(From left) Bryan Cumming, Dennis Scott, David Toledo and Nathan Burbank, who are members of The WannaBeatles, will perform Feb. 9, 2014, at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo submitted)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If the ’60s pop sounds of four lads out of Liverpool named John, Paul, George and Ringo strike a deliriously delicious chord in your musical soul, then you’re gonna wanna hear The WannaBeatles.
The quartet sounds astonishingly like the Fab Four and celebrates the popularity of their favorite band with a free concert Sunday, Feb. 9, at Barlines in the Omni Nashville Hotel as they recreate the 50th anniversary of the debut of The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Feb. 9, 1964, event had 74 million Americans tuned in as nearly half of every home with a TV set watched.
“You’re gonna get to see The Beatles on screen actually doing ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ and we will be recreating the music in synchronization with The Beatles,” says WannaBeatle David Toledo, also the director of music and worship arts at Gladeville United Methodist Church, describing Sunday night’s show. “You’ll be seeing The Beatles but hearing our instruments and our voices. You’ll see us performing beneath the screen.”
Joining Toledo onstage will be band mates Nathan Burbank, Bryan Cumming and Dennis Scott, the leader of the band and writer of the group’s original song “In 63,” which is getting frequent airplay on Hippie Radio 94.5 FM.
“That’s one of the songs from our new album, ‘We’re Still Rocking.’ It’s all originals, but it’s inspired by our musical mentors, The Beatles. So, here am I at my age experiencing music I am involved in for the first time on the radio. I feel like a little kid in a candy store,” said Toledo.
The group has released two other albums, “Old School, New School,” which features remakes of Beatles songs along with a few original tunes, and “Fab Fan Memories: The Beatles Bond,” which is narrated by Beatles George Harrison’s sister, Louise Harrison, and garnered a 2012 Grammy nomination in the spoken word category.
One of the quartet’s biggest fans is Nashville super-Beatle fan Richard Courtney, author of “Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles.”
“The WannaBeatles are the hardest working Beatle band in the world,” said the Music City realtor. “All Beatles fans know of the intensity and demands put on The Beatles in Hamburg and how that resulted in transforming a Liverpool band that couldn’t get a decent gig into the band that conquered the world. The WannaBeatles have applied the Hamburg ethic for years.”
The group came together in 2007 when they teamed to entertain diners at Mexicali Grill in Brentwood. They rehearsed by running through some of their favorite pop songs of the 1960s and wound up playing Beatles hits.
“We started playing the Beatles stuff, and people started really reacting to that, and we all discovered we were crazy Beatles fans, every one of us. The other three are walking encyclopedias of Beatles information,” Toledo said.
“We fell in love with recreating the music of our musical heroes and just expanded from there. We were there for nearly a year, polishing the music to get it right and started selling out the place. We were like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?’ It’s not a hard sale for the Beatles, but hardest thing is recreating their music and making it sound right.”
Last year the quartet performed almost 100 shows as they played across the Southeast and several states north of here including a gig with the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra. They can perform more than 100 of the Beatles’ repertoire of 200-plus tunes.
Toledo emphasizes that the WannaBeatles, who do approximate the look of the Beatles in three-piece black suits with the funky Beatles tie, are not a look-alike band.
“For us it’s more about the music. That was a very fateful decision for us by not being tied down to the characters, so we can assign the voices as needed.
“Musically speaking, we all take leads, we all do harmony and we all play. I’m the high voice, the Paul voice or the closest thing to it. I do the lead on ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Live and Let Die.’”
Toledo, 54, was born in Cuba but spent most of his life in Miami, Fla. He discovered the music of The Beatles when he was about 10 years old, introduced to the hits of the Fab Four by older cousins who had Beatles records and posters splashed all over their bedroom walls. And he hears the influence of Hispanic music in the band’s sound.
“When I listen to the Beatles, in some of their songs I hear, coming from a Hispanic background, that they were listening to south of the border. ... They listened to the whole world and just spit it back out in their own way.”
Toledo and his family fled Castro’s Cuba in1967 and landed in Miami where his father was a Methodist pastor. The musician lived there until moving to Nashville in 2003.
A music minister since 1990, for the past three years he has served as director of music and worship arts at Gladeville United Methodist Church.
“Having grown up in the church, my life has been the church,” he said. “In this church I’m only working part time, by choice. My main responsibility is to oversee everything that has to do with music. My main duties are to handle the praise and worship, making sure all the music is in order. We rehearse and make it the best we can make it,” he said.
Toledo and his wife Alice, who teaches at Christ Presbyterian Academy, live in Nolensville and have three children. He gives private music lessons in his home, mainly teaching drums, guitar and bass and has about 20 students.
What’s the best part for him about being a WannaBeatle?
“For me it’s really the camaraderie with the guys. They are wonderful guys. They are musicians I truly respect. And then there is our never-ending search for excellence.”