Beatles 50 Year Anniversary Show to Benefit Kidznotes

beatles on tv

 NC Musicians Come Together for Beatles Tribute

Carrboro, NC – Musicians from Wake to Watauga counties will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan show appearance during a performance at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro on February 9. The family friendly event which begins at 7:00 pm, will benefit Kidznotes, an orchestral music education program for high risk kids in Wake and Durham counties.

Curated by Chapel Hill’s Danny Gotham, the show will feature two house bands and a revolving cast of vocalists representing pop, country, blues, rock, folk, Celtic, and world music genres.

There were only two parameters given by Gotham to each artist.

  1. They can only perform a song from the Beatles’ 12 core albums.
  2. Each artist was given liberty to arrange their song however they wish.

Don’t panic. Most of the artists won’t stray from the original vibe of the piece. In some cases, songs from the Beatles’ later records, such as the songs with innovative backwards looped solos from Revolver, are impossible to recreate in a live show without sampling pre-recorded sounds. However, with Handsome Al Heckle on lead guitar and 10 additional rhythm and lead guitarists playing in the show, there will be no shortage of creative guitar lick(s) swapping.

The event will be emceed by WCHL’s Morning host, Ron Stutts.

The show will open up with Beatles’ earlier songs, which were predominantly written for live club performances, then transition during the second set into their innovative experimental studio singles. Considering the depth of Beatles adulation among this group of local performers, choosing one song each was the biggest challenge. Songs were chosen to showcase samples from all of the Beatles’ core albums. You’ll hear some hits but the few obscure ones may leave you thinking, “That was a Beatles Song?”

The House band for set 1, led by Danny Gotham on guitar, includes: Guitars-Lance White & Mike Nicholson, Drums-Jim Roberts, Bass – Steve Eisenstadt & Doug Prescott, Keyboards-Todd Jones, Mohan Veena – Mike Babyak

Set 1 Vocalists include Brett Harris, Holden Richards, Jack Cornell, Tom Collins-Meltzer (The Banana Seats), Lance White (Too Much Fun), Danny Gotham, Willie Painter (Willie Painter Band),  Rebecca Newton , Rob Sharer (Craicdown), Rod Abernethy, Stan Lewis (Formerly of SCOTS), Wes Collins, Janet Place (Great Big Gone),

The House band for set 2 led by guitarist, Willie Painter, includes Drums-John Hanks, Keyboards-Tim Smith, Bass-Craig Dittmar & E. Scott Warren, Guitars Handsome Al Heckle and Keith Buckley, Violin – Lindsey Toms, Viola – Rob Sharer, Percussion and vocals – Angie Santiago

Set 2 Vocalists include Mike Babyak (Triple Fret), Keith Buckley, Emma Davis (Big Mama E & the Cool), Jeffrey Dean Foster, Jane Francis, Sam Frazier, Jefferson Hart, Wes Lachot, Jay Manley, Nancy Middleton, Doug Prescott, Penne Sandbeck, Angie Santiago,  Chris Stamey (the dBs), Harry Tueting, Zuzu Welsh,

An eight year old Willie Painter had the opportunity to see them live in September of ’64 at Dallas Memorial Auditorium. Among the opening acts were The Bill Black Combo and the Exciters. When asked about the Beatles’ longevity, considering they were only together for seven years,  Painter shared, “the Beatles started by synthesizing American rock, R&B (James Brown, Little Richard), country (Buck Owens), then sent it across the Atlantic to a country that was unaware of; or had forgotten about, its musical roots. Later their songwriting prowess and willingness to push musical boundaries kept them on the cutting edge of popular music”

When I threw out the same question anonymously to younger musicians I received mixed responses.   One respondent called them “prisses in tight pants” while others didn’t get what the big deal was. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve heard up and coming banjo players mispronounce Bela Fleck, Beulah, and complain that he plays too many notes.

I posed the longevity question to the rest of the performers. Here are some fun responses.

The music is timeless and relevant, they sang about love, about the world around us and ultimately about social issues. They became not just a musical force but a cultural and social force. – Zuzu Welsh

 The Beatles kept changing and weren’t afraid to try new things. Eventually, they changed beyond what they could accommodate as a group. – Penne Sandbeck

Beatles music is deceptive in a way that it appears to be easy to play along to. Just about all pop music can be easy to play or sing along to, however, doing live Beatles well is challenging, daring, and sometimes impossible.

Vocally speaking, the US is accustomed to traditional harmony “lines”, especially here in the South. Mike Babyak shared that he played in a Beatles cover band and they rehearsed vocals four times a week before a show. There is an Italian luthier and Beatles scholar, named Galeazzo Frudua whose Beatles Vocal Harmony You Tube channel provides isolated vocal tracks of the trickier Beatles songs. At first I thought it was cheesy, but this guy knows what he’s talking about. It’s hard and takes practice. He is solid.

I asked why it was so challenging to perform Beatles live.

The majority of their music is melody driven, which differed greatly from most of the three- and four-chord rock/pop music that was on the radio at the time. It utilized diminished and augmented chords, sometimes played in keys that weren’t conducive or “natural” for guitar players. – Willie Painter

The singing is the biggest challenge. Of their era only the Beach Boys and the Turtles approach them, I think. Even if you can hit the notes, try finding another singer who you sound as good with as they sounded together. It’s a very rare thing, which is why they’re the Beatles and we’re not. – Tom Collins-Meltzer

Hard to capture lightning in a jar. It’s difficult get the right feel, phrasing, tonality, and magic. – Keith Buckley

After spending time with the performers, I realize Beatles literacy rate it the “See Spot Run” stage. For Danny Gotham, the Beatles is part of his musical DNA and foundational to how he approaches playing and listening. However, that makes him a tough judge when he considers who is a good talent. When Danny tells me to check a local songwriter or artist out, I do.

Yes, of course. I asked the performers how the Beatles influence their own writing or performing. Most musicians lean towards Rubber Soul and Revolver as far as appreciating the innovative writing and production, however, they are musical time capsule. For Zuzu Welsh and Sam Frazier, it was difficult to pin down a song or style. Frazier, “All of them still blow my mind in terms of song construction and stylistic breadth.”

George’s overall approach to guitar, simple, melodic, not flashy. – Mike Babyak

As a bass player, I am astounded by the beauty of Paul McCartney’s playing. Getting in deep with the bass lines in preparation for this show has been sacred duty. – Steve Eisenstadt

“Eleanor Rigby” – it doesn’t come right out and tell a story, but in implying one it manages to suggest the arc of whole lives. What a great way to write. – Rob Sharer

It’s safe to say that the performers take their Beatles seriously. Some are Beatles traditionalist and will stick to the original form note by note. Others are going to let themselves “take a trip” and explore a piece as John or George might have done. The club rockers? You can count on them playing loud and hard. Ear plugs are a $1 at the bar.

I learned about the Beatles while playing band in school. My teacher, Ms. Pattishall, was an instructor that not only require us to learn orchestral music but included pop music into our repertoire. As a clarinet player at the time, I only had my notes to worry about but she showed us that each note was important to creating the full chord arranged by the composer(s). Band became my reason to stay after school to hang out with others who turned me onto the musicianship of the Beatles, Queen, and Jethro. Being part of the band also gave me some respite from being on point at home, responsible for taking care of my siblings while our mom worked two night jobs in assembly plants.

Fast forward many years to our first Black President, the Eurodollar, no USSR (How Lucky!), a Puerto Rican woman in the Supreme Court, 24 news and noisy political pundits, and it’s sad to see the cultural literacy of such historical milestones be overlooked by today’s younger musicians. It’s why music and art in the schools matter.

This event, while celebrating the landing of the Beatles in our lives, is also a fundraiser for Kidznotes, an orchestral music education program for elementary school kids.  Based on the Venezuelan El Sistema model of youth orchestras, Kidznotes provides 10 hours of free music instruction to Durham and Raleigh students from kindergarten to 7th grade. Students apply to the program and agree to commit to attending their 4 after school lessons, Saturday rehearsals, and 10 concerts per year.

It’s a comprehensive music program. The children learn music theory, instrument instruction, and chorus, and percussion. Transportation is provided. Staffed by a small group of professional music educators, a host of volunteers assist with logistics.

The evening will sure to give you a fun evening of sing along songs, dancey pop tunes, loud rocking guitar licks, reflective spiritual pieces presented by cello and electric guitar, and chill bumps as you watch how some of the difficult Beatles technical approaches are solved using live instruments.

Kidznotes will be on hand to accept additional donations and share about their program. I encourage you to get involved with them.

CBS has their show going on too. Don’t fret about missing it. CBS will have it available later or set your DVR.

Yeah, it’s a school night.  The show starts promptly at 7. Beatles songs are short.

Who’s NOT tired on Mondays?


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