For Beatles fans, the sight of the septuagenarian Louise Harrison is usually a welcome one. A familiar visitor to Beatles conventions and gatherings, she's usually got a warm smile, a quick laugh, and an anecdote about her younger brother, George.
But she was wholly unprepared to face one woman, raging with indignation, who found her in the lobby after a recent show by Liverpool Legends, the Beatles tribute band that Harrison put together in 2006.
"She came up charging, hostile, just...angry," Harrison says today. "And she screamed at me 'You lied! You lied! You said that everything on stage was played live! I have listened to the Beatles for all of my life, and those were records!'"
The woman stormed off before a shocked Harrison could reply that indeed, the group was playing themselves. But she later told the Fab Fauxs to accept the somewhat backhanded compliment, with one caveat.
"I told them next time, they should throw in a mistake or two on purpose!" she laughs. "So people would know it's real!"
Liverpool Legends plays the Stafford Center Saturday night, taking the audience on a magical musical tour of Beatles history and songs.
And while Harrison herself won't be at this particular gig, the audience can hear her remembrances via recorded interludes. They are played throughout the show -- probably during costume changes.
She says the impetus to form the group, ironically, came shortly after her brother passed and she met the Legends' "George"; they "adopted each other on the spot."
"I wanted to find guys who were already out there playing in other [Beatles tribute] bands and find the ones who looked and sounded most like the originals," says Harrison. "Guys who, if George was still alive, he would hang out with."
A couple of years later, Harrison had her lineup -- though she prefers to be known as the band's "mum" instead of "manager," someone who will sew a button on a Sgt. Pepper costume or iron an Abbey Road-cover denim work shirt if needed.
Harrison also regales the group with real-life stories and in-jokes about the band only a true insider would know. Many find their way into the stage show.
But as she lived in Canada and South American during the early '60s, the first time Harrison actually met George's mates John, Paul, and Ringo wasn't until they came to New York in February 1964 to perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
"I felt like I had gotten three more brothers," she offers. "I never saw them as stars or adored them. They were simply brothers to me."
The year before, George and older brother Peter had actually visited Louise at her home in Benton, Illinois, making him the first group member to actually set foot on American soil. The visit itself -- not surprising given the rabid dedication of Beatles fans -- was even the subject of its own book, Before He Was Fab by Jim Kirkpatrick.
Interview continues on the next page.
Louise says she had written "letter after letter" to Beatles manager Brian Epstein about the American music scene and industry to better help him plot the first shot of the British Invasion. No English rock band before the Beatles had made much of an impact here.
And Louise was there with her brother and his musical mates while they were prepping for "Sullivan." It turned out to be fortunate, as she played nursemaid to George while he fought a 104-degree fever. She took care to feed him and give him medicine so he could be stage ready by Sunday for a performance that literally launched thousands of bands.
It was his sickness, Harrison says, that unwittingly landed George the sobriquet of the "Quiet Beatle."
"He was trying to preserve his voice, but he still had to go to all the press conferences, so he didn't say much," Harrison laughs. "Later, it became a good excuse to avoid stupid questions when he'd say 'Oh, you better ask one of the other guys. I'm the Quiet Beatle!'"
Despite patiently answering questions for years -- even to those who would be incredibly excited to notate that, say, on October 12, 1957, George had a peanut butter sandwich and glass of milk for lunch -- she does become taciturn once. And that's when asked if she has a relationship with sister-in-law Olivia and nephew Dhani, George's widow and son.
"No." she says in a tone that doesn't beg any follow up query. "No."
Louise Harrison, it seems, much prefers to talk about what she calls the "real" message of the Beatles. And it has nothing to do with turning on, tuning in, and dropping out, or any sort of backwards Paul-Is-Dead clue.
"The real thing about all this is that they were trying to give a message to people," she sums up. "And the message is an old one that came from many before them. It's about love and compassion and caring for each other and the plight of the planet. That was the Beatle message. A message of love and peace."
Liverpool Legends plays Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd. in Stafford, on Saturday, November 2. Showtime is 8 p.m.
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