By Chris Spiewak |
It is generally acknowledged that rock ‘n’ roll music began in the U.S. in the rhythm and blues style of Fats Domino and Jimmy Preston to the rockabilly sound of artists like Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, rock ‘n’ roll grabbed the attention of young people across the country. In the late ‘50s, this sound became popular in Britain mostly due to American motion picture soundtracks. And in February 1964, four lads from Liverpool led the British invasion of the U.S. music scene, forever changing rock ‘n’ roll.
Many people today were too young, or not born yet, to experience the invasion years, but that doesn’t mean they are completely out of luck. Freehold’s Lee Scott Howard was a fan of the music back then and decided to develop a show called “The British Invasion Years,” a tribute to the U.S. and British rock music of the era. A tie-dyed shirt and bell-bottom jeans are not a requirement for admission to their shows, but it is highly recommended!
Howard was impressed when he saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, and asked his parents for a guitar soon afterward. Singing along to the radio at home, he discovered that he was blessed with perfect pitch, which is the ability to accurately recognize or produce any given note in a composition. Armed with these talents, Howard started writing music in his teen years and frequently travelled to New York City to perform. In the ‘70s he enjoyed success as a member of the band Design, who sometimes opened for national acts like Huey Lewis and The News. When the group disbanded, Howard went into the corporate world and a career in marketing while raising his family. In 1988, he met a fellow musician who coincidentally fell in love with the music of the ‘60s after viewing the very same Ed Sullivan show. Bobby Murdock (aka Bobby M) and Howard would become close friends, sharing the same passion for the early rock music that helped shape their lives. As the years went by, and the children got older, these two friends would soon become collaborators and business partners on a project that would take them out of the bars and into the theaters.
In 2008, Howard and Murdock decided it was time to get serious. They wanted to put a band together to not only showcase the British invasion groups, but to also present the American music response to The Beatles and Rolling Stones. They wanted The Beach Boys, The Monkees and Paul Revere and The Raiders to be represented as well. The British Invasion Years was officially born, but not to be just another bar band; they wanted more.
With Howard on guitar and Murdock on bass, keyboardist extraordinaire Jon Wolf was asked to lend his talents to the band. Wolf can also double on guitar making him a great asset to the group. Behind the kit sits Dave Hall, expertly keeping the groove nice and steady. One reason why this group is so successful is the genuine camaraderie among them. Not content with just playing a song, these experienced veterans present the music with heart and conviction, interacting with the crowd to make each show a memorable occasion. The band conveys an atmosphere of love and happiness, tapping into people’s nostalgic side as they take them for a cool ride down memory lane. Large video screens present many scenes from the era during each event, further building that emotional connection with the audience that is so important.
Because the 1960s were tumultuous years for this country, the band frequently connects with former military servicemen and women in some towns to arrange for them to attend a show if logistics allow. Service personnel in the audience are acknowledged at every event, so they are shown the appreciation that they deserve. The band also supports many worthwhile causes such as the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation, The Valerie Fund and Clean Ocean Action. Howard and Murdock are also members of Tim McLoone’s Holiday Express organization.
The group has a big show in Freehold May 20 at iPlay America (which includes a buffet dinner), so catch them if you can, and visit britishinvasionyears.com for upcoming shows and ticket information. Relive the invasion and relive the days of peace and love – it’s good for the soul!
Chris Spiewak is currently the bassist for Rock/Blues cover band VyntEdge.
This article was first published in the May 17-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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