Modern Day Beatle Chris Tassone

by Bill Delingat

The wing back chairs shuffle and the conversation was on two things, #1 chicken beef or fish as the vested waiters fought to get the food drop done before the curtain call and “yes, I thinks that’s him ,could it be ,why is he here?” was #2 as the blue rinsed haired guests and their spouse argued over meals and the familiar gentlemen sitting at Table 5.

They had driven in for miles to relive their youth and see Elvis, Buddy Holly and even Marilyn live on stage!! Tribute shows were the hit of the dinner theatre business, with the ever popular legend style shows, pulling in the fans of music gone by for the chance to have one last glimpse of their youth and fond memories of their Top 10 tunes.

Chris Tassone and Ringo's son ZackChris Tassone and Ringo's son ZackThis evening seemed even more special as one of the mop top members of the world’s best rock ‘n’ roll band seemed to be enjoying the show as well. ‘The Big Bopper’, M.C. for the evening, thanked ‘Ritchie Valens’ for a great performance and now calls out to the audience ,”ladies and gentlemen we have a very special guest with us here this evening, all the way from Great Britain, he needs no introduction, Bopper signals to the stranger at Table 5, “come on up and say hello.”

The room was silent until he spoke with that heavy Liverpool accent “Good evening everyone” now the buzz started, “It is him it’s really him !”, “So how do you like being in Toronto?” continues the show’s host, “it’s fabulous, every one is so nice I am happy to be here, thank you.” The MC, politely asked “How about giving us a tune?”. The grinning celebrity turned to the house band and asked “Is that alright boys?” as the stunned audience looked on, he made his way to the drum kit and was passed the sticks and gestured to the band “Okay lads do you know “Boys” a tune a sang with by my old band?” A quick nod from the MD and than ‘Okay than let’s do it 1 2 3 4” the band broke into the Beatles tune “Boys” as ‘Ringo Starr’ now started to play and sing to the bedazzled audience.The place went berserk, as the Ed Sullivan generation were on their feet screaming and singing as all their dreams just came true, they were in the presence of a “Beatle”

Or were they?

Chris Tassone a native of Toronto, Canada not only has the uncanny resemblance to Ringo Starr, he is also an accomplished musician (drums, guitar) and singer, with an incredible range. His vocal impressions of Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison are unrivaled. Tassone writes his own original music in Beatles style and was quoted in a London BBC Radio interview as being “the man who was writing music like the Beatles would, if they were all still alive and together today.” Tassone continues to celebrate one the greatest bands in rock ‘n’ roll history, and through his own “Magical Mystery Tour” has accomplished a dream come true ,”The Abbey Road Sessions”.

Unlike the spoof The Ruttles or the mystique of Klaatu, Tassone was able to bring together some of the world’s best musicians together on one CD of his own British pop style songs for fans worldwide to enjoy. Cashbox had a chance to speak to this illusive artist and find out where did it all begin and what is he planning now and for the future?

Cashbox (CB): Chris Tassone, the name does not sound like someone who would become known as the worlds #1 impressionist of a Beatle. With your original release of “Looks like Ringo sounds like John” this often called puzzling project at ‘Abbey Road Studios’ saw what a lot thought of as a virtual unknown crash onto the music scene with some of the rock world’s top players.

Were you ever in a band prior to this and what are your musical roots?

Tassone: I was in several bands starting at the age of 15. My first band was called ‘Soul and Inspiration’; with 2 lead singers – Danny Howe and myself. We were playing a lot of R&B music, including songs like: ‘Knock on Wood’, ‘In the Midnight Hour’, and ‘I’m Your Puppet’. From there I was in several original bands, ranging from country and western to heavy metal; writing original music that was accepted by a large audience.

CB: So with all this in the past, how did you morph into becoming a Ringo Starr impressionist? Was it by fluke, by someone telling you that you resembled him or did you see that crossroad ahead in your career and decided to do it as a project?

Tassone: It all started at the age of 15, when screaming girls, thinking that I was Ringo, would chase after me. Of course, I was wearing a Beatle outfit, as that was the in look at the time. Beatle boots and all! I liked the Beatles, but I was really into Elvis Presley. Many years later, I had the opportunity to meet Charlie Hodge. He was Elvis Presley’s right hand man. We were recording with Gary Wayne Bridges, one of the world’s best Elvis impersonators, at Florida Sound. That’s when Gary and Charlie said, ‘Chris, you look just like Ringo Starr! Why don’t we have some fun with it and see where it goes?’ So, I got dressed up like Ringo one night and the rest is history!”

CB: Now you turned the corner and suddenly with a few minor changes and a touch of Carnaby Street thrown in, you now find that you can barely walk down the street without people asking you for an autograph. How did you handle this and did you have any idea how crazy it was going to become as seen as a living Beatle?

Tassone: Things really got crazy! I would go out with friends just to have fun and you wouldn’t believe the response from all kinds of people. They would say, ‘Oh my God, it’s Ringo Starr!’ Some people would say, ‘Are you Ringo Starr?’ with excitement in their voice. I would say, ‘Do I look like Paul?’ That became my famous line.
Ronnie HawkinsRonnie Hawkins

CB: There were Ringo sightings all over North America, as fans called the press that Ringo was seen at events. In Toronto, there was the famous Skydome story where you were let into a Paul McCartney concert and given the red carpet treatment, then the Ronnie Hawkins benefit in Peterborough, where you performed and got the phones ringing. You went to the press to explain who you were after the Wings concert and what was the reaction that followed?

Tassone: Oh boy! The McCartney concert was amazing! We pulled up to the Skydome in a stretch white limousine, which my friend Carmen Digati owned at the time. He also acted as my bodyguard. We were accepted at the Skydome as soon as they looked in the back seat. We were escorted by security close center to the stage, where we were seated as the concert was already in progress. People started applauding as we sat down. Then all of a sudden, in the middle of a song, Linda McCartney saw me from the stage. With a big smile, she started waving a peace sign. Then Paul looked over with a big smile and nodded his head. Things started getting crazy where we were sitting so we decided to leave before the concert ended. We were escorted to a green room, where we were invited to Paul McCartney’s get together in the Skydome. As we were making our way to the party, we totally got mobbed and I said, ‘I think it’s time to go.’ It was getting out of control. I’m sure Paul McCartney would have chuckled if we ever met that night, as I hear he has a great sense of humour. On the other hand, with Ronnie Hawkins, that’s another story. Ronnie asked me to do a charity benefit, raising money for Schizophrenia. So again, I pulled up in my limousine with my entourage and was escorted to the stage where I played the drums and sang ‘Boys’ with the band. The place went absolutely berserk! Again, I am rushed back to the limousine to make a Beatle exit. The next day we were all over the news around the world, starting with CNN. We were even mentioned on David Letterman.

CB: Now at the top of your game you are invited to the famous ‘Beatle Week”, a celebration for Beatle fans and bands at the home of the Beatles. What was it like when you first arrived there and how did it feel walking the same path as the Fab Four?

Tassone: Another dream comes true! I have always wanted to go to Liverpool, England just as a tourist. I never thought that I would ever go there as an artist. I was invited by Cavern City Tours to perform as ‘Ringo Starr, the Solo Years’ and I accepted. I asked my two sons, Christopher and Donovan to go with me and they said yes; that was another dream come true. It would not have been the same without them. When we arrived in England, I felt like I was an alien from Mars! Everyone was staring at me, applauding, taking pictures, crying (happy tears of course). It was an amazing experience. I began rehearsing with my band, Dark Horses, getting ready for the upcoming shows. My performance at the Concert Hall was brilliant! I was accepted with open arms; the audience was screaming as I entered the stage. I’m getting goose bumps as I’m recalling that performance. I hung out with Glen Garry, stand-up bass player for John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen. What a wonderful soul. I also went on a tour with my guitar player, Mickey Wynne, who was originally from Liverpool. What a great experience following the Beatles footsteps. Plus, I got to play the Cavern Club! Need I say more?

CB: Some of your best performances were here at the Adelphi club and this has now put you at the top with several more voyages back, why did you stop going? Some blogs claim you had problems in the USA and decided to hang up the sticks? You had made lots of friends and you were hailed as the #1 impressionist, was it all becoming too much?

Tassone: You can only go so far as a look-a-like. I believe I stretched it to the limit. I totally enjoyed most of my endeavours. Things started getting a bit crazy when other people tried using the Ringo image for personal gain. That’s when I decided to hang up my wig and get back to the Chris Tassone roots. Believe it or not, I do like who I am.

CB: Is that why you never went on to join a Beatle Clone band like ‘Rain” or Beatlemania?

Tassone: It’s hard to do something like that when you have your own talent and recorded at Abbey Road Studios with an All-Star Band. If anything, I am working on a theatrical musical called, ‘Forever Liverpool’. Of course I will be a producer and not an impersonator.

CB: That sounds very interesting. Now to one of music’s biggest secrets, what you now call ‘The Abbey Road Sessions’. How did this all fall into place; you have the biggest and the best players from rock’s royalty even Zachary Starr, Ringo’s son plays drums and John Entwhistle on bass, those 2 are on most tracks ,but the list goes on. How did this virtual unknown from Canada pull everyone together in what is a true sound of those Beatle years but yet all yours.

Can you tell us a bit on how this happened and what it must have been like to be there and seeing your tunes laid down for history by this ‘Super Group”?

Tassone: When I was a young lad I loved Elvis Presley. I would sing ‘All Shook-Up’ for my Dad’s friends and they would give me money. I was only 10 years old. Then along came The Beatles. My biggest dream was to be like Elvis and The Beatles. At school the teacher said, ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?’ Some kids said, ‘I want to be a policeman,’ and others said, ‘I want to be a Doctor.’ When it was my turn I jumped on top of my desk and screamed, ‘I want to be like Elvis Presley and The Beatles!’ I sang ‘All Shook Up’. That was the beginning of my music career. One day I was talking with my comrade, Gene Mascardelli. I told him that I would like to go to England and record some music and did he know anyone? He knew someone by the name of Ron Magness. He was a record producer in London. I said, ‘That’s great! Let’s give him a call.’ The call was made and the answer was “Yes”, Ron was in. So I raised some working capital and we were on our way to London, England; where we met the famous Ron Magness. The meeting took place at the Bell Size Pub. Ron looked at me and said, ‘Chris where would you like to record?’ Jokingly, I said, ‘Abbey Road Studios of course.’ The next day we got a call from Ron. He said, ‘Guess what? We have Abbey Road!’ I could not believe my ears. We started post production at Daniel Cainer’s studio, a songwriter for the series ‘Fame’. I brought three songs with me thinking that we would probably record a single; two sides. Ron had a listen to the songs and was not highly impressed. He asked if I had any other songs and I said, ‘Not with me.’ I thought it was over, feeling very empty inside. Ron then said, ‘I will be going on holidays for 10 days, if you could try to write two songs while I’m away, I will have a listen when I get back and we will take it from there.’ I said “thank you so much Ron. As a matter of fact, I will write a whole album for you”. Ron chuckled and was on his way. I was determined to write and started straight away. I went back to my hotel room with an acoustic guitar and started writing. I was on a mission. I would go to bed with an idea and would wake up in the middle of the night and started recording my new songs on a micro-cassette. A few days later I got a call from Ron to ask how things were going and I said, “Ron, I will have twelve songs ready to go when you get back.” Ron started laughing and said, “That’s impossible.” I then told Ron that I would buy twelve bottles of Champagne. “When you get back we will have a listen to my new songs. If you don’t like a song a bottle of Champagne will be tossed out my two story window”. Ron was back 10 days later, called me and said he was on his way to hear the songs. I was very nervous. Ron came over and sat down. ‘Let’s have a listen.” The first song was “The Girl Next Door”. Ron’s reaction was “WOW!”. We went through the twelve songs and Ron had a tear in his eye. He said, “Chris, you are a genius! Let’s make this happen.” Not one bottle got smashed. Ron asked, “Who would you like to play on the album?” I said, “As long as they can play, its fine with me.” Ron said, “That’s not good enough.” So he started making phone calls. The first one was to John Entwistle, the bass player for “The Who”. Then he called Allan McDougall, Zak Starkey and so on. I felt left out, so I made a call to Nashville and talked with my friend D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley’s drummer and he said “YES!” Everyone was very excited. There was magic in the studio that is so hard to explain. It was like the word Heaven all of a sudden made sense. The rest is music history.
Peter Bennett and Leah HawkinsPeter Bennett and Leah Hawkins
CB: That is incredible, did it ever get any major label interested for a release and what are your plans for the CD as it is still available on line, any future distribution deals ahead? Or have you thought of a follow up?

Tassone: The sad thing about this piece of music history is that the promotion was mishandled. My backers were only in it for the fame. They backed out after they fulfilled their dream of being at Abbey Road Studios and mingling with an all-star band. I guess the pictures they took were good enough for them and left me stranded. What a shame, we could have done so much more. Welcome to show biz.

CB: Now that The Beatles are back bigger than ever and reaching out to a new generation with “Beatles Rock Band” game, new box sets, TV shows being re-aired and talks of the movie “Rock War and Peace”, the story of John Lennon’s concert for Peace in Toronto, You as well have been recently featured on 99.1 CKXS fm a local radio station and started to do interviews. Is there a chance the Chris Ringo Tassone is back and what are your plans for the future?

Tassone: My plans for the future are to remix this wonderful CD and launch it along with my upcoming book, with footage from Abbey Road Studios and my travels in the music realm on a DVD, along with my philosophized poetry call “The Birth of a Thought”. This will all come as a package. I have decided to make a comeback as ‘Chris Tassone, One Night with You’. I am now open to offers! Do you have what it takes? Show me!

CB: Lastly what does a person who has a gift of creating tunes of an era with a modern day twist listen to on his iPod and do you have any advice for young musicians of today?.

Tassone: It’s been a long time since I have sat down and had a hard listen to today’s music, as I was very bitter for the past few years. I guess it takes time to heal. Now I feel more than ready and am very excited to get back to my roots. So look out world, I’M BACK!!! My advice for young musicians of today: Never give up and follow your dreams. You can do it and you will. “Love and peace. Keep on rockin”.

Chris Tassone.
ARTISTS PERFORMED AND RECORDED WITH TO DATE:

Pete Best (Original Beatle Drummer)
John Entwistle (The Who)
Billy Nichols (The Who)
Zak Starkey (The Who)
Len Gary (The Quarry Men)
Mickey Wynne (the Pioneers featuring John Entwistle, the Tim Rose band, Julian Lennon’s guitar teacher) Jody Linscott (Paul McCartney)
Steve Holley Wings (Paul McCartney - Ruth McCartney (Paul McCartney’s Step Sister)
Beatlemania (stars of the New York Broadway show)
Ron Magness (Mick Jagger,Grammy winner,Flash Dance movie)
Andy Miller (Status Quo, Slade)
Daniel Cainer (Fame)
Archie Leggette (Spooky Tooth, Foreigner, Gerry Rafferty. Dr John)
Alfred Johnson (Ricky Lee Jones, Songwriter)
Benny Gallagher , Graham Lyle (Gallagher & Lyle)
Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music)
Manfred Man, - Ian Wilson (Sad Café)
Ronnie Hawkins (The Hawks)
Bob Gallo (Studio owner, Producer)
Georgie Fame (Van Morrison)
D.J. Fontana ,The Jordinaires , J.D. Sumner , Charlie Hodge (all Elvis Presley band)

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