By Julie Tate, Reporter
The Beatles are back and in town. Well, not exactly, but the next best thing is.
Beatles tribute band, Beatlemania 64 will perform at 7:30 p.m. today at the Waco Hippodrome Theatre.
A little over 15 years ago, the group started off as a country band that branched out and did a Beatles and Elvis tribute show under the name Johnny Mandell and the Muddcatts.
“I guess we were country guys, but we needed to rock ’n’ roll,” said Mark Nix, the lead singer for Beatlemania 64.
Not only does Nix play John Lennon for Beatlemania 64, he is also the only original member still performing with the group. He still remembers how the band got its big break.
A promoter who listened to their show over the radio offered to financially support the group so they could reach their full potential and perfect their show, Nix said.
With the help of the promoter, the band began doing more large-scale performances across the nation. Their biggest performance was at Fort Hood Stadium in Killeen in the early 2000s. Over 85,000 fans came to see the band perform with famous singer Joan Jett, said Nix.
During this time period the band was playing up to 180 shows per year. For performers, this wasn’t a side job. It was a lifestyle, Nix said.
“It changed my whole life. It became a career,” Nix said.
The original Johnny Mandell and the Muddcatts got a new name when Nix received a call from Sid Bernstein, the music producer and promoter who brought the Beatles to America back in the 1960s.
Bernstein had been keeping up with the Beatles tribute band through the knowledge of his family members and was impressed by what they were doing, so he decided to reward the band in a unique way.
“He wanted to make us the only band to be endorsed by the guy who brought the Beatles to America,” Nix said.
When Bernstein passed away in 2013, the band was encouraged to rename their group using “Beatlemania,” a word Bernstein held the rights to while alive. In order to use “Beatlemania” in the name, however, the band had to tag it with an additional word or number.
“We came up with the number 64, which means the year [The Beatles] came to America,” Nix said.
Since renaming the band Beatlemania 64, the group has toured all over the Caribbean on celebrity cruise ships in addition to performing across regions in the United States.
Even though they have traveled abroad to several places while on tour, band members said they excited to play songs like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” for a Central Texas audience in the historic Waco Hippodrome.
Beatlemania 64 drummer Reno Tandy and Nix both live in the area and are excited to have their families watch them perform tonight.
So far around 150 people have gotten their tickets for the show, but Kirk Richards, general manager for the Hippodrome, expects many more people to purchase tickets.
“Attendance is picking up rapidly,” Richards said. “We will far exceed 150, possibly tripling [before the show even happens].”
Tickets are set at $20 for a balcony seat and $40 for a ground seat, and can be purchased at the Hippodrome website or box office.