Beatles tribute band to play Poplar Bluff Saturday

Friday, October 22, 2010

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Beatles will be brought back to life Saturday at Rodgers Theatre, from the mop haircuts, mannerisms and Liverpool accents right down to the stage equipment.

The Return, an Atlanta-based tribute band, is slated to take stage at 7 p.m., with plans to play about 30 songs from the early catalog of the British rock 'n' roll legends.

"The way I grew up, there was the Beatles in one category and everyone else in another," said founder Mike Fulop, who plays George Harrison. "To think of one group cranking out that many hit songs and albums in such a short amount of time, that are still relevant 45 years later -- or in our case celebrated -- is an unattainable goal."

With Shane Landers as Paul McCartney, Richard Stelling as John Lennon and Adam Thurston as Ringo Starr completing the quartet, the cover band began performing for fun in 1995, simply as fans getting together monthly to play their favorite Beatles tunes. They soon received a request to perform at a party, and the hype "steamrolled" from there through word-of-mouth, Fulop recalled.

The Return evolved into a full-time gig, earning the musicians an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" and later being chosen as the Hard Rock Cafe's official band of the Magical Mystery Tour Bus during its 30th anniversary.

"The cool thing is all ages and walks of life can relate to the Beatles music," said Fulop, "and you just don't see entertainment that spans the generations like that very often."

While a typical Beatles set would last 25 minutes, with most songs being under three minutes long, The Return plans to perform for 90 minutes.

of all the chart toppers from the touring years of the early 1960s, including "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "A Hard Day's Night," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Eight Days A Week," plus more obscure B-sides for the fanatic like "She's A Woman" and "Act Naturally."

Chris Shrum, the general manager of Luecke Distribution in Poplar Bluff, is bringing his sister Debbie Goss and her husband Brian, who will travel all the way from Tulsa, Okla. Shrum and Debbie used to fight over which Beatles record was the best as children, he said, while Brian actually had the good fortune of catching them during one of their final American concerts at Busch Stadium in 1966, the only time the Beatles performed in Missouri.

"It's nostalgia at its best," explained Shrum, who himself had a chance to see solo performances by McCartney on two more recent occasions. "I was introduced to their music when I was sitting right there in my living room watching 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and it changed the world. Well, not according to my dad."

Proceeds for the concert, sponsored by Southern Bank and Three Rivers Community College, will be split between the restoration of the historic theater and the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce, so the not-for profit organization can recoup its costs for booking the venue, chamber president Steve Halter explained.

Earlier this year, Halter went on a business trip in the Atlanta area and had a chance to screen a show of The Return. He said even his longtime musician friend Mike Batrano, a Poplar Bluff native who now resides in Georgia, agreed they are talented artists who put on a class act.

"I never got a chance to see the Beatles when I was younger," Halter said. "It felt like we time traveled."

Rodgers Theatre has been "imprinted in Poplar Bluff culture" for those who watched movies there in decades past, according to Halter. He wanted to bring in a different genre of music to keep the momentum going locally and possibly give out-of-towners another reason to visit here, he said.

Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $12 for balcony seats, and are available at the chamber, Black River Coliseum, Buffalo Wild Wings, by e-mailing office manager Melody Melloy at, or by calling 573-785-7761.

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