Mike Pender, Micky Dolenz, Peter Noone, Mark Lewisohn among the celeb line-up at the Fest for Beatles' Fans



Mike Pender has never included Beatles' songs in his show. For this weekend’s Fest for Beatles Fans, the Searchers' singer and guitarist will make an exception.

Pender is one of the musical headliners for the 38th annual Chicago Fest along with Monkees' drummer Mickey Dolenz, former Wings' guitarist Laurence Juber and Peter Noone, the "Herman” in Herman’s Hermits. And when Pender performs with the house band, Liverpool, he’s going to sing "A Hard Day’s Night.” That’s his tribute to George Harrison, who inspired him to buy the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar that became a big part of the sound for the Searchers, a Liverpool band who had seven Top-40 hits in the US and 12 in the U.K.

"We were in the TV studio in England for a show called ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars,’ and we were in the dressing room and we had the TV on,” said Pender, who sang lead on hits including "Needles and Pins” and "When You Walk in the Room.” "And the Beatles came on singing their latest No. 1 single, which was ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I noticed that the guitar in the solo sounded a little bit different. I’d seen Rickenbackers before because John Lennon had one in the early days in the Cavern that he bought in Hamburg. And when I looked at the screen closely, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s a 12-string Rickenbacker.'

Pender, who today fronts Mike Pender’s Searchers and will be back in the US for a September tour, bought a Rickenbacker 12-string and used it on the bright, jangly introductory riff to "When You Walk in the Room.”

WXRT-FM personality Terri Hemmert, the MC at the Fest since 1978, will be back for the event’s mix of guests, performances, panel discussions, contests, displays and giant flea market.

One of the most fascinating panels this year figures to be those featuring Mark Lewisohn, whose book "Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years” is 803 pages of meticulously researched surprises — and it’s just volume one, covering pre-Beatlemania days through 1962. Lewisohn did hundreds of interviews, many with people who had never before spoken out. Sources such as Bobby Brown, the fan club secretary before Freda Kelly, and Lou Steen and Lindy Ness — who hung around the Beatles at the Cavern and at their houses, and who kept diaries — helped flesh out personalities and motivations.

One revelation is that producer George Martin didn’t sign the Beatles of his own accord. He was told to sign them because Kim Bennett of EMI’s publishing arm Ardmore and Beechwood wanted an early Lennon-McCartney song, "Like Dreamers Do.”

Another has to do with just how tough an environment Liverpool was in the late 1950s and early ’60s, with Ringo Starr sometimes playing gigs with only a snare because carrying a full kit made him too much of a target for toughs in the street.

"Liverpool wasn’t the only tough place in Britain, and Britain wasn’t the only tough place in the world,” Lewisohn said. But nevertheless, on a day-to-day basis, this is what they had to deal with. But in a sense it was such experiences weeded out who really wanted to do it from those who quite wanted to do it. Because the Beatles, all four of them, were very, very determined young men.”

Pender lived those Liverpool days. "We all played the Cavern, the Iron Door, lots of other gigs like St. John’s Hall Bootle, which is where I come from, Litherland Town Hall,” he said. "Nobody was famous then, we were all just hanging around playing for beer money if you like, enjoying ourselves.”

~ Courtesy of John Grochowski, Chicago Sun-Times