The Beatles will be represented at this year’s induction ceremony by the Kansas Music Hall of Fame — in song, at least.
Liverpool has been a Beatles tribute band since late 1989, and Saturday night at Liberty Hall the Kansas City quartet will be one of 12 bands or performers to become members of the hall, which is celebrating its 10th induction ceremony.
“It’s great to be acknowledged for what we’ve kept together,” said Gary Butler, drummer for the band. “So many people really enjoy what we do and encourage us to do it because it means something to them to hear the Beatles’ music and experience the show.”
Two successful cover bands broke up to form Liverpool: Butler, Larry Kips and Steve Davis were all members of the Crayons, a ’60s/British Invasion cover band.
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Halloween night in 1988, the Crayons did a short Beatles set during a show at Blayney’s. The response was so good, they decided to fold the Crayons and start Liverpool. They recruited Jimmy Bond, who agreed to join and folded his band, Plain Jane.
“We took a big risk, breaking up two popular bands to start another,” Davis said. “But the rewards have been great.”
All four spent 1988 preparing to become a full-on Beatles tribute band, learning the music and fashioning the costumes.
“When we started, there was real Beatles industry,” Kips said. “There were like five Beatles bands in the world. Now there are hundreds and there’s an industry that sells replicas of Beatle boots and costumes. We had to get all our gear and costumes custom made.
“We started as a group of friends. We didn’t hold auditions to find someone who looked just like Ringo or John. But we wanted to do everything else right and study their mannerisms and dialogue and find the right instruments and get the right look in costumes so when we go out to perform, the crowd gives us a break for not looking exactly like the Beatles because we do everything else right.”
“We dissect everything,” Butler said. “Who’s singing what in the harmonies, what the precise chords are. We tried playing ‘Rain’ forever, but it just didn’t sound right. Then Steve spent some time with it and nailed it down.”
“It required some retuning,” Davis said. “A lot of bands play it with standard chords and standard tuning and it just doesn’t sound right.”
Liverpool has performed in all corners of the country, from California and Texas to Florida, Michigan and New Jersey. Most of its gigs are private or corporate events or festivals.
The band has gone through some personnel changes. Bond left the band in 2007 due to an illness; he died in 2011. Dave Tanner, who had been playing in a Beatles cover band called Because, became the band’s bassist in August 2007.
“My first show was in Topeka,” he said. “I’d been through a handful of rehearsals, but I’d never put on the full costumes. It was a 100 degrees that day. When you walk out and see 1,000 people in front of you, it wakes you up. You know you’re alive. I had stage fright for the first time.”
Saturday night, Liverpool will be rewarded for reviving the sights and sounds of the Beatles for 25 years.
Allen Blasco, a board member and co-founder of the hall of fame, said though Liverpool doesn’t create the music it performs, it deserves recognition.
“If you think about it, Elvis Presley didn’t write, and in fact covered other people’s material,” Blasco said. “Imagine his career if he tried to write his own songs, a talent he clearly didn’t have.
“Though we’ve inducted an impressive number of great songwriters and performers, probably a majority of all the (hall of fame) inductees are technically ‘cover bands,’ even if they’ve had a hit original or more in the mix.
“It’s about the act as a whole, how they would interpret and perform the music in their own unique and powerful way, whether it’s theirs or someone else’s.
“What they brought to the stage and/or recording studio musically is what endeared them to fans, and what made them inductees.”
Kips said his band his proud of its longevity and its place in the world of tribute bands.
“We’re like the grandfathers of tribute bands,” he said. “We helped start it. The (induction) means we’ve been doing it a long time. But we’re one of the few bands getting inducted that are still performing, still a working band, and we’re proud of that.”
The Kansas Music Hall of Fame ceremony and concert starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. Performers include Liverpool, Gary Winston Apple, Marcy Bowman (on behalf of her mother, Priscilla), the Benders and the Lonnie Ray Band. Tickets are $30 through Ticketmaster and at the Liberty Hall box office (cash only).
From top left: Liverpool; Kansas City singer/songwriter Gary Winston Apple (see story on C3); Wichita ’50s-’60s cover band the Benders; KCK bluegrass guitarist Dan Crary; Lawrence rock-blues band the Lonnie Ray Band; precursor to progressive rock band Kansas, Proto-Kaw. Not pictured: Kansas City jazz singer Priscilla Bowman (deceased); Topeka guitarist Dan Falley (deceased) ; Craig Treinen, jazz saxophonist and director of jazz studies at Washburn University, Topeka.
‘I write and record music for my own pleasure and amusement’
Gary Winston Apple has been a high school teacher, a political candidate — he ran for the District 29 seat in the Missouri House in November — and an author. But music has long been a passion and interest. Back in the 1970s, the Kansas City native signed a deal with Monument Records, thanks to the song “Shoot ’Em Up, Cowboy,” which made some waves on the charts but lost its momentum when the label’s distribution deal was severed.
Apple will be among the 12 performers and bands being inducted Saturday into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. Apple told The Star that the induction represents the excellence of the music community he continues to work in.
“Although I am solidly mediocre on keyboards and an adequate guitarist, I am primarily a singer/songwriter and producer,” he said by email. “As such, I have always depended on the accompaniment of talented musicians to really bring my songs to life. There are so many talented musicians here, both now and going back to the early days of my career, writing songs and then recording them has always been and continues to be a source of great happiness for me.”
Winston, who is working on his 15th studio album, said music has become primarily a hobby, so getting recognized for it is another bonus.
“To be perfectly honest, I write and record for my own pleasure and amusement. I am not capable of doing it any other way,” he said. “However, I am always pleased to find that someone else enjoys what I’ve created. I love knowing that people all around the world download my music and sometimes even pay for the privilege. Having my work recognized by the Kansas Music Hall of Fame is especially meaningful to me.”
Timothy Finn, The Star