The WannaBeatles include, from left, Bryan Cumming, David Toledo, Dennis Scott and Nathan Burbank. (Special Photo)
Nathan Burbank remembers the precise moment The Beatles made an impact on his life.
“My first real recollection of the Beatles came in 1969, when I went to a friend’s house to play the game Life,” Burbank said. “An older cousin of his left his copy of ‘Abbey Road’ at the house, and from the moment he put the album on the turntable, I just couldn’t believe the music. From that point on, all of my allowance money was used to buy Beatles albums.”
A classically trained organist, Burbank has learned his Beatles lessons well as he’s a member of the Nashville-based tribute band WannaBeatles, which visits the downtown Square in Covington on Friday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. as part of the Arts Association in Newton County’s Second Friday Downtown Concert Series. The concert is free and open to the public.
Burbank joined the six-year-old group three years ago, fulfilling a long-held dream.
“I have always wanted to be in a band,” Burbank, who plays keyboards, bass and sings with the group, said. “I grew up in a little town in Vermont and there wasn’t really anybody else to play with there. I started taking classical piano lessons and when I was in high school, I was exposed to the pipe organ. I went on to get a master’s degree in the pipe organ, but in the back of my mind, I wanted to play in a band.
“When I was 50, I was invited to try out for the WannaBeatles. They were looking for a multi-instrumentalist and I passed the audition. I guess you could say God gave me the desire of my heart. I still play in church, but not only do I get to play in a band like The Beatles, I get to play Beatles music.”
At certain times of the year, Burbank — who joined charter members Brian Cummings (guitar, woodwinds and brass, vocals), Dennis Scott (guitar, synthesizer, vocals) and David Toldeo (drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals) — said the band follows a rather busy schedule.
“It goes in seasons,” Burbank said. “Except for a two-week vacation, we’ve been playing two or three times a week in the summer … And what’s really neat is when parents bring their kids to our shows and they’re all singing along together.”
While the group focuses on recreating the Fab Four’s classic compositions, each member is a gifted musician in their own right. Scott has won two Grammy Awards and an Emmy for his compositions, and he’s written songs that have been recorded by Ray Charles, Faith Hill, Sugarland, Amy Grant and the Muppets.
Cummings, who was born in Augusta and raised in Atlanta, performed on the hit “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and The Beaters and has toured and recorded with such luminaries as Maria Muldair, Supertramp, the Pointer Sisters, Al Jarreau and The Ohio Players.
Toledo, who was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, has a master’s degree in jazz arranging and has been a music teacher for decades.
“David’s got the best voice in the band,” Burbank said.
The WannaBeatles have spent time performing with youth orchestras but at the end of August the group will play a concert in Virginia Beach with a pops orchestra, which Burbank said will be for the first time but hopefully not the last.
“We’re doing it all in-house,” he said. “We’re doing all the arrangements and orchestral charts ourselves. That show will definitely be the highlight of my year. Now we’ll be able to do ‘I am the Walrus’ with real strings.”
When asked which Beatles song was his favorite, Burbank didn’t hesitate in saying, “‘Yesterday.’ It has such a haunting, beautiful melody.” When asked which song he enjoyed playing the most, he said, “‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ — it’s such a happy tune, with all those great brass licks. Brian plays the trumpet on that one.”
Burbank couldn’t help but reference another Beatles classic when describing the show scheduled for Covington.
“We’ll light things up like Lucy in the sky,” he quipped. “We’re going to bring good times to everyone. The young and old and everybody in between will have a great time and it will be a happy night.”
For more information on The WannaBeatles, visit www.thewannabeatles.com.