Friday, September 30, 2016

Radio Lightning

Years ago, before this blog started, The WannaBeatles rehearsed on Monday nights. I remember one of those nights driving home from Dennis’s house around 11 pm, turning on the radio, and catching this cool show on FM 100. It was an interview show, with the guy who produced Taylor Swift’s records talking about his experience in the studio.

This was my introduction to Music Business Radio. It was a breath of fresh air, a special program for and about musicians. Their on-air tag line is “your backstage pass to the music business.”

Maybe it was just a matter of time. Maybe after interviewing hundreds of guests, they ran out of more worthy candidates. Maybe our local reputation finally crept into their radar. Whatever the reason, this year The WannaBeatles were invited onto the show.

July 12 was the first day they offered where we were available. I was teaching at Jam Camp by then, which meant I had to ask for permission to leave early to make it to the Radio Lightning studio by 4 pm.

After arriving at their office in the Marathon Village complex downtown, we crammed into a small room, where our host David Hooper sat at a mic, and three WannaBeatles (David was unavailable) occupied chairs, sharing two other mics, while an engineer running Protools recorded us for the next two hours.

 David Hooper at mic

 Nathan and Dennis observe screen with engineer

David Hooper is a very alert interviewer. Everyone in the music business has a unique story, and David knows how to dig for details that make it interesting. 

We enjoyed working with David and talking about the business of being The WannaBeatles. Dennis got to tell about his Sesame Street work in New York that led him to Nashville. I recalled my own years in New York, and L.A., before moving to Nashville. Nathan talked about studying classical organ at Northwestern and living in Vermont before moving to Nashville in 1986. 

After we finished, we posed in their lobby with David and the engineer for a group shot.
Three WannaBeatles with David Hooper and our engineer

The show we taped was broadcast a few weeks later, and we heard from friends that they heard us on the radio. I didn’t find out about it until after it was over; I still haven’t heard it.

There’s a Music Business Radio website where the archived interviews are stored on Soundcloud, but ours hasn’t been posted yet.

But we are grateful to David Hooper and Radio Lightining for having us on Music Business Radio.

-Bloggin’ Bryan 30september2016


Saturday, September 24, 2016

White House

Saturday July 9 was still close enough to the Fourth to justify a patriotic title for the show we played that night in White House, Tennessee, which they called their "Americana Celebration."

The event was produced by the White House Area Chamber of Commerce, at the White House Soccer complex, where they had constructed a stage in the middle of the field, with a tent to protect from heat or rain. 

In this particular case, the stage was not accessible by car, so we parked on the edge of the field, then depended on our carts and the golf carts provided by the event to get our gear to the stage.

Nathan demonstrates his New England character, 
working hard, doing what needs to be done without complaining. We love Nathan.
Dennis had the services of a camo-covered
Kubota golf cart
Shaina and Alice Toledo helping to load dad's drums. The building in the background shows the distance 
we had to haul our gear 
Nathan among instruments backstage
David setting up drums backstage
And here's Bloggin' Bryan, marking up his set list
on his cornet case, photo by Nathan

We were among several bands each playing an hour. That required each band to get on and off stage quickly, which meant getting most of our gear set up backstage, ready for the quick change.
Merch table, tent and banner in summer sunlight
Dennis celebrates another sale
The opening act under the tent
And a closer view of American Idol contestant Brandy Neely

Our sound man that day was Larry Gregory, whom we've known for years, since we played the Whippoorwill up in Gallatin. Larry also runs sound for lots of other local shows on that part of town. You'll see some better photos of Larry in action when we post the blog about Portland, which came a week after White House.

Our set was at 6:30, pretty early in the evening. We played our allotted hour, delivering Beatles favorites to the local crowd, then had to get off quickly to make room for the featured act for the evening, American Idol finalist Clark Beckham. 

We discovered that the bass player in his band we had met before, as a sound tech in Alcoa, TN, back in January, when we had played a corporate party for Clayton Homes. 

So The WannaBeatles played another Fourth of July event, carrying our gear back to the parking lot before Clark finished his set, so this time we didn't see and hear the fireworks until we were driving south on I-65. Working in the summer sun takes energy, but we felt gratified to have played another fun show.

-Bloggin' Bryan 24September2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lexington Va. July 4 and 5

After finishing up Nolensville Saturday night, we had the next day, July 3, to travel the 480 miles up to Lexington, Virginia, where we were supposed to play on July 4 and 5.

We crossed the Virginia state line before stopping for supper, at a nice Italian restaurant, where we posed for a photo with our waitress, Morgan.
Four WannaBeatles, one menu, and a helpful waitress

The story of our gigs in Virginia can’t be told without talking about the people who invited us there. One is family, and the other is a new friend.

First of all, Doug Cumming, brother of WannaBeatle Bryan, has lived in Lexington since 2003, working as a professor at Washington and Lee University. He had already become personally involved with the WannaBeatle back in 2013, when he first played clarinet with us for “When I”m Sixty-Four.” 
The clarinet duo for "When I'm Sixty-Four" in 2013
 in Clifton Forge, Virginia, about 30 miles from Lexington, 
as documented in the blog “Virginia Tour” 30August2013.  

In August of 2014, Doug first hired us to play a party at his house, deliberately coordinating that booking with a trip we were already taking to Bethesda, Maryland and for a return to nearby Clifton Forge. That party included our parents and another cousin Janet, who drove them up for the occasion. Janet, like Doug, has hired The WannaBeatles to play a memorable party at her home, but that’s another story. 

Her party, last year in Savannah, Ga. also connects to the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four.” You can read about it in the blog “Cousin Janet” 28August2015.

But back to Doug's party in 2014. During that visit to Lexington, we met a friend and neighbor of Doug’s, Pat Mayerchak, a retired VMI professor, who, like Doug and me, had formed a band as a teenager and continued to play music his whole life.

Lexington is a college town, containing the adjacent campuses of both Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute. Doug and Pat are neighbors, both living on quaint Taylor Street, a few blocks from downtown, the colleges, the Stonewall Jackson Memorial cemetery, and R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church. 
This cemetery is between Doug's house 
and the Hampton Inn.
The quaint Episcopal church, where Robert E. Lee attended during his years as president of what was then called Washington University, after the Civil War

Our visit to Lexington this year was due to the enthusiastic invitation of both Doug and Pat, for two successive days.

Doug’s birthday happens to be July 5, so that was the date of his party, and justified more family members attending, while Pat recommended us to the board who selected the band for Lexington’s Fourth of July celebration.

Pat’s enthusiasm got us hired for July 4, a special event on the VMI parade grounds, including fireworks, a classic car show and another popular local tradition, a balloon race.

Pat spent the weeks leading up to the event sending us enthusiastic reports of the plans, getting our songs played on a local radio station, sending announcements to the local paper, and planning a special breakfast with local friends. 

He even sending us a copy of the album he had recently made with the reunited members of the band he had joined as a teenager. Pat had written most of the songs on the new album, playing guitar and singing in a Beatles influenced style.

And so, we were delighted to be hosted by such an ideal fan for our July 4 show in Lexington.

But because it was an outdoor event, we paid close attention to the weather report. From several days out, it looked like rain was expected.

We arrived Sunday night, at the elegant and spacious Hampton Inn.
The view from the second story
View from porch of hotel 

Walking paths and majestic tree on hotel grounds
And the pool

It was cloudy, but not stormy. The weather report still included a big rainstorm due to hit the next day.

We were in constant contact with Pat to monitor the decision of whether the event would happen or not. VMI made their official decision the next morning that they didn’t want the event on their parade ground under those conditions.


We certainly didn’t want to disappoint Pat and the people of Lexington, especially after having come all the way from Nashville, so most of the day July 4 became a process of responding the the news of the cancellation, and looking for an alternate place in Lexington to play.

As Dennis was waiting to hear the news from Pat, I walked to a relatively upscale local restaurant called The Palms, only a few blocks from the Hampton Inn to historic downtown Lexington. After a few minutes, Dennis arrived, then Nathan and David. Then, then we met Pat in person for the first time.

 Pat with David and Nathan at the Palms

Pat has poor eyesight, and wears thick glasses, and cannot drive a car, but he gets around on a scooter, and wears a helmet, which makes him easy to recognize.
Pat directing Nathan during our tour of Lexington

Doug joined us in the search, as we called various facilities - local theaters at Washington and Lee, the ballroom of another historic hotel - trying to find some room where we could play. The hours were becoming few as we considered the challenge of setting up to play along with announcing the new location for the event.
Doug on phone with another facility, 
as historic artillery overlooks

It never came together. There had been no contingency plan for an indoor location, which Pat admitted, was an oversight that would not happen again.

In fact, as this blog is being written, Pat has already booked us back in Lexington for next July 2.

But meanwhile, on July 4, 2016, we had time to explore the charming town of Lexington, and set up for the party we were playing the next night at Doug’s house.

Nathan, David and Dennis walk the sidewalks of Lexington
Dennis finds his name on the wall
A noteworthy intersection in downtown Lexington
George Marshall marker, which interested Dennis 
because of his friend Jimmy's interest in World War II
The four WannaBeatles pose in front of the poster 
advertising the event we came for but didn't play

July 4, being a gig that didn't happen, ended up providing us with a chance to recover from the stressful travel of the previous three days, and to hang out with both Doug and Pat as we explored the charms of Lexington. 

It also gave us the chance to set up a day early in Doug’s living room, which became a relaxed jam session, as various other local musicians who were excited about our being there gathered to play old favorites. 
David, Nathan and Dennis finding room for our gear
Dan with the sound gear he had contributed for the evening

It began with us loading in our equipment, then gradually grew into a local love fest, with Doug and me recalling our teenaged musical enthusiasms, with Pat joining us on guitar, another local friend Dan Newhall playing and harmonizing along, as Nathan and David gradually joined in with “official” Beatles parts to flesh out the sound.

That was a beautiful way for Monday night to unfold, small and personal, an unplanned organic alternative to the show that had been cancelled.


Tuesday morning included the breakfast Pat had arranged.
WannaBeatles at breakfast with Lexington friends

Nathan and Pat at breakfast
David talking to Dan and Penny Newhall

Dennis looking professorial in glasses
Then Dennis entertains, doing Jerry Lewis
as the absent minded professor
Pat, Shane, Dan and Penny, Kay and Bob, 
with The WannaBeatles after breakfast

Our next stop was the campus of VMI, where Pat took some photos of us on the parade grounds
Dennis and Pat 

The white tent in the background is 
where we would have played
Four guys in uniform, but still not quite military

Then the birthday gathering at Doug’s house, with his sons Daniel and William, his wife Libby, and our parents, among many other family and friends.
Emily, the famous mother of Doug and Bryan, 
(and Walter and Anne who couldn't be there), 
with Papa Joe in the background
Doug's son William, Elyssa, and Doug's wife Libby listen as 
cousin Mimi reads birthday message for Doug 
Nephew Paul, William and Elyssa, and dog
The birthday boy with his parents and mother in law
Meanwhile, The WannaBeatles,
 in their Shea Stadium shirts,
were tweaking their stage setup, 
preparing for the evening's performance

The party was plenty of fun, with guests enjoying the music, dancing, singing along. Doug sat in with us again, on clarinet.
Doug on clarinet with The WannaBeatles in his living room

The next morning, we had more to do in Lexington: to appear at the local bank, which had sponsored the rained out event, and the office of the local newspaper, as a surprise for their editor and reporters. In both places, we sang snippets of Beatles songs accompanied by acoustic guitar.
Here's the photo of us appearing at the News-Gazette office

Then we drove home to Nashville, without worrying about rain.

It was a great way to continue and conclude our busy five day tour of early July - with a little rain just in time to help us relax.

-Bloggin’ Bryan 19september2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Nolensville July 2

The second day of our five day stretch in early July was back home, in Nolensville, for their annual Star Spangled Celebration.

This was a big event, attracting a thousand visitors to Nolensville Park, with food trucks, activities for kids, other musical acts, and fireworks to conclude the evening.

Nolensville is home of WannaBeatle David, so he only had a few blocks to drive. He also brought his daughters, Gabrielle and Shaina, who worked at our merch table.

The stage was a large covered platform with a fine crew attending to the sound, which turned out to be MTSU grad students, under the energetic direction of Frank Baird. 

We were impressed with Frank, who knew everything there is to know about checking microphones, running a board, and communicating with band members, and was busy passing along the knowledge to his students, while simultaneously getting the system ready for our show.
Nathan arriving backstage at Nolensville Park

David exultant, over having such a short distance to drive

MTSU's secret weapon Frank Baird, working the mics
Miking the kick drum

Rear view of stage
Sound crew onstage with Dennis
Nathan, Dennis & David setting up merch table

Shaina and Gabrielle Toldedo helping out at merch table

In addition to their knowledge and helpful attitudes, the sound crew also demonstrated the diversity of the MTSU music program. The students came from as far away as Brazil and Russia. 

David enjoyed the chance to meet Tevin, an especially friendly student from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 
David and Tevin onstage
David and Tevin confer

David and Tevin delight

We were happy to meet and pose for a photo with Katya, the audio student from Russia. 
WannaBeatles with Katya

We were also delighted to discover that an opening act had been booked, a guitar duo composed of Mike Bauer and Jackson Thatcher, a Jam Camp student. Mike is an excellent guitarist, a graduate of University of Miami, a neighbor and friend of David’s. He started and runs the Nolensville Guitar Academy.
Mike Bauer and Jackson Thatcher opening the show
Another view of opening act

We had a good time playing for the Nolensville crowd. We really enjoyed meeting Frank Baird and all his audio students. 

Our show was followed by fireworks display, preceded by a fine a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Singer doing fine solo version of national anthem

The fireworks were accompanied by a long medley of patriotic tunes, ranging from "Born in the USA" to "Stars and Stripes Forever." It was especially poignant for us to wonder what was going through Katya's mind, the young lady from Russia. We learned that she had been in this country for two years, and could barely speak English, but her presence here made a grand statement about this country we celebrate so loudly every Fourth of July. 

WannaBeatle David, who was born in Cuba, has given us a heightened sensitivity to the experience of American immigrants. We are glad - and we share David’s gratitude - to live in such a fine country, and happy to see people from other parts of the world choose to come here, reminding us how precious our freedom is.

The MTSU students were very helpful in getting our gear back into our vehicles. Soon after the fireworks were over, we were driving back to our homes, to get some rest. We would be meeting the next day to drive up to Virginia, to continue our adventure.

Stay tuned for the rest of the adventure.

-Bloggin’ Bryan  8September2016