As big as The Beatles

Jinae West

After 20 years, tribute band finds freshness with chemistry

Mark Benson is an impostor. A good impostor with spectacular hair.

Benson is a member of 1964 The Tribute, a throwback to the be-all and end-all band of the British Invasion. Hailed by Rolling Stone as the No. 1 Beatles show in the world, 1964 The Tribute has traveled across the globe, rocking out to sold-out crowds from The Chicago Theatre to Carnegie Hall.

The 53-year-old Akron-native plays John Lennon. Fellow band members Gary Grimes, Tom Work and Terry Manfredi complete the famous Fab Four, appearing onstage as Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Authentic vintage attire and instrumental equipment help to further the concert’s realism and nostalgic atmosphere. And let’s not forget about the shaggy mop tops.

“It’s real human hair, and it’s all mine,” said Benson.

1964 The Tribute, named after the year The Beatles came to America, has been together for more than 20 years. Benson said the group’s initial success came as a surprise.

“This is our 23rd year performing,” he said. “We never had any intention of doing this full-time. We just thought we’d play locally in Akron, Ohio. We just thought baby boomers would be interested in this.”

But The Beatles seems to have effortlessly spanned from generation to generation — a mass universal appeal.

“We are really blessed,” Benson said. “We get to play to toddlers and grandparents and everyone in between. It’s really a win-win situation, and we get people leaving our show genuinely happy.”

Despite the countless number of cover bands that populate state fair stages and high school auditoriums, 1964 The Tribute has that extra special something that breaks the monotony.

“Chemistry,” Benson said. “We’ve got some things going for us that are quite similar to The Beatles. We all grew up in Akron. We grew up with the same musical influences, and we’ve known each other for so long. Marriages don’t last this long.”

On playing one of the most iconic figures in music history, Benson said it isn’t as challenging as it appears.

“I know that people revere him as the man of peace and love,” he said. “For me, it isn’t difficult playing him. John Lennon was a bit of a smart aleck. I was always a smart aleck. Now I’m just paid for it.”

When asked what he would say if he had a minute with Lennon, Benson replied without hesitation.

“Thank you,” he said. “For all the great music and for changing all of our lives.”

For more information, visit The Tribute Web Site.

Contact ALL correspondent Jinae West at [email protected].