George Harrison's sister says Liverpool Legends are Beatles at heart

News-DemocratApril 16, 2014 

Louise Harrison remembers The Beatles as kind and sincere young men who loved their music and their fans.

So the late George Harrison's sister tried to find musicians with similar values when she formed the Beatles tribute band Liverpool Legends.

"They would be the guys that (George) would have wanted to hang out with," said Louise, 82, who lives in Branson, Mo. "They were on the same wavelength."

The band will bring their two-hour stage show to Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey on April 26.

Concert promoter Dave Thomason thinks it will be a big draw, particularly since this year is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' legendary appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Thomason, 55, of rural Edwardsville, likes the idea that Louise is involved and that band members were nominated for a Grammy Award as part of a spoken word recording called "Fab Fan Memories: A Beatles Bond."

"I've read interviews with people in the industry, and they say they're the best Beatles cover band out there, bar none," Thomason said. "They played a big concert in England, and it drew over 100,000 people."

The show is called "Liverpool Legends: The Complete Beatles Experience!" It doubles as a concert and theatrical performance, narrated by Louise.

The script follows a Beatles timeline, beginning with a re-enactment of the "Ed Sullivan" appearance and continuing with the Shea Stadium concert, Sgt. Pepper and the "Magical Mystery Tour," the White Album, "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be."

"We're doing a lot of costume changes," said Marty Scott, who portrays George. "Our hair is getting longer. The instruments change. We're evolving just like they did."

Liverpool Legends is based in Branson. They play in theaters half the year and tour the other half.

This year's 16-week run in Branson will begin June 3 at the Caravelle Theatre.

"I'm their mum," Louise said in a telephone interview. "I'm their manager, but I'm really a mum."

Poor but happy family

Louise and her three brothers grew up poor in Liverpool, England. She was 11 years older than George.

Their father was a bus driver, and their mother worked in a shop during "Christmas rush."

"It was a very, very loving, easygoing family," Louise said. "Even when (World War II) broke out, I don't remember being unhappy."

Louise married an engineer and left England in 1956. She lived in Canada and South America before moving to the United States in the 1960s.

Her husband got a job in the Southern Illinois mining industry, so the couple spent several years in Benton. George came to visit in 1963.

"When he went back to England, he said, 'Now I know why it's called "the heartland." People have such kind hearts,'" Louise said. "He found them to be very friendly."

Life for the Harrisons would change dramatically in the next two years.

The Beatles became international superstars after "Ed Sullivan." Louise was in the audience for the show, taped in New York City.

In the years that followed, she said her parents did their part by answering fan letters.

"When (The Beatles) came to America, I remember my mother saying that we as a family must give back the love to the fans," Louise said. "We must show our appreciation, and that's why I've always been available to Beatles people and the press."

Forming a tribute band

The Beatles split in 1970, and John Lennon was shot to death 10 years later. George made a series of solo albums, released the work of other artists on his record label and served as executive producer of an independent film company.

George died of cancer in 2001 at age 58. Louise described him as "ready to go."

"He had enough of the nonsense and the trivialities of life, the way people get bent out of shape over things that aren't the least bit important," she said.

Louise met Scott soon after George's death. He was performing with another Beatles tribute band at a flashback show in Chicago.

Louise said tears came to her eyes as Scott sang "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." They had dinner together and became friends. He reminded her of George.

"(Scott) had the same kindness, compassion and attention to detail in his music," Louise said. "He wanted to make sure everything was correct, and George was like that, too."

Louise handpicked other members of Liverpool Legends, including Kevin Mantegna, who portrays Lennon; Greg George as Ringo Starr; and Bob Beahon as Paul McCartney. All are from the Midwest.

Scott grew up in Chicago. He performed with the band American English before Liverpool Legends formed in 2005 and started playing Branson.

"We stuck out like a sore thumb because most of the acts at that time were country," Scott said. "But we found out there were Beatles fans, even in Branson. That first year, we did five shows a week for 10 months."

Louise is preparing to release a book, titled "My Kid Brother's Band: Also known as The Beatles." Pre-publication orders are being taken through Sikeston, Mo.-based Acclaim Press.

The book will tell the Harrison family story, going back to Louise's childhood. She describes her mother as a "surrogate mum" to John, Paul and Ringo.

"In order to know The Beatles better," Louise said, "it's important to know something of the family they came from."

At a glance

Who: "Liverpool Legends: The Complete Beatles Experience!"

Where: Olin Theatre, Hatheway Cultural Center, Lewis and Clark Community College, 5800 Godfrey Road, Godfrey

When: 8 p.m. April 26 (doors open at 7)

Admission: $25 to $40; top price includes meet and greet with the band and Louise Harrison

Tickets: Alton Exchange in Alton, Laurie's Place in Edwardsville, Euclid Records in Webster Groves, Mo. or online at papertickets.com

Information: Call 670-3394

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