There are Beatles tributes and then there is American English. The latter is unique in that they performed for more than 50,000 rabid Fab Four fans in Liverpool itself and were the only band other than the Beatles themselves to be handled by original Sixties Beatles promoter Sam Leach.
Together for over 20 years, the Chicago-based quartet -- Frank Canino (John), Eric Michaels (Paul), Danny Leavitt (George) and Tom Gable (Ringo) -- present the musical history of the four famous British lads from when they struck the first chord in front of the cameras on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, to when the dream and the band officially ended with a rooftop concert on the famous Apple Records building in 1970.
The wealth of music created by the Beatles in just six short years is nothing short of amazing and keeping it alive for new generations is the mission of American English.
American English will perform their Beatles' tribute show Saturday at Star Plaza Theatre.
“I would say we do about 135 one nighters a year. This project takes us from the Midwest, to all of the States, and we’ve performed in Mexico, Guam, Japan, Paris, England, Australia, and so many other places around the world,” said Michaels. “The Beatles and their music have touched people and impacted every corner of the world.”
Realizing the love people have for the group’s music, Michaels explained how seriously he and his mates take their job of recreating it for the masses. “It’s not just the music, but also the look and the presentation,” he said of why American English is billed as “the complete Beatles tribute.”
“We travel historically through the periods of the Beatles' career, from their start in 1963 to the end when they made their final album, ‘Abbey Road'," continued Michaels. "We represent each period of their career. We wear exact replicas of each era’s costuming (from the matching collarless suits, to the day-glo Sgt. Pepper uniforms, to the blue jean and bearded look they had at the end), we bring 20 some odd guitars to every show so we have the correct guitars they used for each tune, and it's the same with all the backline equipment. We use the same amplifiers and bring with us a white baby grand piano just like John Lennon played on songs like ‘Imagine’. When I (as Paul) use it when playing ‘Hey Jude,’ I always joke and thank Yoko for letting me borrow it (alluding to the stress Lennon’s wife allegedly created within the Beatles).”
While there is no Yoko Ono in the American English line-up, there is a “fifth Beatle,” just as the real group had when producer George Martin and their piano-playing pal Billy Preston alternated in assuming that role.
“Kenny Zemanek is our Billy Preston and George Martin rolled into one,” said Michaels. “Kenny plays all the signature horn parts, strings and other instruments that were an important part of the recordings done at Abbey Road and that made the latter day Beatles music so unique.”
American English' live repertoire changes often to keep things fresh for those loyalists who return to see the group again and again. “The Beatles have a lot of great music, so we switch things around often,” said Michaels.
“Every Beatles fan has a favorite era and we represent them all to the very best of our ability at every show,” Michaels said.