Well, here it is folks. From the "Face of
Beatlemania" himself, Mitch's 20 Questions:
* How did you hear about BEATLEMANIA
The way I remember it, I had a friend Andy who worked
at Sam Ash Music in Hempstead, LI who called me on the phone and said “There’s
a flyer up here saying, wanted: Beatle Lookalikes, singers/musicians for
unique opportunity. Call Mrs. Price at...” And, as luck would have it,
I had my friend Carl Grefenstette visiting from Pittsburgh. He said, “You're
going!” and he dragged me down to the audition.
On another note, Carl was my friend from Carnegie
Mellon who was a drummer in the bands we played in. He had a great time
racing back and forth between NYC and his Pennsylvania countryside, finding
and selling to the show any Vox, Rick, etc. gear he could find. He is
now the proud founder and owner of Pittsburgh Guitars, and I'm sure he
would want most of that stuff in the store now!
* Had you been impersonating
Paul McCartney before you heard about Beatlemania?
No, I wasn't impersonating Paul, but the club band
I was in did a Beatles Medley and I did play guitar and piano during those
numbers as well as sing them. Some promoter at the time suggested I do
a Wings style show. I thought he was crazy! What, and give up Led Zep,
Free and Bad Company? Jimmy Crespo, later Joe Perry’s replacement in Aerosmith,
was our “other” guitar player.
* What was your audition experience
like? e.g.: was the room full of Beatle impersonators, or was it just you
and a music director?
It was me, an acoustic guitar and 2 other guys
in the room at the old SIR studios on 54th Street in NYC. They asked me
to do a fast song (“Get Back”) and a ballad (“Yesterday”). I played and
sang about 1/4 of each song while one guy wrote furiously what I thought
were a ton of notes! Turns out he was writing and over writing the same
2 sentences...”Looks just like Paul. Sounds close!” That guy turned out
to be Kenny Laguna, the first MD and later on Joan Jett's Mgr./friend/mentor
* I understand that a lot
of the concept of the show came about after the producers saw you perform
at a Beatlefest. Your uncanny resemblance to Paul inspired them to create
the show, or so is the rumor. Any comments?
No, that wasn't it at all. I was invited down
to a Beatlefest at the old Statler Hilton Hotel in NYC by a friend of mine
named Matthew who played in the house band “Steak Night.” This was 1976
and prior to Liverpool being the official B’Fest house band. I played
“Get Back” after Sid Bernstein introduced me as being in rehearsals for
an exciting new show about the Beatles. The friend who brought me there
took some pictures of me that day in the afternoon, one of which was signed
by John Lennon later on outside the Dakota and given back to me. I still
have it somewhere.
* How old were you when you
were accepted into the show?
Oh, great. Now you want math?? Let’s see, May
1953 to June 1976. Just turned 23? Is that right? I've got to sit down...
* Were you excited when you
were told that you were "IN"?
Well, as excited as we could be considering they
never really told us what the heck we being hired for exactly. A commercial,
TV show, film? We just knew $250 a week, 4 hours a day, 5 days a week,
playing Beatle songs. Rent was $275 a month, beer in a green bottle $1.25
in a NYC bar. Who was better than us?
* What was your first experience
on stage as Paul in front of an audience like? Was it the first for your
other band members as well? Tell us that moment right before you hit that
first note on IWHYH!
=0 A We were in Boston in April, 1977. And as far
as going on that 1st night, I remember it was pretty amazing and humbling
at the same time. I think we were too nervous to tell if we should BE
nervous! Joey and I were having some vocal problems during the 1st week
as we sang balls out every single time we ran through anything at the too
many to count tech rehearsals, which ran 8 hours a day. Never thought
about just PLAYING the music and just cueing the vocals for the SM and
Lighting crew, Stagehands, etc.
I'm pretty sure it was on the 1st night, as soon
as we played and the scrims came up, some guy in the 1st row jumped up
and said something like, “What? He’s not left handed? That’s it, I'm out
* How many years were you
with the show?
From rehearsals beginning around June of 1976 until
November(?) of 1979 on Broadway? 3 years, 5 months, give or take. Then
back in 1980 in Canada to supposedly warm up for the “Beatlemania” movie.
I left in the fall of 1980 and was in NYC only a short time before Lennon
was shot, having run into him for the last time a few weeks earlier in
front of the Dakota. I lived on 74th Street and CPW and we exchanged conversations
* You taught yourself to play
"lefty" bass at one point, correct? Were there any other "Pauls" in the
line up that played left handed after you came along?
I was originally born left handed, but was switched
over in school. The 50’s, the “Devil’s handiwork,” as it were. The producers
got me a lefty Hofner and a righty Rickenbacker. I would play the Hofner
at rehearsals until I couldn't stand it anymore, then flip it upside down
and play it that way, righty with the strings in reverse! Or just pick
my righty one. Did some shows in Boston lefty AND righty before the reviews
came out on a right handed night and I said “That’s it.”
As far as other lefty Pauls, well then came Lenie,
Glen and finally Billy Ray.
* The show was very PAUL heavy
as far as song selections, especially in the second part of the bill. Why
was this? And was it grueling at times to seemingly carry the whole show
in the second half?
The show evolved from the popular consensus on
favorite Beatle songs of the day. WABC radio in NY had conducted listener
polls of their favorite tunes and the show reflected that. Leber and Krebs
(Producers) polled schools on Long Island, NY and came up with similar
results. Paul’s song seemed to be heavily in the mix. The original show
had 36 songs, not the final 29. We lost 3 George songs, some Lennon songs
and least a McCartney. “If I Needed Someone,” “Something,” “A Ha rd Days
Night” to name a few.
I don't remember it being that grueling... after
my voice “caught up with my face,” about a year later!! I could only last
about 5 shows a week. Reid had his hands full. Thank God McCartney released
“Wings Over America” and Capitol “Live at The Hollywood Bowl” BEFORE the
show opened. People thought I sounded just like the “live” Paul. Whew!
* Were there ever any accidents
on stage say during costume changes? e.g.: trips and falls, etc.
None that disastrous that I can remember. There
was the time Joey was playing his Fender Precision during “Let It Be” and
smacked Leslie in the head. Leslie was so out of it, almost sank to the
stage. Come to think of it, I think I knocked him the face with my Rick
one night, too! Randy Clark got to watch his Epiphone Casino rise up in
the air and plummet to the stage, breaking it’s neck after the lighting
truss caught on his cable and guitar stand while on it’s way up into the
* If you had any, what was
the most embarrassing moment on stage? Power outage? Flubbed lyrics? Sneezes?
Oh, they all seem like a blur at the moment.
Being locked out in front of the scrim after “Eleanor Rigby” if you didn't
get back in time. Lyrics , I still don't know the order of the words to
“Fool On The Hill!” John Actman, the SM in NYC would follow what I sang
and mess up all the lighting cues and set fly-ins and outs if he followed
what I sang. I finally told him “Just follow the words on the page and
IGNORE me!” One night, I blew the lyrics again for the zillionth time.
I hear this noise in the wings and looking over, I see him throw his cue
book up in the air, pages flying everywhere! I couldn't sing the rest
of the song.
The most famous power outage? The East Coast
one in the summer of 1977. And yes, Justin had just sang “What do you
see when you turn out the lights?” in “With A Little Help From My Friends”
and there they went. It was also magical, too. Emergency lights on and
leading the audience in a Beatle sing along right from the front of the
stage until the police said it was safe to leave the theater.
* What was your favorite
part of the show?
* What was your least favorite?
I know. You thought I'd say “Doing it.” No,
the least favorite part for me was being the producers’ “fair haired boy.”
The guy the other Pauls went “gunning” for. Some peoples idea in the various
productions that I thought I was better then them. The politics of every
* Who did you enjoy working
with the most?
Most of the guys I've worked with over the years.
You others whom I didn't, well you wouldn't have a clue anyway.
* Where did you enjoy performing
the most? (What city, country, theater, etc.)
On Broadway, in LA and Chicago. The Canadian tours
in the 80’s. And a lot of the world traveling stuff with David in the
90’s and 2000’s. And don't forget the Beatlefests and the Liverpool guys!
* Did you play vintage instruments
and use vintage equipment for the show?
Funny, I was just e-mailing someone about the 1963
or 64 Hofner I used from rehearsals in ‘76 until MultiVox Sorkin gave me
one in 1977. That bass disappeared during the run of the show and Carl
at Pittsburgh Guitars (he gave it to me in the first place) thinks he may
have actually taken it back in trade a couple of years ago. Some guy says
I sold it to him, but believe me, I didn't. A lot of the amps and guitars
were found by Carl and purchased by the show, many from the 60’s.
* We know that supposedly
none of the original Beatles ever saw the show live, but some people from
the Beatles camp (other than attorneys) did see it . Do you recall who?
Julian apparently saw it and told his dad favorable
things about me. At least that’s what John told me himself. Brian Brolley,
Paul’s 70’s tour manager I believe. Probably more but I forget. And of
course the Eastmans, who got them to sue!
* Did you ever meet any of
As I mentioned above, John and Yoko 3 times, having
conversations in the NYC streets, and Ringo once in LA. We sat back to
back at a Steven Bishop showcase at the Roxy in 1978 (John had been at
the early show). When introduced to him by then GF Nancy Andrews, he turned
and said to me “Well, I know the REAL one!” I stole his cocktail napkin
and have it in my scrap books somewhere.
* Do you still perform with
Yes, I do. Currently I am out in St. Louis in
a “She Loves You” show at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza with Richi Ray.
He has replaced David Leon as John and does a hell of job! It’s good to
see and work with him again.
* All-in-all, looking back,
how was the Beatlemania experience for you?
Very rewarding and a great learning ground. For
all kinds of things, not just theater and music.
* Tell us about your experience
with the JOANIE LOVES CHACHI show. Who was the Beatle that picked you up
at the end of the show?
In 1980, I was musical supervisor on the off Broadway
musical play “Lennon,” which was directed by Bob Eaton from his original
script and production at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. The group
of producers included Broadway notables, Sid Bernstein, etc. The cast
can now be seen in all kinds of movies and television shows years later.
During this time, I get a call from Randy Clark who is standing in the
casting office of Bobby Hoffman on the Paramount lot. He puts me on the
phone and Bobby pitches me pretty much the same idea that ended up in the
episode. So, the short version is I do the show. I had to get permission
from the “Lennon” group to do it, as I was understudying Greg Martin (George
Martin’s son. Yes, THAT George Martin) who had multiple roles, including
Ringo. He promised to not break anything or get sick and off I went. (When
I did get back from doing JLC, Greg got an infected finger and I did his
part for a week. Two “Pauls” as it were. One on the drum kit. My ex
has the photos)
* Give us a breakdown of
your non-beatle recording career hi-lights (KISS connections, etc.)
Aerosmith’s “Draw The Line” LP, on the title track
and the track “Kings and Queens.” Uncredited background vocals.
Marge Raymond’s (ELO’s “Evil Woman” high vocals)
RCA LP “Queen Of The Neighborhood” on the track “Everybody Loves A Winner.”
Joe Pecorino is in there with me and Jimmy Iovine produced.
Then other things I'm sure I can't remember.
Gene Simmons solo KISS album. Joey and I were
called down to the studio in LA just days prior to our leave to open Beatlemania
in Chicago (1978). We sang on 3 songs, with me arranging the background
vocals and singing with Gene on “See You Tonight.” Years later I was like
a proud papa seeing him perform it with KISS on MTV’s “Unplugged.”
Kiss Albums “Animalize” and “Crazy Nights” as
a co-writer on 4 songs. Played bass on “Murder In High Heels” or rather
most of it. I forgot my own bass line for the chorus and Gene re-recorded
it when he returned from shooting “Runaway.” Also rhythm guitars on “Get
All You Can Take” and “MIHH” as well.
Wendy O. Williams “WOW” LP as a background vocalist
on a number of tracks and piano on “Opus in Cm7.”
Billy Squier LPs “Enough Is Enough,” “Hear And
Now,” “Creatures Of Habit,” “Sixteen Strokes” and “Reach For The Sky Anthology”
as background vocalist. Played bass live for a week on the 1989 tour with
Billy, Blue Murder and Kings X. Billy’s manager forgot to figure in his
bass player’s WEDDING so I filled in. Became known in the biz as “Have
Bass, Will Travel” and had several major artists playlists and bass player’s
parts down in case of emergency.
Numerous demos and studio sessions during the
90’s thru the 2000s for my friend and Producer Jon Tiven. Roger McGuinn,
Wilson Pickett, Felix Cavaliere, Don Covay, Bobby Womack, Graham Parker,
Peter Wolf, Corey Glover, Robert Plant, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds to name
a few. Now, DON'T ask about live. “I haven't enough pens...!”