A musician who lived through the British Invasion while growing up in Penticton is returning home to rehash that golden era of rock ’n’ roll.
Duncan Meiklejohn is a guitarist and plays keys for BackBeat Entertainment in Victoria. Locals may remember him as a member of the band Great Canadian River Race.
Meiklejohn and three bandmates will be presenting Cavalcade of Stars – a tribute concert to six of the most memorable bands from the 1960s: The Beatles, Monkees, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, and Credence Clearwater Revival.
A defining moment of the British Invasion’s breakthrough was when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, appearing in front of North American audiences for the first time.
As a boy, Meiklejohn remembers his family – from their Penticton home – had a tradition of gathering round their black-and-white television every Sunday night to watch new episodes of the variety show. Even though the Beatles hadn’t been seen by Americans yet, he remembers their very highly-anticipated event.
After watching the performance, there were mixed reactions within the household.
“Dad thought it was the end of the world and we thought it was the beginning of the world,” Meiklejohn recalls.
George Penwarn, one of Meiklejohn’s bandmates, also remembers watching that momentous performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“For us young people at the time it was a huge event,” Penwarn said. “The very next day after the Beatles were on air, I went out into the garage and set up a bunch of boxes and pretended that I was Ringo Starr playing the drums.”
The performance was a pivotal moment for the British Invasion.
“That just opened the floodgates – then all the British acts started coming to America,” Penwarn said. “A real renaissance in music, certainly for us.”
Following the Beatles’ inaugural appearance, the five other bands included in BackBeat’s tribute act would also invited onto the Ed Sullivan Show.
The guys in BackBeat consider the golden years of pop music to have fallen between 1964 and 1969, and their aim is to recapture that brand of nostalgia.
“We play music as close to original as we possibly can yet we retain our personalities,” Meiklejohn said.
“Artists move us,” Penwarn said. “Take a song like She loves you – people listening will remember exactly where they were they first time they heard that song when you play it.”
In between the band’s costume changes, audiences will be shown memorable TV ads from those days.
“We really put a lot of time and effort into it,” said Meiklejohn.
Although their Cavalcade of Stars show will focus on music and culture from over 50 years ago, they’re surprised by how many younger folks in their audience are able to sing along to the songs.
The other two musicians in BackBeat are Kelt Eccleston and Jon Baglo. They’ll be in Penticton at the Cleland Theatre on Oct. 13 for a 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets cost $42.95 each including fees through valleyfirsttix.com.
Dan Walton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald