Beatles fanatics should circle Saturday, January 28th on their calendars, because the top Beatles tribute band in the world, American English, is coming to Big Shots Music Venue in Valparaiso.
Although the band has played all over the world as well as all over the country, the Chicago area is fortunate because Chicago is the place that American English calls home, because three of the four members of the band are Chicago natives.
The four members of the band are Eric Michaels (Paul McCartney), James Paul Lynch (George Harrison), Tom Gable (Ringo Starr) and Young Hines (John Lennon). Only Hines, who hails from Georgia, is not a Chicago native. In addition Ken Zemanek rounds out the complete Beatles as George Martin, who was sometimes referred to as the fifth Beatle.
And the band is not what you would call an overnight success either. The members of the band first started coming together about twenty years ago.
“We actually go way back,” said Gable. “Eric was the first guy. He started playing clubs with other guys on a smaller scale. But we had been friends a long time and their drummer was retiring and he asked me to join. I was just a little bit hesitant at first because I left two other bands to join, but I did.”
“Then we found someone to make the outfits, but we were still playing clubs,” continued Gable. “When we were selected by Gibson to headline their promotion when they issued the John Lennon guitar things started happening. We did the rooftop performance like in “Let it Be” and there was a huge crowd.”
“There just happened to be some Japanese impresarios there, who asked us to go to Japan. So we went, and we were featured in the center spread of a Japanese magazine and from that point, the phone never stopped ringing,” continued Gable. “The rest, as they say in the music business, is history. Things just started happening. That’s the impact of the Beatles. We’re still feeling the effects of that.”
Then about fifteen years ago, Sam Leach, one of the Beatles original promoters, just happened to be in Chicago promoting his book, “The Birth of the Beatles” and someone told him he had to come see this Beatles band that was playing that night in St. Charles, Illinois.
Leach had seen every Beatles band in England, but went anyway, and was so impressed that he went backstage after the show and ultimately became the band’s manager.
“Sam said he had seen every Beatles band but you guys have the same spirit,” said Gable. “He made the statement that he felt like lightning had struck twice, and that he wanted to support and get behind us and bring us to England.”
“So Sam took us to Liverpool, and we played places where the Beatles had played. We played the Cavern Club, which was epic, but some other places gave us chills. One place still had the old piano on stage that was there when the Beatles played there.”
“Sam took us to John’s house and took us inside his childhood home,” continued Gable. “He took us to Paul’s house and we had tea. He took us to the place where the original Cavern Club was. It’s a mall now but they have a Beatles memorial that says this is where the stage was in the Cavern Club. We even recorded at Abbey Road. We were with Sam fifteen years or more. We had a ball with Sam. He was a class act.” (Editor’s Note: Sam Leach passed away on Wednesday, December 21st, just days after his 81st birthday.)
No doubt the association with Sam Leach contributed greatly to the band’s success and notoriety, but with American English, the proof is in the pudding. The dedication of the band to achieve every last bit of realism is so profound that you almost feel like you are really seeing the Beatles.
And Beatles fans are very particular. “You gotta do it right,” said Gable. “We are tampering with something sacred. I have come to believe it’s magical. We have Beatles music wired into our DNA and we have to treat it like it’s the Holy Grail.”
“We as musicians have tried everything to make the sound more real. We have used original stuff and vintage equipment but we still cannot duplicate it, we cannot get it to sound the same. It’s magical.”
“We’re still researching,” continued Gable. “We don’t think we are the Beatles, but to a Beatles fan, listening to a Beatles band like us is like being with a friend. It’s safe and familiar.”
“So we all still call each other when we notice something, like a mannerism or a sound that we hadn’t noticed before. We take pride in it and we set the bar as high as we can.”
The group’s dedication to trying to be the best and most realistic looking and sounding that they can be is obviously something that Beatles fans have noticed. The band has toured the world and played just about everywhere, including last year at the Indianapolis 500.
In fact, American English has gotten so popular that the band is now in constant demand, and the last couple of years the group has played around 130 shows a year.
The group has been featured on Beatlemania Britain on the Travel Channel, and was voted the best tribute band for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 by www.nitelife.org. The group has also been named the “Illinois Entertainer of the Year”, and was voted the best Beatles Tribute Band at the Chicago Rocker Awards in 2011.
The Beatles today are still immensely popular. Not just by the Baby Boomers who grew up and lived through the phenomenon that was the Beatles, but by their children, too, who grew up listening to Beatles music that was played for them by their parents.
The Beatles were not only the greatest musical influence of the 20th century, but they were also the biggest cultural influence of the 20th century. As great as it might be to be a part of that phenomenon as a member of American English, it might seem stifling or even overwhelming to some musicians.
“I don’t care about being trapped,” said Gable. “I love it so much I can’t even imagine playing in another band. I have devoted the last twenty years to it. We have been blessed on so many levels, it just fuels our ambition.”
“What I found out from people coming to see us was that they were coming to see the Beatles. When people hear the songs in their heads they want to be a part of the illusion; so we try to really be as close to being the Beatles as we can.”
“And at the end of the night when people tell us thanks for keeping the dream alive, we know what these songs mean to people, “continued Gable. “It’s a fun life. I love it so I can’t ever see it stopping. We keep trying to get closer to the real thing.”
Beatles fans in Chicago and Northwest Indiana are indeed fortunate because American English is Chicago based; since they are a local band they are seen in this area with more frequency, such as Beatles Fest in downtown Hammond this past summer.
And this month, the group will be playing at Big Shots Music Venue in Valparaiso on Saturday, January 28th at 8:00 pm. The doors open at 7:00 pm.
Big Shots Music Venue is located at 391 West US Highway 6 in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Tickets for American English are available through www.TicketRumba.com at $12.00 in advance ($15 at the door) for a General Admission ticket and $25 for Priority Seating, which includes a guaranteed seat, a table, and waitress service, as well as a ticket to the show.
To learn more about American English interested fans can visit their website at www.americanenglish.com or find them on Facebook. To listen to American English you can go to YouTube where many videos are posted.
Chris Lannin can be e-mailed at clans07@gmail.com.