The really big show aired Feb. 9, 1964, but the Fab Four still inspire tribute acts

Sunday News Correspondent
February 08. 2014 12:08AM
Fifty years ago tonight, the Beatles made their American debut with their first appearance on (Zuma Press/MCT)

Jeff Landrock was 11 years old the Sunday night the Beatles first performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 50 years ago today.

He recalled the anticipation and excitement he and his siblings felt and the confusion expressed by his parents.

"One of my recollections was my dad coming in and us three kids in front of the TV and he said, 'You kids don't like them, do you?' And we all looked at him, like, 'Are you crazy?'," Landrock said. "He ended up to be a big fan. It just took a while. It was the long hair that turned the parents off, I think."

Landrock never imagined that on the 50th anniversary of that iconic performance he would be on stage performing dozens of the songs made famous by the Beatles over their career.

Landrock and the other members of Beatles tribute band "All Together Now" don't have long hair - at least not anymore - and they don't dress in costumes that make them resemble their iconic role models. Instead, they channel John, Paul, George and Ringo through their music, with a multimedia presentation providing the visuals.

"We don't put on the suits and boots and wigs and stuff. We know we would look ridiculous in that stuff," All Together Now member Bruce Hilton said. "What we are doing is a tribute to the music and in fact, each one of us really doesn't have a specific role in the band. A lot of Beatle tribute bands, this guy is John or George. We mix it up in a kind of Beatles blender, and when it comes out ... it sounds right."

Hilton said there is a lot of talk this year about how "The Ed Sullivan Show" performance changed the world. He does not think that is an exaggeration.

"A lot of walls came down, and the Beatles continued to break down those walls as we know for the next 10 years, and it absolutely was a revolution that the world hasn't seen the like of ever since," Hilton said. "It is not a story about a pop band. It is a story about an entire vision, and I'm not sure the Beatles knew they were doing that."

Watching video from "The Ed Sullivan Show" - Hilton is not quite old enough to have seen it live - he said the Beatles seem flabbergasted and are grinning on stage as if wondering what all the fuss was about.

"They were just eating it up, but they had no idea what was ahead. It's interesting to look back on it now," Hilton said.

Hilton and his All Together Now bandmates hope to show some footage from that performance during their own performance at the Rialto Theater in Lancaster tonight.

Landrock said the band first formed in 1993 with four guys getting together just to see if they could play some Beatles music.

"Just because it was fun. I don't think there was any intention to form a band, but we became addicted," Landrock said. "We started with the early Beatles stuff and just evolved."

When All Together Now asked him to join eight years ago, Hilton said, he jumped at the chance.

"It was daunting at first. I had such a huge responsibility to really to try to do my best to replicate perfection," Hilton said.

Hilton and Landrock had been discussing their excitement about the upcoming anniversary and what it means to Beatles fans, and what it would mean to play on that date.

Landrock was born in Lancaster and used to see movies at the Rialto as a child, so he said it means a lot to him to be able to play in the restored theater with his relatives in the audience.

David Fuller, Jr., co-owner of the Rialto, said he has always enjoyed Beatles music. After seeing All Together Now perform at the Lancaster Fairgrounds last summer, he was eager to have them perform at his theater.

"They are a fun group to watch," Fuller said. "A lot of people had a great time when they were in Lancaster last summer, and we are really looking forward to a fun night."

On Thursday, the theater also will host a free screening of the Beatles' film "A Hard Day's Night," with donations for the local food pantry being accepted.

Fuller, 37, said he appreciates the evolution of Beatles music from the early days and songs like "Love Me Do" to their later, "stonier" days and more complex music.

Fuller said the popularity of the Beatles' performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" is almost unbelievable now.

"Back then, four single musicians was a new concept, and rock n' roll was so fairly new," Fuller said.

Hilton said the enduring message in Beatles music is of hope and love.

"That is a concept that people sometimes think is tacky or passé, but it's the truest message out there, and it's important, and every generation needs some love, and they need some hope, and Beatles music is there for them as they grow up and as they grow older," Hilton said.

All Together Now is not the only Beatles tribute band celebrating the "Ed Sullivan Show" anniversary in New Hampshire this week. Beatles tribute band Studio Two will mark the anniversary of the "landing of the Beatles" at 1 p.m. today at the British Beer Company in Manchester.

On Tuesday, the tribute band "Rain" comes to the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord at 7:30 p.m. for a performance featuring a full range of the Beatles' catalogue.

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