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‘FAB50’: Concert celebrating The Beatles 1964 invasion of New York

If you are one of the zillions of Beatles fans, here’s just one of many events celebrating their victorious British Invasion of New York City 50 years ago. It’s ‘FAB50 - America Celebrates the Beatles’ at 7:30 p. m., Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Manhattan’s Town Hall Theater.

The Fab 4 on their first trip to America. This anniversary is being celebrated in NYC at the FAB50 events city-wide.
The Fab 4 on their first trip to America. This anniversary is being celebrated in NYC at the FAB50 events city-wide.
Courtesy Google Images/BeatlesRadio.com
Pop star Julie Grant with Bo Diddley and the Everly Brothers back in the day
Courtesy Google Images

This special concert headlines renowned singers and musicians who have had connections to the Fab4 that range from up close - personally and professionally - to those who have been influenced by one or more of the legendary pop icons.

These performers include an artist who has had songs written for him by one of The Beatles; another whose only hit knocked The Beatles out of the #1 position on the charts; and one who shared the stage with John Lennon at Madison Square Garden and released the single, “I Wanna Be a Beatle” in 1964, and is a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer along with John Lennon.

One of the Fab50 headliners, Julie Grant, toured with The Beatles and was a friend of theirs from the beginning of their respective careers. Julie became a major pop star when her recordings hit the UK singles charts. Today, her songs are still hot online: "Up On The Roof" (1963) and "Count on Me" and "Come to Me" (1964.)

Through the years Julie Grant has regaled us with the highlights of her life on the stage and behind the scenes with the Beatles as well as the Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Drifters, The Everly Brothers, and Bo Diddley - among other music legends.

She clearly remembers her first meeting with The Beatles at the ABC theater in Blackpool, England: "I was watching the show from the back of the theater with Paul's father James [McCartney]. He kept commenting that he couldn't hear a thing throughout the show with the non-stop screaming!”

Julie continued: “After the show we all went back to their dressing room and this was the first time I met Brian Epstein [the Fab4’s legendary manager]. He was a real gentleman and gave me four new individual photos of the lads. As the were signing them to me, the pen was acting up, so John signed both front and back as well as Paul signing a couple of times. It was Ringo’s birthday that day, July 7, and they had a lovely cake for him, which they let me share because it was my birthday on the 12th. What a wonderful 17th. Birthday I had” said Julie.

“A couple of weeks later I went to see the Beatles show and later backstage I asked them if they would like to come to my apartment after their show. Paul & Ringo couldn’t come, but George and John said they would try, but it would be quite late as they were going back to Liverpool to pick up George’s new car.

“I went back to the apartment and told my mom and dad that the ‘lads’ would be coming over later. Mom had baked a chocolate cake that day and she said she would serve it with tea. It seemed like hours later when lo and behold I heard a car horn and looked out the window to see John and George getting out of this lovely silver-blue jaguar, it was stunning. They came upstairs and were really gracious to my mom and dad.

“John actually polished off most of the cake and I asked them to sign my autograph book and the doily that the cake had been on. At the top of the cake-stained paper and above their signatures they wrote ‘THE BEATLES’, obviously in case I didn’t know who they were. I cherish these autographs, especially as both of them have passed on. That same evening George showed me how to play ‘Taste of Honey’ on my new, cheap guitar. To this day, it’s the only song I can play on the guitar.”

Julie’s agent, Eric Easton, also represented the Rolling Stones. She said, “He lined up all kinds of shows for them and I was on the bill with them all the time, in fact in the beginning of our careers, they opened for me on some shows, how crazy is that!”

Years later, while Julie was headlining at the Loews Americana Hotel in the Bahamas, Ringo Starr checked in as he was filming a movie. She and her group went looking for him, Julie said,” they had to be skeptics about how well I knew him. I went up to say hello to him and his lovely wife Maureen and he was thrilled to see me there. He came to our show that night and everyone was thrilled that a ‘Beatle’ was in our midst. Sidney Poitier and his wife Joanna lived close by at Lyford Cay and were regulars at our show.”

Julie Grant now lives in the USA and with her husband David Connelly is a show-business agent and manager. (www.englishwolfmusic.com)

Joining Julie in the Fab50 show is Tommy James who was so much admired by George Harrison that the Beatle wrote some songs for him to record. Between 1966 and 1969, Tommy enjoyed 14 Top 40 hits. From 1968-70, when artists like Jagger, Fogerty, and Morrison were in their heyday, Tommy James & the Shondells sold more singles than any other pop act in the world, including hits like "Hanky Panky." In all, Tommy James has sold over 100-million records, earning 23 gold singles and 9 gold as well as platinum albums.

Melanie, one of the stars of fabled Woodstock, has sold over 80 million records, and sang with John Lennon at Madison Square Garden in 1972. Her many hits include "Brand New Key," "What Have They Done To My Song Ma,” "Lay Down and The Stones" and “Ruby Tuesday.”

Gene Cornish is the guitarist of The Rascals. From 1965–70, the band recorded eight albums and had 17 singles that reached Billboard's Top 20. In 1997, as a founding member of the Rascals, Cornish was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Recently, Stevie Van Zandt reunited The Rascals to play a sold-out run on Broadway and highly-touted tour the United States. Before he was in the hit-making music machine that was The Rascals, Gene fronted his own band “The Unbeatables, which released the single “I Wanna Be a Beatle” in 1964.

Gary DeCarlo wrote and sang one of the world's most famous rock anthems, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" under the band name Steam. The #1 hit sold over 7 million copies and has the distinction of replacing The Beatles' "Come Together/"Something" single at the top of the charts in 1969.

Greg Hawkes is best known as the keyboard player for The Cars, one of the greatest rock bands of the late 70s and 80s, but his first band, The Aardvarks, covered Beatles songs. He saw The Beatles in 1964, played keyboards on a record with Paul McCartney, and has recorded “The Beatles Uke,” an entire album of Beatles classics played on the ukulele.

Fred Schneider is the front-man for the world’s most famous party band, The B-52s, who have sold over 20 million copies and scored such hits as "Love Shack,” “Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho” and “Roam.” The group recorded a version of The Beatles “Paperback Writer,” and Fred recorded a version of Beatles’ hit “Coconut.”

Ron Dante was the voice of The Archies. In an era dominated by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, “Sugar Sugar” was the #1 selling record of 1969 in the U.S. That same year, Dante hit the Top 10 with the single "Tracy.” From 1973-1981, Dante was Barry Manilow’s record producer, and even sang back-up on Manilow’s recordings, including the 1974 #1 single "Mandy.”

Walter Egan, best known for the 1978 gold record, “Magnet and Steel” also wrote “Hot Summer Nights” which included such musicians as Nicky Hopkins (played piano with John Lennon) and Robbie McIntosh (from The Pretenders) and Paul McCartney. He saw The Beatles live at Carnegie Hall on February 12, 1964!

Marshall Crenshaw played John Lennon in "Beatlemania" and Buddy Holly in the film "La Bamba." The singer/songwriter/guitarist's debut album, "Marshall Crenshaw" was acclaimed a pop masterpiece, and it spawned the Top 40 single “Someday, Someway." Over three decades he has released 13 albums, and has hosted his own radio show, “The Bottomless Pit,” on New York’s WFUV.

Ian Lloyd was lead singer for The Stories in the 70s. With one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in the history of rock music, he has been heard around the globe beginning in 1973 with his performance on The Stories' #1 hit "Brother Louie" and then "Mammy Blue."

John Ford is a London-born guitarist from the prog-rock band The Strawbs. In 2009 he won Best Indie Rock Artist of the Year from the Progressive Rock Hall of Fame and in 2010 he and the other Strawbs, were inducted into its hall of fame.

Meghan Linsey at 15 was opening for Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and others. Soon she was writing her own material. She and Joshua Scott Jones formed Steel Magnolias, winners of CMT's "Can You Duet." Their first single, "Keep On Lovin' You" hit #4 on Billboard's Country charts and their album was #3.

Emily West is a Nashville singer who debuted in 2008 with the single "Rocks In Your Shows." She hit the Country charts again in 2010 with "Blue Sky," a duet with Keith Urban. In 2012, Emily’s independently-released “I Hate You, I Love You” peaked at #2 on the singer/songwriter itunes chart for two weeks.

Randy Jackson is the lead singer, guitarist and leader of heavy metal band Zebra. Jackson grew up in New Orleans listening to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Legendary producer Jack Douglas, who produced John Lennon, as worked on Zebra's early records.

Larry Kirwin is an expatriate Irish writer and musician, most noted as the lead singer for the NY-based Irish punk rock band, Black 47. He wrote the brilliant play about The Beatles, “Liverpool Fantasy” which was staged in 1986 and he has published several books, including a novel version of “Liverpool Fantasy.”

Richard Barone was front man for The Bongos. Recent collaborators have been the late Lou Reed, Tony Visconti, Al Jardine, Donovan, Pete Seeger and Sean Lennon. Richard scores shows as well as staging concerts and events at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and other top venues. Barone lives in Greenwich Village, where he was recently appointed a Professor at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

Siobhan Magnus is the powerhouse singer who was a hugely-popular finalist on “American Idol” in 2010. She is best remembered for her rendition of “Across The Universe” on a show that featured all Lennon & McCartney music. Her version of "Helter Skelter" wins rave reviews whenever it's performed live.

Aztec Two-Step released their first album in 1972. Since then, Rex Fowler & Neal Shulman have spent a lifetime making music together as the folk-rock duo Aztec Two-Step, remaining one of acoustic music's most popular and enduring acts.

Richie Scarlet, the "Emperor of Rock and Roll," has played in bands with legends Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (KISS), Leslie West (Mountain), Sebastian Bach, with the members of the Alice Cooper Group (sans Alice) and Joey Molland (Badfinger).

Rich Pagano of the Fab Faux is the musical director for the Fab50 concert

Special Guest of Honor Celebrity Presenters for this gala concert are actors Charles Grodin, John Gabriel, television legend Dick Cavett, NY sportscaster Len Berman, news anchorman Tony Perkins and the Amazing Kreskin. And a truly special guest of honor co-host, John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird

Although the Town Hall Theater seats 1500, the Beatles, in any format, are a guaranteed sell-out. Tickets now on sale through Ticketmaster and the Town Hall Theater box office, For more information, email info@NYCFAB50.com or call (203) 795-4737.

Town Hall Theater is at 123 West 43rd Street, between Sixth Avenue & Broadway in New York City. Go to NYCFab50 to get info on the other Beatles celebrations in Manhattan during February. Although this show is a loving tribute to the Fab 4, it is not affiliated with Apple Corps Ltd or The Beatles.

Compiled and written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle