By Jennifer Smith | Reporter
The Beatles’ tribute band, Beatlemania64, is performing at the Hooper Schaefer Fine Arts Center this Friday, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Bealemania64 puts on a multi-media show that transports the audience to The Beatles’ touring years of 1962-1966, complete with English accents, matching suits and the exact instruments The Beatles used.
Mark Nix, the John Lennon of the band, said Beatlemania64 formed from a string of pleasant coincidences. Eighteen years ago, Nix was playing a show in Palestine, Texas, when his band jokingly came out on stage as the fictitious Beatles’ band the “Mississippi Muddcatts.”
The show was broadcast live on the radio, and a stranger from Shreveport, LA, heard them playing, ”Can’t Buy Me Love.” Nix said the man sought the band out and within six weeks of that performance, he had invested a million dollars into their show, and the rest was history.
After touring around America for a few years, Beatlemania64 was rediscovered by Sid Bernstein, the man who originally discovered The Beatles.
“I went to a tire shop and a guy that was working there recognized me. He told me he knew Sid Bernstein, and asked for our promo material. I just went along with it, playing devil’s advocate, and sent him our stuff,” Nix said. “A couple years went by and I got a random phone call one day from none other than Sid Bernstein himself.”
Nix said he did not believe it and he thought it was a prank that one of the guys in the band was playing on him. This was an astounding moment for Nix because Bernstein is a music icon who also discovered The Rascals, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, along with managing Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and many more famous names and acts.
“Sid told me he actually called because of the guy in the tire shop. He said he tried to get The Beatles back together for one last show before John Lennon died, but it never happened.” Nix said. “Sid told me he would never endorse a Beatles cover band until he heard us.”
Bernstien followed the band’s progress for a few years before calling Nix, and he was so blown away by Beatlemania64’s sound that he gave the band his official endorsement.
Bernstein and Nix formed a close friendship, and Nix said the two would spend time in John Lennon’s New York apartment talking about music and stories from The Beatles era. When Bernstein passed away in 2013, he left Nix the right to the original Beatlemania logo.
However, the band’s luck with fate did not stop at Sid Bernstein. Travis McGuire, who plays George Harrison, was discovered by Nix almost 10 years before joining the band.
In July 2007, McGuire played a show in Waco with his former Austin-based punk band, The Civilians. Nix happened to be among the audience, and asked McGuire if he would be interested in joining his band, then called, The Muddcatts. McGuire denied his offer.
“I was too busy at the time and that was that, or so I thought… seven years later in 2014, I got a surprise call from “Mark Mudcatt,” McGuire said. “He said, ‘hey bro,’ in his distinct southern drawl, ‘I’m in a pickle man, I need a George.’ They were under contract for a few shows and unfortunately the old George had split. I agreed, crash course learned over 30 Beatles songs in less than a month and I’ve been with the band ever since.”
McGuire said his favorite part about the band is how much fun they have on the road.
“Lots of laughs, pranks and crazy stories have happened in the last three years. One day I hope to write a book about it called, “You Can’t Do That — My Life as a Fake Beatle,” McGuire said.
The Paul McCartney of the group, Spencer Clarke, also met the band by happenstance three years ago at a party in Austin. Clarke said he enjoys getting to portray one of the only living Beatles left, but it does not come without its challenges.
“I usually rehearse alone for few hours, working on vocal parts and bass lines, I always like to be prepared. In my opinion, I have probably the most difficult Beatle to imitate. No pressure right?” Clarke said. “I’m also learning to play bass left-handed just like ‘Sir Paul,’ soon I’ll be able to transition from right to left-handed.”
This Friday, take a trip back to the 60’s while Beatlemania64 recreates the beloved music and legendary energy of The Beatles. Find tickets here or at the door, and meet the band at the post-show party at the Dancing Bear Pub.