‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”
With those words 50 years ago, Beatlemania was fully unleashed upon the country as the Fab Four performed for the first time on American television. It was Feb. 9, 1964, when the quartet entered living rooms around the country via “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Fans can relive that moment in music and pop culture history when the Beatles tribute band, the Liverpool Legends, perform Feb. 9 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
“We’re trying to do are-creation, note for note, of what the Beatles did on that show,” said Marty Scott, who plays George Harrison in the band.
After being introduced by “Ed Sullivan,” the award-winning tribute band will play the setlist, in order, from that iconic 1964 performance.
“We’re trying to make it exactly what it would have been like to be in the audience that day,” Scott said.
One person who was at Sullivan’s show that day is Louise Harrison, sister of Beatle George Harrison. Louise will join the Liverpool Legends at the Arcada, sharing stories of the “fun and chaotic” week surrounding that pivotal telecast.
“You didn’t really have time to think about what was going on because you were too busy trying to make sure you escaped uninjured from the crowds,” she joked about Beatlemania. “The police used to put their arms up into a great big tunnel so we could dive through the tunnel and get into the limo.”
Louise, who moved to downstate Benton, Ill., in 1963, spent the week with the Beatles, part of which involved making sure George, who was sick with strep throat and had a fever, took care of himself.
“When we went to the soundcheck, the doctor said to me make sure [to not] keep him out any longer than about an hour because he was really so ill,” she said. “So after they had been there for about an hour, with all of the press saying do this or wave your hand this way or smile the other way and all that kind of stuff, I went over to Ed and said ‘I need to get him back to the hotel.’”
The night of the show, Harrison’s temperature was still 102, she said, and the doctor was concerned about George being able to stay on his feet for the whole performance. George made it through.
“I think by late Monday night he was feeling OK, because when we went to Washington [D.C.], on the train, he was fooling around and pretending to be a waiter on the train and doing all kinds of crazy stuff,” Louise said. “So he was OK by then.”
After meeting Scott — who was a member of tribute band American English at the time — at a Beatles convention in 2001, Louise helped create the Liverpool Legends. She selected all the artists for the band.
“They were such great musicians and such great impersonators, they did such a great job of depicting the Beatles. To me the most important thing was finding the kind of people, if George was still here, that would be the kind of people he would hang out with,” she said. “So I was looking for people of good character — decency, honesty, all those kind of things.”
Billed as the “The Complete Beatles Experience,” the tribute band now has their own theater in Branson, Mo., and has earned numerous awards. In 2012 the band and Louise were nominated for a Grammy Award for their work on a documentary about Beatles fans. The band continues to tour internationally, as well.
“Because this is the 50th anniversary the whole world is kind of taking notice of what the Beatles meant to the world,” Scott said.
While two of the members are originally from the Chicago area, it’s rare that the Liverpool Legends actually play here. But because of the anniversary, they wanted to do something special, Scott said.
“We don’t play in Chicago very much. We play all different places in the world, but we’re from Chicago, me and [Kevin Mantegna, who plays John Lennon],” Scott said. “We just thought it would be a good place to come home and have a big celebration of it.”
Along with recreating “The Ed Sullivan Show” experience at the Arcada, the band will take the audience on a historical journey through the Beatles’ hits. And Louise will also talk with fans.
“At Arcada, she’s going to be doing a very special question and answer, behind-the-scenes stuff,” Scott said. “There’s not too many people who were there that are alive even that were in the audience. But she was just so much more than in the audience, she was with them all that time. She was upstairs in the hotel room while they were watching themselves on TV.”
No other group, Scott said, has really transferred down to every generation like the Beatles did. “With the Beatles, it was the music but it was also the affect they had on culture and music and fashion and politics and the things that they said,” he said. “People were hanging on to every word that they said. I think that’s why it’s still cool. One of the reasons why it’s still relevant.”
“Most people think of the Beatles as icons or whatever,” Louise Harrison said. “But, when one of them is your kid brother, he’s always your kid brother,” she said. “He’s not a star or an icon. He’s still my kid brother.”