Sunday, July 31, 2016

Greenwood SC

Our summer season started in earnest with a weekend trip to two Southern towns, Greenwood, SC, and Gadsden, Alabama. 

Our Greenwood show, subject of this blog, was scheduled for Thursday June 2, as part of the town’s 49th annual Festival of Flowers.  

Our travel began Wednesday afternoon June 1, at the home of WannaBeatle David. David's house in Nolensville is conveniently located for heading south on I-24, which led us through Atlanta and into South Carolina.

Backing a trailer down David’s driveway is a challenge. It helps to have a rear camera in the back of the 4Runner.
Nathan's capable hand on wheel 
with screen showing trailer behind the 4Runner

Four WannaBeatles, pausing before the trip in the driveway,
with loaded trailer, at David’s house

Nathan's new vehicle (featured first in our blog 
about Tellico, available at this link: 
was bought after extensive research into technical requirements for pulling a trailer. 


The WannaBeatles are four musicians who have formed a business that requires us to fill many roles, from travel agents and publicists to roadies and stage hands, all in one coordinated organism. The more we do it, the more we learn how to do it. So the increasing efficiency of our teamwork is worth mentioning even as we go through mundane tasks like loading a trailer and leaving town.

So I'm writing a blog, but we wouldn't have a gig to blog about without Dennis's efforts, and we wouldn't have a 4Runner without Nathan's decision to support the band by buying that particular vehicle, and Nathan wouldn't be confident he'd made the right choice without the input from David's practical knowledge of vehicles.

So, it was a pleasant Southern summer day for travel, but even more pleasant knowing that our own efforts to work as a team made the whole thing easier, even fun.
WannaBeatles David, Dennis and Nathan 
walking across parking lot at rest area

And walking back to the van

We finally stopped for dinner at not just any fast food joint, but the one that's closed on Sundays. Part of our loyalty to Chick-fil-A is based on Dennis working at several Chick-fil-A stores in Nashville, entertaining children. 
Dennis and Nathan at Chick-fil-A

As The WannaBeatles travel together, we often listen to music, appreciating the wide variety of items available online.
Listening to old records is both a personal pleasure and a professional assignment, since we are continually working up more songs for our repertoire, beyond The Beatles. 


This particular trip we enjoyed exploring 60's vocal pop music, from "Never My Love" by The Association, "I Saw Her Again" by The Mamas and The Papas, and "You Were On My Mind" by We Five.

Enjoying these songs helps us appreciate how important vocals are, for many of these old songs, for The Beatles, and in our own sound. Another indicator of our teamwork is our getting familiar with each other's singing ranges, sounds, and styles, so that we can be more adept arranging vocal parts to suit our particular capabilities.


Greenwood is a small town, nearly an hour from the interstate, as we drove through the dark across the sparse countryside. 

It was around 11 pm when we finally arrived at our destination, Inn on the Square, the name inscribed on the awning leading to the entry doors. We parked in their parking lot, bringing in our basic luggage for a good night's sleep. 

We opted for the security of clamping a lock over the wheel of the trailer, but could sense that Greenwood, being small, relatively quiet, even quaint, was devoid of most of the dangers of big city living.

The next morning, we discovered that Inn On The Square is different from typical motels. Instead of eating the typical free breakfast, waiting in line with other hotel guests at food dispensers, we sat down at a dining room table with silverware, a linen tablecloth, and a friendly local waitress. It was enjoyable, personal, delicious and memorable. 

And thanks to Dennis's negotiating skills, it was free, included in our trip. 

Creative Shrubbery

Our hostess Lara Hudson made us feel right at home, giving us pertinent facts about Greenwood. 

For one thing, it's the location for American headquarters of FujiFilm Manufacturing, which celebrated its local identity, and Asian culture with this large camera, topped by panda bears.

Greenwood is home to Lander University, whose mascot the bearcat was represented in this towering shrub.

The Lander University bearcat in topiary

Wannabeatle Nathan was especially interested in the topiary samples around town, and took quite a few pictures.

 Not just any cow, the Chick-fil-A mascot
 Dennis goes ape with King Kong as Godzilla watches
 An elephant wading in the water
 A full scale Jeep, with actual hubcaps and headlights
 A swan
A roaring tiger

Our venue was the newly constructed Uptown Market, adjacent to a park where children played among fountains. It was a hot day, so this was a delightful diversion.

Here's how it looked in the Greenwood newspaper the next morning, a front page photo of the children playing with our name in the headline:

Front page article in Greenwood newspaper 
the morning after our show

Perhaps the most exciting fact that we learned from our hostess Lara was that Greenwood was the home of The Swinging Medallions. 

For those who don't know, The Swinging Medallions were a classic party band whose hit “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” hit the charts in 1966, alongside hits by The Beatles, Stones, Lovin’ Spoonful, The Association, the Mamas & the Papas, and the Monkees. Their big hit peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, but its cultural significance for those of us in the South was enormous. 

Beach Music

The term "Beach Music" - not to be confused with what came from California - is well known in the Carolinas, (it started in Myrtle Beach,) Virginia Beach, and across the South in towns where college fraternities throw parties. 

Beach Music is rooted in post-war R&B, with bands like The Drifters and The Coasters as famous examples, and regional artists like Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs or The Tams being equally popular in the genre.

The music is identified by a dance called The Shag, a casual cousin to the Jitterbug. Beach Music is what The Swinging Medallions did, and continue to play fifty years later.

Bloggin' Bryan, as the only WannaBeatle who grew up in the South (Miami, as David will attest, doesn't count,) was aware of Beach Music back when The Swinging Medallions first hit the charts. 

Having never been to Greenwood before, I was impressed by the fact that we had landed in the town that had a valid historic claim to being "the home of Beach Music," even if it wasn't near the beach.

Lara also reminded us that the shag was the official dance of South Carolina. 

Setting Up

Our venue, the newly completed Uptown Market
Approaching the stage

Loading in
Our stage, with sound system mostly in place
Nathan onstage with his Hofner
David and Nathan setting up
A family of carts:
Can you tell which cart belongs to which WannaBeatle?
Our banner at the merch table

New Gear

This particular trip coincided with some new equipment for the band. David made a visit to a local music store to get a new Remo head for his snare drum, and Dennis was trying out a new JBL amp for his guitar.

David at his kit presents the new Remo head
Dennis's new amp: sleek, powerful,
and easier to carry than the old one
This cute Irish setter puppy, owned by the sound man, attended our sound check

Our local sound man was playing some tasty music through the system as we set up. We heard some of Donald Fagen's "Nightfly" album, and another band that did hot arrangements of recent Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars tunes. 

That turned out to be a Nashville based group, Tim Akers' Smokin' Section, which plays at 3rd and Lindsley and contains some of the best singers and musicians in town.
We were impressed.

Lara introduced us from the stage.
Right before downbeat
(a rare Bloggin' Bryan photo op)

We posed for a photo with Lara after the show.
David, Dennis, Lara, Bryan and Nathan

Some friends of Nathan’s, Tom and Becky Blackwell, were there, having known Nathan at Belmont Church back in the 90's, and now living in South Carolina. They enjoyed our show and suggested we get in touch with Brevard Music Camp, which hosts an annual summer festival with the Boston Pops. Since The WannaBeatles have been playing with symphony orchestras, that was an exciting suggestion.
Nathan with friend Becky at the merch table
After packing up, we enjoyed a dinner at the restaurant across the street. 

We had a wonderful time in Greenwood. Thanks to Lara for making us feel at home, and Inn on the Square for their Southern hospitality.

Stay tuned for our next day’s departure and travel to Gadsden, Alabama.

-Bloggin’ Bryan 31July2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Horse Racing in Cincinnati, and Praising God

On Memorial Day weekend, The WannaBeatles returned to Belterra Park resort near Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. 

The story begins and ends with the U-Haul trailer, although we had no idea when we started what a big role the trailer would play.

But first, some background.

We had played Belterra on New Year’s Eve, as reported in a recent blog. 

(Here’s the link:
That gig was memorable because of hundreds of balloons that were released upon the stage at midnight.

Dennis at Belterra, 12:05 am January 1, 2016

Belterra is a large resort, run like a Las Vegas casino. Along with thousands of slot machines, there are numerous restaurants, including a huge buffet with food offerings as diverse and delicious as any hungry guy could want. 

Horse Racing

But Belterra is different from a Vegas casino in being attached to a race track. 

Thoroughbred racing is a venerable Kentucky tradition, older than Vegas itself, but now run with corporate efficiency by the methods that have made Vegas successful. Horse racing at Belterra is just another “gaming” activity, with bets being placed and collected at a window near the track, so that people can put money on the horses they hope will win, while the “house” keeps tab of this steady income stream.

Our contact there is a guy named Leroy Ellington. Leroy books the bands and plays in a few bands himself, so he understands what it’s like from both sides. This makes him a very sympathetic representative for us, as he explains certain realities to management, like how long it takes to set up. He’s also a fun guy to hang out with. 

But let’s get back to Nashville, where our adventure started.

As usual, we met at Nathan’s house. It was Saturday morning, May 28.
Loading up the 4runner

First layer of gear neatly packed in trailer

We drove up I-65 into Kentucky, stopping for fuel in Bowling Green, near the Corvette Museum. 
Gas pump featuring Corvette imagery

Nathan's Special Plans

This particular trip had one peculiar variation involving Nathan. His family had just started a vacation in Colorado, so he made plans to join his wife Sally and their son Steven for the rest of the week out in Colorado. 

Nathan has demonstrated a great skill at figuring out solutions to puzzles such as how to get to Cincinnati on one day, and to Colorado the next day, without disrupting an existing gig.

Here’s what he figured out: the trip to Cincinnati took us through Louisville. He could stop at the Louisville airport, pick up a rental car, drive to Cincinnati, do the gig, get up at 6 am the next morning, and drive back to Louisville to catch an early flight.

That was the plan, and it worked. It meant that the three remaining WannaBeatles would be driving Nathan’s new 4Runner back to Nashville with the trailer attached. Nathan was fine with that, and we were too.
Nathan disembarking at Louisville airport

An hour later we were cruising through downtown Cincinnati.
Downtown Cincinnati
On the interstate through Cincinnati
Skyscrapers and clouds
Great American Ball Park, 
home of Cincinnati Reds, 
America's first professional baseball team (1866)
New Riff Distilling, the landmark in Bellevue, Kentucky
a block from our hotel

Nathan arrived shortly after we did at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.
Nathan in his rental car 

Then we all drove over to Belterra.
Belterra Park

We knew about the track at Belterra, but we hadn’t gotten a good look at it back in January (when it was too cold for horse races anyway.) Now, in May, we could see the full expanse of that mile-long dirt track, forming a huge oval shape, with seats for spectators in bleachers attached to the main building. 
Bleachers overlooking the track

It was exciting to see an actual track up close.
A lone horse checks out the track
Leroy, Nathan, David and Dennis at track
View of screen inside oval track displaying info on each race

We discovered that MTP (visible in upper right corner of screen) stands for “minutes to post,” i.e. how many minutes until the next race begins.

We got to see the last few races of the day, which concluded at 5 pm. 
Coming into the final stretch
Approaching the finish line
Crossing the finish line

Our show was part of Beterra’s “After Dark: concert series, entertainment on the concrete slab between the bleachers and the race track, which meant we couldn’t begin setting up the stage or any gear until after the last race was finished. 
Setting up the stage beside track
Our man Leroy
David on drums, sound crew working on wiring

This became a bit of a timing squeeze requiring Leroy to use his influence to get things done quickly and explain to management that the band was ready to play at 7 pm, but the concert hadn’t started because the sound company hadn’t finished setting up the microphones and speakers. 
Leroy wondering, WannaBeatles ready

Almost show time...what's the hold up?

We were a few minutes late starting, but soon had the crowd jumping. Volunteers from the audience joined us onstage.
Birthday girl onstage during "Oh Betty!"

We had a good show, with people dancing and enjoying the music, and expressing their enthusiasm after the show. 

Strange Noise from the Trailer

Driving back to the hotel, Nathan commented on what he felt was a rumble that he could hear from the trailer, suggesting either some gear improperly distributed, or maybe some irregular surface on the road. David, generally recognized as The Most Mechanically Minded WannaBeatle, wondered if it could be a loose connection between the trailer hitch and the trailer. Nathan said he had checked to make sure that the trailer was tightened securely to the ball of the trailer hitch, so he eliminated that possibility. 

It would be the next day when we would learn more, and encounter an unexpected answer to the question of what was causing the noise.

Our Saturday night concluded with a jovial gathering with Leroy at a local IHOP, with Leroy telling great stories about some of the characters he’s encountered through the years.

Sunday morning, Nathan rose at 6 am, as planned, to join his family in Colorado. The remaining three WannaBeatles attempted to create a “Thank You” photo op to the Holiday Inn Express. It was pale in comparison to a song being sung by the four of us in the lobby, which we had done in January, but would at least demonstrate our willingness to promote the hotel on social media.
WannaBeatles Dennis and David at the Holiday Inn sign

By using the auto timer on the cell phone, 
we caught all three of us.

And so, the three remaining WannaBeatles in Nathan’s 4Runner, with U-Haul attached, headed down I-71, south toward home that Sunday morning. 

As we pulled over for fuel, we continued to notice the noise coming from the U-Haul trailer. As we were stopped at the gas pump, I took a look at the trailer hitch, noticing that in addition to the part of the trailer that attaches to the ball of the hitch, there is also a nut that secures the ball to the hitch. 

I checked and found it slightly loose, and announced that discovery to Dennis and David. At that exact moment, a pick up truck with tool boxes affixed to both sides pulled up at the gas pump next to us. David, noticing this auspicious arrival, asked the driver if he happened to have a large wrench that would allow us to tighten the nut under the hitch.

Within less than a minute, the driver of the truck had looked at our problem, pulled a cordless Makita drill tool out of his truck, affixed the 1 5/8” socket needed, and tightened the nut with a quick blast.

His name is Jeff Gibson. We were marveling at the way the exact person with the exact tool to fix our problem showed up at the exact Kroger gas station along I-71 where we happened to stop. We thanked Jeff profusely and took pictures to commemorate the occasion.
David and Dennis, with Jeff at the trailer hitch

David marvels at Jeff's availability and skill

And as we continued our trip along the interstate, we noticed that the trailer was no longer making any funny noises. We felt relieved to be in a safe vehicle again, speculating on what could have happened if our trailer problem had remained unattended - the possibility of the hitch falling apart at high speed, the trailer suddenly falling onto its emergency chain connection, throwing the towing vehicle off balance, precipitating any number of disastrous potential scenarios. 

Considering the risk only increased our gratitude for the grace that appeared in the form of a pick up truck driven by the right guy for us at that exact moment. We posted the photos on Facebook, and added sincere praised to God for our deliverance.
A final close up view of the trailer hitch,
featuring the nut below that was tightened 
at exactly the right moment

Meanthile, Nathan, out in Colorado, visited the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater, where The Beatles had played during their ’64 U.S. Tour, and posted a picture of himself there on Facebook.

So The WannaBeatles had another adventure, this time across three time zones, and involving a small miracle that a U-Haul trailer could return safely to Nashville.

We wanna thank Leroy from bringing us up to Belterra, Nathan for letting us use his 4Runner while he was gone, and Jeff Gibson for the timely use of his Makita drill to solve what could have been a big problem. And so we have a reason to say we’re grateful to God. Sometimes His grace pours down in such an easy and obvious way it's hard to miss.

-Blogging Bryan 20July2016