and appreciate some of the depth of her experience and creative energy. She teaches a class in creative arts at Cumberland University; she brought members of her class to the concert. Years ago, she was a musician, having played French horn for a while in the Chattanooga Symphony. 

Peg suggests that the name of our band should be "The WannaBeatles, or Guys Just Wanna Have Fun." It seems like she captures a lot of that energy, in a way it's never been captured before.

Here's one more shot that catches us rockin' at Crockett...

Thanks, Peg, for bringing us your vision of us, and energizing us in the process!

Bloggin' Bryan 12 July 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Walrus on the Beach

"I Am The Walrus" is a weird song.

But that doesn't stop us. In fact, the weirdness only stimulates our crazy desire to reproduce any sound that we hear, even if no one's every attempted it before. (See previous blog for further details.)

A few weeks ago, Dennis suggested we tackle the song. He has assumed the role of lead vocalist, and bassist. David has bought special tambourine attachments for his drum stick so he can reproduce the sound of the tambourine and drums together, which comes close to what is on the record. Nathan has undertaken the chore of transcribing the parts for us to study, and we've had several rehearsals to run through the song. 

But to play it live, in front of an audience, we didn't feel ready.

That doesn't stop Dennis. He told us he wanted to put it on the set list for our show in Perdido Beach, reasoning that we would learn it faster onstage in front of an audience than we would talking about it. 

He's right, but at this stage we face the risk of sounding terrible trying to do a song we aren't ready for. One must balance the pros and cons of various choices in order to make wise decisions. This is one of the secrets of being a successful business. When we figure that out, we'll be sure to let you know. 

The gig was at Perdido Beach Resort, on the Gulf Coast. We rode together in Nathan's van, with a U-Haul trailer carrying our gear. Joining us was David's daughter Gabrielle.

It was a rainy 4th of July, and we were scheduled to play outdoors.

Here are some photos:

Dennis, David and Gabrielle arriving at Perdido Beach - not raining, but not sunny

                               Nathan with his practice keyboard playing in the breeze

                                                Perdido Beach: The view from room 512, on July 4
                     WannaBeatle Bryan practicing clarinet on balcony of room 512
                                 (Photo by Allan Waugh, our sound man)

                                                                     Walking on the beach

                                                      Heron (not a walrus) on the beach, waiting for breakfast

We were still several rehearsals short of readiness, which we discussed on the way down. Dennis was still trying to memorize the words, I hadn't come close to memorizing my horn parts, Nathan hadn't finished programming string sounds for various parts of the song, and David hadn't finished sampling the sound effects he needs to make the song authentic. 

But Dennis calmly stuck to his recommendation, and we adjusted to the idea that we would have to be as ready as we could be. That meant about an hour of our sound check was devoted to fine tuning the rough spots. I put the horn chart on the floor by my feet, to keep me on track. Nathan programmed his keyboard, and helped David record the "radio dial" sound to his sample pad. Dennis practiced playing bass and remembering all the words. ("Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower")

It was determined on July 5 that the weather would not permit our playing outside, so the event was switched to a large ballroom at the hotel. 

We met their sound crew, who told us they would patch into our mixing board, to broadcast our show to throughout the hotel, including the elevators. I loved the idea that we would be heard live in the elevators. What a great way to enliven such a notoriously stale musical setting.  "Hi, folks, and those of you listening in the elevator, come on down and enjoy the music, and food, and fun and games..."

There was a huge meal laid out on two long serving tables, and tables around the room for people to eat dinner starting at 6 pm. Many people were there with their kids. The kids really enjoyed our show, and we brought a bunch of them up on stage to dance and play with the bubble guns and the other toys. Gabrielle held out the limbo pole for the kids to dance under during "Tequila" which turned into a medley with "Good Lovin.'"

Our show was scheduled from 6 to 10, including a fireworks display out on the beach at 9 pm. That meant we had a long break from 9 to about 9:35, after which we could start a final set without too much attention being paid (plus people still having their eardrums ringing from the fireworks) which made a nice time and place to try our first public performance of "I Am The Walrus."

Well, we survived it. There were just a handful of people in the room, most of them still out at the fireworks display, so there wasn't huge expectation. Getting to hear that weird "radio dial" effect before the bridge was an extra treat. 

Dennis remembered all the words. The crowd was drifting back in, so there was no clear indication of their being either impressed or offended. It was almost like a rehearsal with a few people hanging around.

So we're that much closer to being ready to do it for real. 

And even though it rained a lot, it was still a nice trip to the beach.

Bloggin' Bryan 7july13