BEATLEMANIA lives on, and the tribute band that grew out of the show of the same name continues to delight audiences around the world with their accurate portrayal of The Fab Four.
Originally an American production, ‘Beatlemania!’ came to London’s West End and toured the country to great acclaim.
However, when the show’s tour ended, the four members of the band didn’t know exactly what to do, so they decided to carry on as The Bootleg Beatles and began touring in 1980.
The show grew in size and stature and The Bootleg Beatles are just about the best around at what they do.
So good in fact that in 2017 they performed with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at shows celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
It goes without saying that the quartet of musicians has changed since 1980 and the current line-up is: Tyson Kelly as ‘John’, Steve White, who became ‘Paul’ in 2012, Stephen
Hill and Gordon Elsmore who became ‘George’ and ‘Ringo’ in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
At the time of writing, the band is in the middle of an Australian tour, as Steve White tells me.
“The tour has been going really really well. We’ve had some lovely audiences – we always have great audiences in Australia, we seem to have our own fan-base.”
Steve, a native of Nottingham, tells me how he got the job of portraying the greatest left-handed bassist in the world. And it wasn’t a case of ‘Wanted – bass player – must be left-handed.’
“No, I’d been in a lot of 60’s bands, playing rhythm guitar and the band I was in sort-of ‘morphed’ into a Beatles tribute band.” He explains.
“I ended up playing ‘John’, but people said I should really have been Paul as I looked more like him.”
“The thing is, I’m right handed. So what I did was learn all the parts on bass right-handed, then I bought a cheap bass and strung it left-handed and it went from there.”
Then the call came from The Bootleg Beatles.
“Yes, I got a call from them to stand in for their bassist as he was sick, and this went on for a while, as the problem with the bassist kept re-occurring and when it was apparent that he couldn’t carry on they asked me to do it full-time. So I didn’t audition, I sort-of did an apprenticeship.”
And ‘John’ is also new.
“Yes, our previous ‘John’ – Adam – was brilliant and uncannily like John Lennon. But his wife recently gave birth. He was away from home a lot and he felt that he wanted to be at home more, to be a dad. We all understood, but were sad to see him go.”
So the band needed a new ‘John Lennon’.
“That’s right,” explains Steve. “We advertised and got applicants from far and wide. Then we got a message from Tyson Kelly from Los Angeles of all places – we’ve no idea how he heard we were looking. Anyway, he sent some videos of himself in and he seemed great.
He then came over to the UK for an audition and was absolutely superb. We filmed all the auditions so we could look them over and he stuck out a mile.”
So Tyson became ‘John’.
“Yes, we offered him the job in August and he fits in great. The public love him and his personality is very like John Lennon and he looks the part too.”
It’s a hard life taking the show around the world, but is very rewarding.
“Yes, the hours are very gruelling and the schedules are quite punishing, and we travel the world but never see it, but the connection you have with the audience more than makes up for it.”
This year is the 50th anniversary of the ‘White Album’, and quite a chunk of this tour will be dedicated to that album. The album contained tracks such as Back In The USSR, Dear
Prudence, Ob-La-Di-Ob’La-Da, Blackbird and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
“There’s going to be a lot of songs we’ve never done before and that part of the show has been revamped. I don’t want to spoil the surprise by naming the songs we’ll be doing though.”
Steve – a lifelong Beatles’ fan, sums up his role with the sentence.
“The music is just timeless and a great pleasure to play.”
The Bootleg Beatles will be appearing at The Cliffs Pavilion, Southend on Tuesday March 26th. For tickets and more information visit: www.southendtheatres.co.uk