Joe Bithorne as George Harrison
Joe as Ed Sullivan era George

Joe today

Cast Member:


Lead Guitar

Beatlemania 1983

  (above) Joe takes the spotlight during a 
1983 performance of "TAXMAN" 
with fellow Beatlemania cast members: 
Sy Gorieb (Ringo), Lenie Colacino (Paul), 
Jim Riddle (John: off camera)


Joe Bithorne as George Harrison

performing in RAIN's  production of
at the Eldorado Showroom, Reno, Nevada


performing with fellow Beatlemania alumnis
Joey Curatolo (Paul) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo)

  20 Questions with Joe Bithorn:

1) How did you hear about BEATLEMANIA auditions?

I had seen ads for “Beatle” look-a-like, sound-a-like in the NYC area papers such as “VillageVoice” but never thought of myself as a candidate for that kind of audition. 

2) Your audition experience wasn't quite like most other alumni.  Would you care to explain what happened? 

2.I was working with a “Beatles” cover band called “Beat the Meatles” and a buddy of mine, who happened to be my brother Chuck’s roommate, Rob Alter, had come to the club and saw me
play. He mentioned (to my brother) that his friends, Mitch Weisman and Joe Pecorino were wondering if he would consider a gig with “Beatlemania” filling in the “George” slot for Tom Teely. He was busy at the time and soon to be working with Ian Hunter. My brother suggested asking me and at the same time Rob did as well. I had to arrange the audition (no one called) and Rob came down and introduced me. I played some songs with Mitch, Joe and their drummer, Bennett Gale. The musical director for the show, Gigi Hageman was also present. I asked if I passed the audition but they said they would call me later and let me know. They also asked my jacket size, shoe size so I was pretty hopeful. 
I later received a call from Bob Strauss welcoming me onboard. 

3) How old were you when you were accepted into the show? 

I was 25 years old at the time. 

4)  What was your first experience on stage as George in front of an audience like? 

Going from the studios and smaller venues, the first couple of shows were mind blowing and almost surreal. I was wearing contact lenses for the first time in my life, wearing a wig and stage
makeup, and portraying George Harrison with absolutely no acting experience ever with a full blown Broadway touring company! I hadn’t even seen “Beatlemania” and when I informed the musical director, my debut was put off another week. I studied the show and underwent my trial by fire. I was also unaware that had I failed, Tom Teely was prepared to come back in till a suitable replacement could be found. 

5)   Was it the first for your other band members as well?  Tell us what that moment was like right before you hit that first note on IWHYH! 

Jim Riddle and I joined the cast at the same time although Jim had been in rehearsals for 6 months. The moment before we hit the first notes of  IWHYH were like I said before, Surreal!!! 

6)  How many years were you with the show? 

I worked with the show from June of 1980 till December 1982

7)  Had you been performing professionally as a musician prior to your signing-on with Beatlemania? 

I had been working as a musician from age 11. My first studio gigs were in Media Sound in NYC in 1971. I worked with a group called Fox with an engineer by the name of Joe Ferla and a producer named Bob Weiner. 
8)   The show seemed very "PAUL SONG" heavy with no George songs at all (until the Bus and Truck tours).  Was that frustrating for you?  I did, much to my surprize, get to see you perfrom TAXMAN in 1983.  That was an unexpected treat!!! 
The show was a constraint in that sense although as a session musician, you always left your ego outside your performance. 
I suggested Taxman because the Bus and Truck had been performing Rollover Beethoven. I thought Taxman not only a better choice but a much more interesting song on a technical level. 

9)  Were there ever any accidents on stage say during costume changes? eg: trips and falls, etc. 

In Toronto, at the Okeefe Center, with my parents in the audience, I tripped running offstage for a costume change knocking all my pedals and Mitch Weisman’s Hofner bass to the floor. It was all
behind a scrim so no one actually saw it but there was a loud crash as I hit the floor. Fortunately I was unhurt as was the bass and our guitar tech saved the day. 

10) If you had any, what was the most embarrassing moment on stage?  Power outage? Flubbed lyrics? Sneezes? etc. 

The Shubert Theater in Chicago was my embarrassing moment. I forgot to zip up and happened to be wearing red jockeys in white tuxedo pants. Not a problem until you sit on the floor with your legs crossed!! 

11) What was your favorite part of the show? 

My favorite parts of the show have to do with the humor of the performers I was privileged to have to worked with and still do. Every show was a joy in that way. There were times I was laughing so hard I thought my contacts would pop out! 

 12) What was your least favorite? And WHY? 

My least favorite time had to do with Jim Riddle’s illness. I guess it might not really pertain to the “Beatlemania” days because we worked quite a long time together in “Rain”, but we came in to “Beatlemania” at the same time and I felt his loss as one would feel losing a brother. I guess the worst of it was that it was terminal and he wouldn’t be part of our lives anymore. When he died, I was glad he wasn’t suffering the pain anymore. I am eternally in his debt for all I learned about the stage from his perspective. I’m also very thankful that “Rain” was able to have gotten the awesome talents of Steve Landes to replace Jim. They were also close, and to me, Steve brings a strong musicianship and vocal ability that enables “Rain“ to continue. Combine that with his
understanding of Jim (a friend of his as well) and it seems the circle is unbroken. 

13) Who did you enjoy working with the most? 

If you only mean during “Beatlemania” it would be Jim Riddle. If you mean including this time it would everyone in “Rain” with the inclusion of Jim. 
14) Where did you enjoy performing the most? (What city, country, theatre, etc.) 
I enjoyed Canada quite a bit. Toronto and Montreal were fantastic stops overall. I also enjoyed the Beverly Theater (no longer there) in Los Angeles as well. 
15) Did you play vintage instruments and use vintage equipment for the show?   You acquired a 50's era Stratocaster from Cheap Trick's very own Rick Neilsen while you were doing the Beatlemania tour.  Tell us about that guitar and if you used it for the Beatlemania show. 
When I joined “Beatlemania” I already owned (and still do) a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. It
originally was a gold top that I sanded down and stained but I had it refinished to look like the
Les Paul George received as a gift from Eric Clapton. By the way, the original owner of that guitar was Rick Derringer. It is a Les Paul Custom that he refinished to the red color it is today. After
this was done I’m sure he went through the same thing I did with my guitar. The sustain and sound of the guitar becomes muffled. Not happy with the sound he sold it in NYC where Eric Clapton bought it. A finish has to dry before a guitar resonates properly. My Les Paul is a wonderful guitar and as the finish dries, it “sings” a little more each day. The 58 Strat I did puchase from Rick Neilson is still used in the show and has become a favorite of mine. The bus and truck version of the show stopped in Rockford,Il. in1981. One of our backstage musicians brought a sax in to a music store to have it appraised. It happened to be Rick Neilson’s father’s store. He asked if anyone was looking for vintage guitars as his son was selling some of his collection. Without knowing about this, I got a call at the civic center from Rick Neilson asking if I were interested in old Strats. I didn’t believe it was
him and thought it was a practical joke but I was on the lookout for a vintage strat and said I wanted a 58 maple neck. He really did show up with the guitar (I looked down while onstage to see him
walking in with an old tweed case)!!  I played it backstage (unamplified) and just knew I had to have this guitar!! My hands felt like I’d found a lifelong instrument. We plugged it in and I was in
heaven! We talked price and after borrowing money from everyone on the crew I got my Strat and Neilson got my money and 3 six packs of our beer! 
16) If you were trapped on a desert island with only one instrument, which would it be? 
That’s a tough one but I’d have to say my 58 Strat. 
17) We know that supposedly none of the original Beatles ever saw the show live, but some people from the Beatles camp (other than attourneys)  did see it.  Do you recall who? Any celebs see the shows that you did back then? 
I personally never saw any of the Beatles at our show but at the Beverly theater some of celebs who attended the show were Lamont Dozier (Motown writer and producer for the Supremes, Four Tops, etc.), Carmine Appice (original drummer for The Vanilla Fudge), and of course, Rick Neilson   (of Cheap Trick). 
18) Did you ever meet any of the Beatles? 
No, I’ve never had the pleasure of  meeting any of the Beatles. 
19) Question number 189 is usually "Do you still perform with other alumni?"  Obviously, you've never stopped!  How long have you been with "RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES"?  and how did that come about, your joining the group I mean. 
I currently work with Joey Curatolo (20 years now), Ralph Castelli (17 years) and Steve Landes (6 years). I joined “Rain” in January of 1983 after hearing that they were looking to replace their lead guitarist and bass player. I had heard that Joey was going to join and had wanted to work with him since I first heard him. 
I auditioned at Mark Lewis’s place in No. Hollywood while I was still performing with “Beatlemania” at the Beverly theater in December, 1982. 

20) All in all, looking back, how was the Beatlemania experience for you? And the RAIN experience?

The experiences working with both “Beatlemania” and “Rain” have been extremely rewarding and fortunate for a musician who was finding his way and learning the lesson of the art and business
sides of his chosen profession. A lot of talented players never see their way through to where they can make a living at it and I consider myself very lucky that I have. 

21) Most everyone agrees (your bandmates, myself, your audiences) that you're an incredible guitarist. Care to fill us in on the ol' non-beatle resume  a bit?  Who have you worked with in the past and who would you like to work with in the future?

I started out in NYC trying to be a journeyman session player. At 16 I was working at Media Sound Studios in Manhattan along with Joe Ferla who engineered. 10 years later I was recording
with a band named “Shelter” (for Polygram Records) at the Hit Factory also in NYC. The funny thing about this is it turned out that Joe Ferla was the engineer on this recording as well. He has enjoyed success in the business and is a major talent working with the likes of David Sanborn and I’m sure countless other artists. Joey and I both recorded with Mike Pinder, founding member of the “Moody Blues” I would enjoy working someday with my brother Chuck, who is a successful and talented musician in the Atlanta area. I would also enjoy working with my cousins, Jerry and Andy Gonzalez who are legendary Latin Jazz musicians in the NYC area. I’ve always loved “Steely Dan” and all the session players on their recordings and that would be just some of the gigs I would love to be a part of. 
Thank you Joe for sharing the great answers !

Check out photos of Joe in action by clicking on the following links:

Joe in RAIN

Joe's 360/12V64 and his prized '58 Strat

RAIN's "YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!" show 
with Beatlemania alumnis:
Joey Curatolo, Steve Landes, Ralph Castelli, and Joe Bithorn

click on the images for larger views