|By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut||
March 27, 2014
WAUKESHA - Clothed
and coiffed like the Beatles, The Britins originated in Milwaukee in
1977 and became nationally known as a tribute band. They’re still
entertaining, albeit with just one original member, Rick Bertoni of
Sussex. Bertoni, 61, a husband, father, grandfather and owner of the
landscaping concern Bertoni Enterprises, talked by telephone with
TimeOut as he and his bandmates Jeff Gish, Mike Shumway and fellow
Sussex citizen Mike Truttschel prepared to be showcased at the 11th
annual WRIT Beatle Bash at the Waukesha Expo Center on Friday.
Bertoni insisted when asked if he’d had so much as an inkling at the
outset that the group he founded would exist for more than 35 years.
“All we were doing is playing the music we like,” he said. “It
just kept going.”
intends to keep going “as long as I’m still having fun and
there’s some income to be made by it,” he said. “When it’s
time to quit, I’ll know.”
should one expect at a concert featuring The Britins? What do audience
members commonly tell you?
Well, they can look at what the Beatles might’ve brought to the
stage, actually see what it might’ve been like to have been to a
Beatles concert. We try harder than I think even the Beatles did to
duplicate the sound of the record; we’re trying to do note for note.
I guess what we try to do is make the song as close as we can to the
original (and also to replicate the Fab Four in) the dress, including
Sgt. Pepper suits, and the guitars. The authenticity of trying to get
it right is what people appreciate.
A lot of (fans
say) that, if they close their eyes (as The Britins perform), they
feel they’re listening to the Beatles, which is really an honor to
us. Nobody can be as good as the Beatles.You can never replace an
TIMEOUT: What do
you sing for your audiences these days? And how often do you perform?
BERTONI: We do
about 140 songs right now; we try to learn at least a few new songs
every year. It’s only Beatles songs - they have to have played (the
song) and put it on (an) album. No post-Beatles songs, no Paul
McCartney with Wings. We used to play 250 to 260 dates a year, (and)
now we play 40 to 50. They’re all over (geographically, but) it’s
been a real pleasure playing in Milwaukee.
TIMEOUT: What are
a few of your band’s more unusual venues and who are some of the
celebrities with whom you’ve shared a stage?
BERTONI: We did a
TV 6 special on the order of (the Beatles movie) “A Hard Day’s
Night.” We used to travel to Mexico and do tours. One place, we did
a 75-minute show for 5,000 people. When those people cleared out,
another 5,000 came in and we did another 75-minute show. They spoke
Spanish but they sang along in English and knew every word. We
performed at the (Hotel) Pfister Crown Room. That was a really
prestigious kind of atmosphere for young guys starting out. We played
with Dolly Parton at the Pabst Theater; she was as nice as they get.
The Turtles - we backed them up a couple of times. Ricky Nelson - we
played up in Waupaca with him. The Britins have played with Herman’s
Hermits, the Grass Roots (and) the Who.
you guys cut records, as well?
only one original record, a song called “She Knows.” It did really
well. It sold quite a few thousand copies.
TIMEOUT: It would
probably be impossible for you to single out a favorite Beatles song,
BERTONI: I can
narrow it down to one: “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The iconic
impact it had on my life! Two weeks (after seeing the Beatles sing it
on TV) I was taking guitar lessons and combing my hair down. “This
Boy” is one of my all-time favorite songs, also. I thank the Beatles
for enriching our lives with all the music. That music is lasting.
It’s still a joy just to get on stage and play that music so loved
by so many.”
What: WRIT Beatle
When: Doors open
at 6 p.m. Friday
County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road
general admission tickets are $15. Tickets are $20 at the door, cash