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"1964...The Tribute" with warm-up guests
"Stockwood" at the Genesee Theatre
March 11, 2006

Reviewed by Mark and Loida Drobnick

Stockwood - The Worlds Youngest Beatles Tribute Band

Get ready for…The Beatles!  How exciting!  Here we are, waiting for those fantastic, skinny young men, the exact replica of the Beatles band, and,…Hello?!!  What met my eyes?  Can’t be true?  Or can it?  Out had walked four, diminutive versions, cute, cuddly, and adoptable,…bambinni!  How old are they?  Eight, nine, or ten?  You know, the public doesn’t really care, because they play, talentedly, assuredly, with heart and infectious enthusiasm, and, they are adorable.

Afterwards, talking with them, I discover that the oldest is 13 years old, that’s “Paul”; “John” is 12; “George” is 11; and, “Ringo”, 9.  They performed an album’s worth for their set, nine songs (some 25 minutes), and really did their patriarchs justice.

The kids were bedecked in the 1964 era black suits with neckties, hair of appropriate style, nearly-perfect vocal pitch, and completely adequate, instrumental technique.

They have the attitudes down too. “John” was John, not quite arrogant, somewhat aloof, presenting an image of intellect and security.  He had a certain detachment and superciliousness which, nonetheless, inevitably came across as gracious.  “George”, was the musical technical master, “Disney style”, a good-looking boy, and kind to fans.  “Ringo”, projected the cute, constant, lost boy whom females yearn to nurture and protect.  He exhibited excellent skills with the drums.

Lastly, “Paul”, southpaw of course, handsome like all the rest, was very outstanding, who (according to his grandfather) wasn’t originally a left-hander at all.  But, they put in his hands a left-handed bass and the boy played.  The grandpa asked him if it was difficult the first time.  Paul answered: “No, I just think upside-down”.  Cool and impressive lad! (Author’s note: two Beatles are lefties; and the other is,…?  Hints: re-read the question several times, and rely upon your visual intuition.)

So, producer Mark Johnson, pitching-in as emcee between acts, pointed out: the Beatles song-book is timeless.  Here’s the latest generation taking it up and moving it another step along, to its rightful place within the hall of the classics (think Mozart and Haydn!)  Not so much hyperbole as some might conclude.  Even classical master, conductor/composer/musician Leonard Bernstein, made room on his list of the three B’s (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms), to include the likes of the Beatles.  They were always musicians’ musicians, very, very musical, with few peers ascending to their level.

The kids were so delightful that Mr. Johnson had to remark: “as Ed Sullivan once said, ‘[when you’re an act] you don’t want to have to follow animals or children!’”  But, only momentarily, did we feel sorry for the men who were to follow. They turned out to be every bit up to the task, and more.  The children’s combo consists of, J.D. as “Paul” whose dad is the group’s founder, Evan as “Ringo”, Evan’s real-life brother Collin as “John”, and John M. as “George”.

The lads, Stockwood, hail from Woodstock, Illinois.  The group is billed as the world’s youngest Beatles tribute band.  They were available in the lobby to meet fans afterwards.  Their moms and dads and grandparents were along, as well. All are a very charming lot.  They were selling DVD’s and my kids got to be in photos with them.  Their web-site is:

 Mark (in navy blue sweater) and Joshua (in red sweater) pose with Stockwood
Photo: courtesy of Mark and Loida Drobnick

My sons, Joshua Daniel and Mark Lewis, were so taken with the youths that, during the concert, Josh proffered and gifted one of his favorite “Toy Story” action-figure toys that he had in hand, to “George”, right there at the stage, and procured his autograph.  (What the moment will inspire!  Recall the original, 60’s Beatles, having pegged onto the stage, jelly-beans, during their performances.)  Next, our boys were magnetized to their new idols at the lobby.  They only wanted to be staring at them, without moving. Grandma of “George”, obviously happy and proud, modestly declared, “How nice, the lads have fans now.”

My kids were so hypnotized by them that, later at home, they were creating their own names of what, in their children’s minds, could be a better name for these kids.  Here we go: “Beatles’ grandsons”, “Beatles, third generation”, “The Beatles, part two”, “Beatles Spirit”, “The Beatles want to be”, “Beatles back”, and, like 10 more, I don’t even remember them all. Ha, Ha!

The evening’s event had been geared towards a family-oriented audience. Tickets had been price discounted, for children up to age 15.  In a sentence, these kids are impressive and you want to see them in action!

1964 The Tribute

The featured attraction of the evening, the adult-sized version, the men, are in their 22nd year doing this show now, we were informed by “John”.  That would take us back to about year 1984, the place, Akron, Ohio, to a period when, “Give My Regards to Broad Street” notwithstanding, true Beatles fans everywhere, were feeling shattered about the impossibility of there ever coming about an authentic and complete Beatles reunion.

The quantity of songs played and quality of performance were indeed most formidable, the interpretations seamless.  A solid two hours segmented by intermission of one after the next, with interspersed repartee, ensued.  Specifically, by my count, were played 30 songs, including two encores.  The only song reprised, i.e. performed by both groups, was “She Loves You”, performed first by the kids who had preceded them, saved for last (pre-encores) by their adult counterparts.

Song highlights included: John’s lead vocal on (Ringo’s theme from “Hard Day’s Night”) “This Boy”; their performance of my vociferated request, “Nowhere Man”; and, “George’s” technical guitar brilliance on “And Your Bird Can Sing”, which, due to the necessity of extra warm-up, came late in the show, where he made authentic Paul’s and George’s original, studio collaboration of two and three parts, come alive solo, alone by himself, blending it all before us in real time!

There was chatter between John and George as to which was needing to be more reliant upon a quality capo (“cheater”) as they were pitching up a fifth or so for George’s “If I Needed Someone”.  The better musician could get away with less.  The debate was whether this was John.  The banter was purely for laughs and humor, of course.

There was spontaneous acclamation from several audience members in front of John that, “1964,…you rock!!”, “We love you all,” “You are the best.”  Paul, naturally, good-naturedly smiled.  Intrepid John, in character, looked them straight in the eye, without temerity, and spewed a jaunty rejoinder, with calculated equanimity, as if to neither incite nor dissuade further emotional outbursts, either then or later.  This artist’s interpretation of John was so good, that he also appeared to be chewing gum while talking, thereby bringing added life to the original’s personality.  So it contributed more to the “look” that John was leading and commanding the concert, while remaining gracious, hospitable, and non-oppressive.

John, really, was the spokesperson for the four throughout the performance’s duration.  At one point, he expressed appreciation to the promoter, who was in the theatre, and had spotted them at Chicago’s “House of Blues”, which made their invitation to Waukegan’s Genesee gig, a consequence.  John vowed that they’d be back to the Genesee, that the group had really enjoyed its reception here and how it felt to play the venue.

He also alluded to their having played Carnegie Hall recently.  The reference was made in a self-deprecating way, which succeeded in defusing any perception of pomp, haughtiness, or arrogance on their part. He was proving to be a most adroit P.R. and front man.

George sang lead on “Do You Want To Know A Secret?”  I was genuinely surprised. Despite the range of my fanaticism, I had never quite internalized the connection before then of that song to him, though I surely had heard it enough times, together with its single’s flip-side, “Thank You Girl”.

John also played harmonica with stand, a la Bob Dylan or Neil Young, and did organ on other numbers.  Coming away from one song, during a moment of relative quiet, John simply pommeled the keyboard with a wrist or an elbow, as if to demonstrate that the tones we were hearing were genuine and uncontrived.  Also, perhaps that was an opportunity, during a fleeting lull, for him to hear what it sounded like, since, later on at another moment, Paul commented to those nearest, responding to an audience petition, “[we’d love to accommodate you, but] we can’t hear you!” Shades of Shea Stadium!!

Paul has the superb voice, just like with the originals, as showcased, for example in – “this one’s from a Broadway show” – “’Til There Was You”.  It’s manifest that Paul has really worked on his English accent, gentlemanly act replete with good humor, smiling all the time, and that he demonstrates knowledge, experience and professionalism in the art of music.  So, it makes one really have a flashback to the real version.  My wife commented too about his light blue eyes, even though that is not the case with the real Paul. (But let me tell you, Paul, "she loves ME, yeah, yeah, yeah"...)  Somehow, he does have a lot of resemblance to our idol.

Gary Grimes has the eyes and smile of  “Paul” down to perfection, [along with] the attitude and port of [the famous Beatle.]

With George and Ringo, the physical resemblance to the originals, in virtually all respects, is uncanny.  George did a great performance as his double.  He was serious and sober almost all the time, but on various occasions he offered you a friendly wide smile, making you feel, as if you were looking at the real George.

About Ringo, we noted (like with the others) a magnificent talent in him, too.  Not only is this displayed while playing the drums, but, performing as singer as well, interpreting “Yellow Submarine” and “Act Naturally”.  His effusiveness got everybody clapping in time and singing together with him. He made these two numbers unforgettable.

There are few sound gimmicks on stage.  This is all pre-Sgt. Pepper’s, after all.  One notable exception was “Paperback Writer”.  It sounded marvelous, but the vocal echo from the mixing board was obvious.  Still, true aficionados, I daresay, would not have wanted it any other way.  Vocal and instrumental virtuosity, then, were the mainstay which carried these four gentlemen throughout the evening.

Loida Drobnick, Joshua and Mark with Jimmy ("George") Pou
Photo: courtesy of Mark and Loida Drobnick

A couple of variations from the usual occurred with “Yellow Submarine” and “In My Life”.  For the, “and the band begins to play” segment of the former song, there were no brass, wind instruments but rather mouthed, acappella imitations by the musicians, a la Leon Redbone.  Then the beautiful, instrumental bridge of the latter song, first contributed on the studio recording by “fifth Beatle”, producer George Martin playing electric piano, in concert was interpreted on guitar by “quiet Beatle” Jimmy Pou (pronounced “Poe”), a challenging technical passage which he rendered every bit as graceful as the original.

Anachronisms, two in particular, I would note.  John’s monologue introducing “Yellow Submarine”, “it’s from the cartoon”, gave pause to true keepers of the flame.  The buzz word made me think of their weekly television series; do you recall where cartoon John virtually never sat with correct posture upon a couch or chair, but rather, reclined?  No, here John was referring to the Peter Max inspired, cinematic, feature-length film, Blue Meanies and all.  Well, the paradox is that the movie’s premier was in the year 1968 while the Beatles’ touring only extended through 1966.  So, it appears that John was working some of the Beatles’ mystical, fourth-dimensional magic upon us, just then.

Secondly, there’s the optical, visual clash between the well-scrubbed, tidy, shag/mop-top, relatively clean-cut early Beatles, and the “Grateful Dead” guitar tech who insinuated his way onto the midst of the stage at intermittent intervals to make necessary substitution and replacement of instruments.  The tech’s persona smacked of latter-era, Jerry Garcia/hippie type, so that this was aesthetically disconcerting.

Convenient and appropriate would have been someone that could have even served as foil, who appeared square and up-tight, not so cool and groovy like the Fab Four, in the style of former Beatle co-star, actor Victor Spinetti.  Recall his portrayals, alongside the originals, for the movies, “Hard Day’s Night”, “Help”, and “Magical Mystery Tour”. Caveat: one would not want a scene stealer, though.

How accommodating to us, these actor-musicians were! Paul tossed our way a couple of picks as he retired at the end of the first half.  Next, he was visibly gladdened to see our little entourage return, as they were into “Twist and Shout”, at the beginning of the second half.  Eye contact with them, due in great part to our proximity, was repeated and recurring throughout the evening.

On the other hand, with John, there did seem to be a perceptible, persistent aloofness, not exactly with the public per se, but vis-ŕ-vis, one on one. Peradventure, that was simply part of the character, as interpreted by this artist. The façade momentarily was penetrated those couple of times, after songs, that he grabbed a towel to dab perspiration from his face. But next, he either returned to character or walked off stage.

In any event, one exception did prevail. Here’s an anachronism which was introduced by us.  Our baby daughter’s name is Linda so my wife, Loida, vociferated this song-performing request: “Play for us, ‘The Lovely Linda’” from Paul’s 1970 debut solo album!  John obviously had already noticed her before and spicily responded, “you are the ‘lovely!’”

As for George, real Beatle George’s sister, Louise, it is said, was so taken with Jimmy Pou’s (the actor musician’s) interpretation, that she was converted into a stalwart supporter and booster of this combo’s act ever since first seeing it.  Kudos to Gary Grimes for his acumen and foresight in having recruited Jimmy to sign on with the partnership, when the need arose.

As already implied, Mr. Grimes interprets Paul and Mr. Pou, George.  Then there’s Mark Benson as John.  Greg George portrays Ringo.  All are Americans, who have toured world-wide, including, of course, at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, and have the “brogue” down excellently, due in some part to study of and coaching from, the Beatles movies.

Among the two encores was included, the festive, frolicking, clever, and humorous, “I’m Down”, here done by Paul, exactly as the ‘B’ side of the “Help” single.  Incidentally, it’s such a cute number that authentic Ringo, when he played the Genesee last June, included it, too. Ringo’s version was omitted from the honed-down, hour-long PBS broadcast of the evening, aired some two months later, but should be part of the retail DVD which is planned for future availability.  Ringo’s foray with the tune had been every bit as up-beat, playful, tumultuous, and fun; plus, of course, inextricably and profoundly mixed in, was the “awesome” factor.

Good idea that this band has its own internet web-site.  It definitely covers the bases for fans who desire more information, as to a variety of inquiries.  Also, there’s the, web-site which, by the way, is an excellent source of detail about the band.  Especially noteworthy is the Q & A section between Jimmy and fans, where he lavishly dotes on us with ample discussion of advanced, musical method and technique, and, various other incidentals to life with, “1964…The Tribute”.

The guitars we saw with both groups included: (electric) Fender Stratocaster, Epiphone (the kids), Gretsch, Rickenbacker, and Paul’s German Hofner (violin-shape) bass.  The acoustics probably included Martin; more intricacy and specifics, as to particular models, are available at Jimmy’s site.  The drums, most likely, were Ludwig.

The Vox amps, interestingly, are purely cosmetic.  The 1960’s have met with 21st century, so that compromise, for economy of travel and portability, has dictated solid-state viscera and porous cabinetry, to optimize effect in sound quality and cosmetics, while still delivering as expected.

We got a photo “op” and the chance to chat with Jimmy (grown-up “George”) afterwards.  He noted wife Loida’s accent, which she explained as being Puerto Rican. To which he replied, “why I’m Cuban.”  Shades of Ricky Ricardo.  “Then how did you get here?”  “I swam!”  Now my question, “what about the tiburones (sharks)?”  Jimmy just laughed.  In fact, he’s from Miami, Florida (junior Havana).  The real John would no doubt be touched to learn that Jimmy’s truly, A Spaniard In the Works.

Author anecdote and bio --- (yes, I know this is lengthy, but, I think you’ll enjoy and laugh):

Leading up to our (Dad, Mom Loida, Mark Lewis (8) and Joshua Daniel (6)) attendance happened an incredible comedy of errors, which made us wonder if we’d ever get there.  Never mind that we had the best seats in the house, front-row center at the stage, and already obtained, in hand, three months previously.

Sure, it’s March 11th, this special day when the Beatles are to perform here, in Waukegan.  Ohhhh, we are crazy to be with them.  “Let’s get relaxed and listen to the Beatles’ records at home.  Let’s do everything early and be there an hour before to talk to them.”  Yeah, right!  That was my ideal planning!  But, destiny knows better how to arrange things.

I learn that the baby-sitter for our two-year-old can’t help that day.  That was the first, “oh-oh”.  Now, let’s find a substitute, or, mommy stays with baby at home.  “What?!!!” (that was mommy yelling).  Well, let’s keep plan “A”.  So, we’ve got to stop at the bank for baby-sitter and miscellaneous funds.

Reconnoitering, we spend time driving around, looking for a trustable baby-sitter.  We are using grandma’s car, since our own is getting fixed, now it is time to pick up the car.  We get it back from brake repairs, so that we can return the loaner to grandma.

Finally, it appears that we’ve gotten our baby-sitter, from the next town, 45 minutes round-trip from home, away from the Genesee Theatre for, of course, the Beatles.  Anyway, we ask our daughter’s would-be hostess,…”the baby’s ready, you want to take her right now?”  “Well, we were going to another place,” her family answers.  But thankfully, they confect a compromise solution. O.K., good.  Now we have to go home, get ourselves ready for the theatre, then take the same detour again, for their house, before the show, since baby’s still without supplies.  How can we possibly realize the necessary logistics?  It’s almost the hour to be at the theatre for the show’s commencement.

Feeling relatively good now that all of us can attend, and, to save time from cooking, we stop for carry-out pizza.  Once home, dad discovers that the garage door opener stayed with the other vehicle, so we are locked out.  Pizza’s losing its oven-warmth and acquiring the flavor of the cardboard container.  (Somebody said that the food’s getting colder than a witch’s breast.)  Meanwhile, my dog’s getting mad at me that I can’t let him in from the back yard.

Back to grandma’s for access.  She had left us a note: “I’m in church.”  So, to the chapel we go, to enlist her help.  Now, interrupt the service to take away with us, this faithful one.  Then we’re back to our place, finally, this time able to enter.   Mom must abbreviate her two hours of clothing selection, coif, and make-up, to 20 minutes.  Make sure, the boys are dressed nicely (although ended up going without jackets), send baby off with chauffeur dad for a 45-minute round trip to substitute sitter, and, that daddy makes sure little Linda, will be at ease with her unfamiliar surroundings, before returning.

Time was elapsing, as if we were going to win an Olympics competition.  Everybody was nervous and in a hurry.  We thought we were not going to make it.  My kids weren’t ready. Dad returned, “done with the baby sitter, I’m back.”

He finds out Loida is doing her hair blower, still.  He gets himself dressed. “O.K., let’s go, family”. “What??…Loida lost something?”  “Come on, come on.  We don’t want to be late.”  “Where is the camera?”  She replies, “here.” “Oh no!”  “What?”  “My jacket lost a button.”  “Honey, pick another one,” I say.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the most thick, impenetrable “London fog”, of the year is our meteorology for this particular evening, consequently impeding normal car travel and safe velocity.  But, we were up to the challenge, arriving 15 minutes early.  During the course of the evening, we still got the opportunity to chat with Stockwood & Co., the show’s producer.

Whew!  Next time I reserve the entire day, from noon onward, for press conference, relaxation, collecting my thoughts, and whatever else may be conducive to the success of the occasion.  Thank God for our good fortune this time!

P.S.: Mark Drobnick here again, again with Loida’s collaboration.  I’m a real estate broker, who enjoys motorcycle, scuba, and, writing for you folks to make your lives more enjoyable.  My wife, who is a teacher, and passionate about fashion modeling and acting, now is writing a book.  I’ll let you know the details later.  Marky and Josh, inspired and blessed by these recent events --- they attended authentic “Ringo” last June here, too --- jammed outdoors on our front-porch, with their Fender and Squier electric guitars, garage band style, the very next day, for the neighbor kids.  BRAVO!!: gurus, teachers, and apostles!

(released 04-03-2006)

Links: 1964 The Tribute + Stockwood

For more Drobnick reviews, please see:

Ringo Starr and the Roundheads with guest Colin Hay, at Genesee Theatre, Waukegan, Illinois, June 24th, 2005

Peter Noone “Salute to the 60’s” with Herman’s Hermits, Buckinghams, & Grass Roots, at Genesee Theatre (Waukegan, IL), January 27th, 2006

© by the Ottawa Beatles Site, May 27, 2006, with our sincere thanks to Mark and Loida Drobnick.