Liverpool Legends carry on Beatles tradition
Many bands have been formed to impersonate or pay tribute to the Beatles over the years, but the Liverpool Legends, who will kick off the Ozarks Beatlemania Festival at the West Plains Civic Center on Friday, Sept. 12, have a real connection to the Fab Four. Louise Harrison, George Harrison's sister, put the band together with the goal of presenting a live history of the Beatles. The Liverpool Legends, who are based at the Caravelle Theater in Branson, will recreate their early days playing small clubs in Europe through their breakout into the United States on The Ed Sullivan Show and the transition to an experimental era, that led to their eventual break up and future solo careers. Marty Scott, who plays George Harrison, told The South Missourian News that fans can expect a very authentic Beatles experience. "In the show, we kind of morph as the Beatles did, year by year. Our clothes, instruments and set changes with each phase of the band. We go from the Ed Sullivan Show to a set from Shea Stadium, then into Sergeant Pepper and the later albums like the White Album and Abbey Road," Scott explained.
When asked about the origins of the group, Scott said, "We all started out as fans, first of all. We all really just enjoy playing the music." He said that he met Louise Harrison at a convention shortly after George Harrison's death in 2001, and things took off from there.
"We just wanted to do something special, had some auditions and found the right people to make it work. We're on our ninth year together now," Scott said of the band that has played all over the U.S. and the world. Other members are Kevin Mantegna as John Lennon, Bob Beahon as Paul McCartney and Greg George as Ringo Starr. Louise Harrison and Bob Dobro are producers of the tribute show and work to keep it fresh and on track.
The group has been especially busy during this 50th anniversary year of Beatlemania. It recently played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., for a stadium full of excited fans. "It was 60,000 people, man. It was amazing!" Scott said of the experience. "It's been quite a year, for sure. The Beatles are bigger than ever, and we're amazed how the music has lasted. There's something magical about them and we're just lucky enough to portray them."
The band is also active with "Keep the Music Alive," a program designed to help high school band and music programs generate revenue and promote the importance of music education. The band sends sheet music to schools, school bands learn the music and the Legends arrive to perform with the bands at benefit fundraisers for the schools' programs.
Scott speaks highly of Louise Harrison, referring to her repeatedly as, "Mum". He praises her efforts in not only promoting their shows, but also for being very hands-on, sometimes sewing buttons on costumes during performances and doing anything else she can to help.
"Instead of getting old and sitting at home, she'd rather hang around a rock and roll band." Scott said lovingly of Harrison.
Louise Harrison has her own fond memories of the Beatles during their reign as Rock and Roll Kings. Being the older sister of George Harrison, she had frequent contact with him while they were touring and becoming the most famous band in the world. She was there at the famous Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964, tending to her brother who had a bad case of strep throat at the time.
"I remember that their visit to Missouri was a very impromptu affair. They had a couple of days off after a very hard stretch of touring, and I believe it was the pilot of their plane who offered them a little hideaway," Harrison told The South Missourian News when asked her recollection of the Beatles visit to Oregon County. The pilot she was referring to was Reed Pigman, owner of the ranch where the visit occurred. "I remember that they really enjoyed being able to get some rest. They were so relieved to get away from the crowds," Harrison said.
This was not the first time George Harrison had ventured to the United States. He visited with his sister when she lived in Benton, Ill. in late 1963, making him the first Beatle to visit the country. The band was virtually unknown outside of Europe, and Louise said George enjoyed his time there, even jamming with a local band at a veteran's hall.
At that time, Louise was actively promoting George's music with the Beatles, taking records that their mother sent from England around to different radio stations trying to get them to play them on the radio. "Many of them looked at me strange, probably wondering who let me out of the kitchen!" Harrison laughed as she recalled those early years, before the Beatles became household names. She spent the years the band was active helping spread news about the band and even did radio spots on a weekly basis updating fans on the band.
When asked whether she or George had any idea what the Beatles would become during his visit in 1963, Harrison replied "Oh no, no -- we thought everyone was going to stay sane."
Speaking of the Liverpool Legends, Harrison heaped praise upon the performers, stage crew and everyone associated with the project. "If you've ever enjoyed listening to a Beatles record, then you will enjoy our show. We've tried to make it a very entertaining experience for everyone." Harrison said of the upcoming show in West Plains.
Ms. Harrison will be joining the festivities on both days of the Ozarks Beatlemania festival. She will be in Alton during the festival talking about her book, "My Kid Brother's Band...The Beatles" and giving away what she calls "Harrison Hugs."
When asked about being a sibling to such a famous person, Harrison said, "It's a two edged sword, really. It's a great privilege to be connected with something so positive, and a great responsibility. I love meeting all of the fans and people who I consider my extended Beatles family. The bad part of it is that people assume that because George was my brother that I must be a millionaire as well. I've never had a hit record, and I'm just like every other person on this planet struggling to make ends meet. I am really happy, though, to know what I'm doing is trying to bring joy to so many people and helping them forget their worries for a couple hours."