Liverpool Legends proof of Beatles' lasting impact
Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Indiana
May 05, 2005
Minutes after hanging up the phone with Louise Harrison on Tuesday
morning, I walked into a coffee shop and heard The Beatles' "Two of
Us" jangling over a stereo in the background.
Back when I was on the Indiana State University basketball beat and
I would mention such a confluence of unintended events in a postgame
press conference, Sycamore Coach Royce Waltman enjoyed spotting my
efforts to make sense of the obvious by saying, "That, Mark, is
But that moment Tuesday may have been more than ironic. Yes, Louise
is the big sister of late Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison.
And we did spend much of our half-hour talking about the music and
lasting influence of that quartet she fondly calls "my kid brother's
band." As she put it, the world still has "a deep connection to
them." And then moments later, I swung that coffee shop door open
only to hear Lennon and McCartney singing, "You and I have memories
longer than the road that stretches out ahead."
In most situations, you'd have to call that irony. But with The
Beatles, it's just validation that they remain inescapable.
Millions of fans share memories stretching four decades long. That
bond will bring Louise to the Wabash Valley for a three-day stay
next week. She'll speak about a variety of topics in a gathering at
7 p.m. Thursday, May 12 in the Zwermann Performing Arts Center on
the Lincoln Trail College campus at Robinson, Ill. Two nights later,
Louise will be in the audience in the Robinson Bowling Center,
watching the band she now manages - the Liverpool Legends, a Beatles
tribute act - play an 8 o'clock show on Saturday, May 14.
At age 73, she happily wears the title of "Mum to the Family of
Beatle People." And she's been their American ambassador ever since
she moved from Liverpool to Benton, Ill., shortly before John, Paul,
George and Ringo invaded the United States in 1964. (Actually,
George visited her there in 1963, before the rest of the band hit
U.S. soil, and her old house where he once slept is now a historic
landmark and a bed-and-breakfast.) It was Louise who wrote letters
to their manager, Brian Epstein, trying to explain to him that
getting on "The Ed Sullivan Show" was a big deal. Once Beatlemania
exploded, she did Beatles updates on radio stations around the
country in advance of their tour stops. And she answered a flood of
fan mail for George, just as her parents did back in England.
The Beatles disbanded in 1970. Lennon was shot to death in 1980. And
George died of cancer at age 58 in 2001. But the passing of time
hasn't erased the fascination. For example, Louisville, Ky., will
host a Beatles festival "Abbey Road on the River" on May 27-29.
Louise made a spur-of-the-moment appearance in Sullivan, Ill., on
Feb. 25 - George's birthday - and nearly 60 young kids showed
up. "That was very gratifying," she says.
Their unforgettable music and especially their message of peace,
love and kindness plays well in all generations everywhere, Louise
"That's the thing that's surprising, even the young people at the
schools - those that were lucky enough to have Beatle people for
parents - are very attuned and keen to that," she says.
In a way, the success of her Liverpool Legends is evidence.
She spotted two of the group's members while they were performing
with another Beatles tribute band in the historic Pickwick Theatre
at Park Ridge, Ill., a few months after her brother died. And a song
by Marty Scott (the George character) moved her to tears.
Eventually, Scott and rhythm guitarist Kevin Mantegna (John) formed
Liverpool Legends with Davey Justice (Paul) on lefty bass and Joe
Bologna (Ringo) on drums, and with Louise as their manager.
"I'd already become the big sister to the George in this band,
Marty, after my brother died, because he has a lot of his
characteristics - very kind and compassionate," she says. "And we
have a great time."
She even took Marty to meet the real McCartney. And, apparently, Sir
Paul learned something from their conversation.
"Paul was saying, 'We've written so much music, it isn't easy to
remember all the words,'" Louise recalls. "And our George
said, 'When we forget, we just lip-read the people in the front
row.' And Paul said, 'That's a good idea.'"
As for their playing and their look, Louise says the Liverpool
Legends - one of nearly 500 Beatles tribute acts worldwide - "are so
very, very good." In fact, samples of their performances on the
band's Web site www.liverpoollegends.com
had engineers joking the
playing was so similar "it sounds as though we've taken snippets off
the original Beatles," Louise says.
Regenerating those tunes, lyrics and inspirations is worthwhile, she
says, adding, "They had more of an impact than lads just playing
Louise still gets letters from people around the globe who say they
learned to speak English by listening to Beatles records. Such tales
offset bizarre memories of fans mobbing her own son and daughter,
and dropping in at the family's house in Benton at the height of
These guys made "happy music," as she calls it, but also became
spokesmen for peace and understanding.
"That still has an appeal now," Louise says. "That's the basic human
kindness we all have when we're born, but it's sort of beaten out of
us as we grow older. And what The Beatles were saying was, 'Let's
bottle some of this.'"
George embraced that concept in a religious way, and his big sister
embraced a similar, spiritualism of self-realization, too.
"It says the life force that is within you is a drop of God and that
we're all connected," Louise explains. "And if more people
understood that, we wouldn't be bashing each other over the head and
blowing each other up. We'd be treating people with kindness."