Gary James' Interview With Tim Mahoney of
The Mahoney Brothers
There are Beatle Tribute Acts and there are Beatle Tribute Acts. Tim Mahoney and his brothers enjoy the reputation of having one of the best Beatle Tribute Acts around.
We spoke with Tim Mahoney about the Beatles tribute band he has and his other projects as well.
Q - Tim, there are three Mahoney brothers involved in this Beatles tribute act of yours? That's kind of rare isn't it?
A - I think it is. I think there are one or two other acts that have sort of specialized in either Beatles or 60s. It was something that was kind of a fluke really. My brother Brian and I started out in local bands together in New Jersey. We were huge Beatles fans. A guy came to us once, an agent. He called us and said "Hey, I need a band on short notice for this weekend. Can you fill in?" We said yeah. He said it's kind of an oldies place. We said, well we know some 50s stuff. He said do you know any group that you could do a whole set of? We said, oh yeah, sure. We wanted the gig. So, we said The Beatles. He said OK. So, we put on black turtlenecks and went to the place and played the weekend. The owner said I really like that Beatles show. Show? OK, cool. We went back and the guy hired us for like a month. So, we said let's take this thing a little bit further and see what we can do with it. It was almost twenty-eight years ago, I guess. It was just kind of a fluke thing and we enjoyed it and we kept doing it.
Q - You must have the costumes for all of the different stages of The Beatles' career.
A - Oh, yeah. We've got a full production. When we're doing like a showroom, we have like three projectors. We have a lot of vintage video and Beatles trivia questions and 60s Peter Max type graphics in the background. We do music from every Beatles album. We have appropriate costumes and exact instruments and the whole bit.
Q - Do you order your suits from Russ Lease?
A - No. We actually have our own wardrobe person that makes all our costumes. We do a lot of other shows, but The Beatles have sort of been one of our mainstays and this woman makes all our costumes.
Q - Any idea how many Beatles tribute acts there are out there? How much competition do you guys have?
A - World-wide I think there's a few hundred. There's variations. A lot of groups just do for instance, the early Beatles. That's just on genre of Beatles tribute acts. They just kind of specialize in The Beatles concerts. I think part of that is, it's a little less intricate musically do perform 'live'. So, you can go out with two guitars, bass, drums and a couple of singers and have fun with it. We enjoy the fact that we do the full range of Beatle music. Musically they got better and better. We enjoy doing everything from them...from the psychedelic music to the medley from Abby Road. It's a little more challenging.
Q - Can you do "I Am The Walrus" in person?
A - Oh, yeah. There isn't a Beatle song that we can't do 'live'. We all play multiple instruments, so the fact that several of us are keyboard players as well. What opened that up was the sophistication of keyboard equipment over the years. You can use three or four keyboards 'live'. Some groups will use tracks. We don't like to do that. It has a little bit of the karaoke thing that we really don't like. We'll perform "I Am The Walrus" and use three or four different keyboards on it. We'll put one guy on bass and two guys on keyboards and do it that way. "Strawberry Fields Forever"...all that stuff, we do. We might have one of our guitar players start off playing guitar and lean over and play some parts on the piano. It's very challenging, but it's kind of cool to do it 'live' like that.
Q - Do you also have the vintage instruments? The Hofner bass?
A - Oh, yeah, the Hofner bass. I do the McCartney bit. Years ago when I bought it in the late seventies, I bought a left handed one. So, I learned to play left-handed just to give it a better look, really. So, we have the Rickenbacker guitars. As they went through the years they used different guitars. We have Fender Stratocasters and whatever they were using at the time. Epiphone guitars. But especially when the show opens, we go with the Country Gentleman, the Hofner and the Rickenbacker guitar for The Beatles.
Q - How much money did you have to spend to re-create The Beatles' look and sound? Any idea?
A - You know, it's been so long I couldn't tell you in dollars. We did it over time. Once we realized, hey this is pretty cool, people are coming out specifically to see us do The Beatles set, I finally got the nerve one night to put a wig on. I had an aunt who was a hairdresser and she said "I've got some wigs here." She had one that sort of looked like a McCartney wig and I tried that and people said that looked great. You guys really had the look down. So, we started working on that. Little by little we added the other costumes. We did it over a period of a year or two. We added the various costumes and the right amplifiers. It's pretty expensive to do. If you want to do it and have all the exact instruments, it's pretty pricey. I wouldn't exactly know what it is today, 'cause we did it over time. One year we might add all The Beatle amps. Another year we might add some different keyboards. The costumes are something we constantly have 'cause they wear out. So, periodically we get new costumes made. It runs a couple of thousand dollars to outfit four guys in specific costumes.
Q - You played the Turning Stone Casino not too long ago
A - We played the Turning Stone in August (2005). It's a nice facility. They've had three or four different Beatle groups in and out of there. But, they had an open date. We've done a lot of the casinos in Atlantic City through the years. The biggest show we did as The Beatles down there was in the Brigade Showroom on the 40th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America. We did four nights there, which was great. That's a great facility and the timing was perfect. That was kind of cool.
Q - What the audience reaction to your group?
A - The nice thing about The Beatles is, especially if it's advertised well, people will come out in the mood to hear Beatles music. Usually there's a buzz in the audience before you go onstage. That's something that all bands who do tributes benefit from. You're going out to an audience who is there to see a band pay tribute to The Beatles and to hear The Beatles' music. Virtually every show, we go out and I'm sure this is true for a lot of other tribute acts, when you walk onstage the audience is ready. They're ready for Beatles music. So, there's always a good vibe in the room when you go onstage, which is kind of cool. We do a lot of things with pre-show music that really sets the mood. On the bigger shows we have video that kind of sets the mood for the early sixties and for The Beatles' arrival in America. They're already warmed up and prepped and ready to go, so it's kind of cool.
Q - What are you playing in that pre-show music?
A - Usually just early British Invasion music. If we're in a theatre, we'll put on symphonic Beatles music as people are kind of filtering in, like an hour before the show. We have a couple of CDs like "The Boston Pops does The Beatles" or whatever. So, we kind of have that at a low volume. We start that maybe an hour before the show. Then, twenty-five minutes before the show, we usually run early British Invasion music...Gerry and the Pacemakers...all those groups from '63, '64, right around there. If we're in a showroom where we use video, we have a video piece we put together with a lot of producers and people from television and radio talking about when they first heard of The Beatles, when they first saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. It kind of sets the mood for 1964, the year The Beatles hit. We flash something on the screen that says February '64 and then we bang out "I Want To Hold Your Hand" or something.
Q - When did you start doing this Beatles act?
A - We started doing some kind of a Beatles tribute at the end of 1977. We do a lot of other things, but The Beatles have been one of the mainstays of our career.
Q - Did any of The Beatles ever see your show?
A - We've worked with people and know people from The Beatles' entourage. For instance, Alan Williams saw several of our shows. We did some shows with him. He was The Beatles' first manager before Brian Epstein. He did a bunch of shows we did in the mid '80s. There was a weird event about eight or nine years ago. One day we got up and got three phone calls from people in Baltimore who said they heard Ringo mention us on The Howard Stern Show. He said "if you want to see a great Beatles act, go and see these guys." But we never heard it ourselves so we don't put in our promo. But, it was just odd that three people would call from the Baltimore area. We play down there quite a bit. We don't know if someone reported that to Ringo or maybe he saw us somewhere or saw a video clip. We don't know. He's the only one that we know of that sort of heard of us.
Q - You guys actually started out as an original Country group?
A - Well, we were backing up a Country singer. It was a guy who played all around New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. Occasionally he would go down to Nashville or wherever. He had a stage name which ironically was Mickey Starr, spelled the same way as Ringo. We started out backing him up. It was our first steady gig. Then we had a falling out with him, as happens in the business. Then we started doing all kinds of music, Top 40, oldies, rock 'n roll and that's when this agent called us during that time frame and said can you do any 50s? Is there a group you can do? Yeah, we do The Beatles. And that kind of got us started.
Q - You've done seven thousand performances. That's with The Beatles tribute act?
A - That's with everything. We have a show called "Jukebox Heroes Live" that we've been doing since '87. We started doing The Beatles impersonation and then at the end of 1985 I guess, we got hired by a show called "Legends In Concert", which is sort of this impersonation show. originally started out as a show called "Rock 'n Roll Heaven". It was a show that paid tribute to a lot of artists who died before their time. It wasn't just musical acts. They had a Marilyn Monroe. They had an Elvis, a Buddy Holly. They had a John Lennon. They decided they would do a Beatles segment and hired us. When we were doing that show, we said there's other groups we were doing before The Beatles. We used to do some Everly Brothers tunes, some Beach Boys. We always used to have a pretty good sound for that. Maybe we ought to try doing what we did with The Beatles and add costumes for The Beach Boys. That show kind of evolved into a 50s, 60s tribute show. We did a lot of rockabilly acts from the 50s and we did a Beatles and Beach Boys thing. And that has grown over the years. Plus we do Country music and original music. Then of course The Beatles show we've always done. Between all the shows, it kind of keeps us busy.
Q - How many gigs a year are you doing?
A - Well now, we've cut back. The last few years we've cut back a little on the touring. For instance, we worked for Six Fags Adventure down here in New Jersey and we did seven or eight years with them. You would do four shows a day, four different shows a day, six days a week. You're doing like a hundred shows a month. Just at that amusement park you're doing six hundred shows. Plus, we would tour through the winter. The shows really add up. We stopped counting. I have no idea how many shows we've done. Conservatively we've done seven thousand shows. We've probably done closer to eight thousand or nine thousand shows over the years. In the last few years we've really cut back. We tour in the summer and in the winter we like to write and record. We mostly do weekend work through the winter. But, we have other projects that we do and we have a production business. We sometimes produce shows and I manage an original act. We've kind of expanded the business.
Q - At one time you shared the bill with Kenny Rogers?
A - Yeah. Technically we tell people he opened for us, because it was a big corporate show. They hired us and Kenny Rogers and he insisted on going on at 8 o'clock. We went on immediately following (him). They had side-by-side stages kind of thing. So, as soon as he exited the stage, we went on. He didn't hang around much other than to say hello. He had the coolest sound check I ever saw. He had a guy come in with a Bay Dat of all the instruments and the sound guy would E Q him. The band would show up shortly before the show and he would literally walk in, he walked onstage, they handed him a wireless. He did his sixty minutes. He thanked the audience. He said hello to the buyers and out the door. It was like, man, that was smooth. He's been doing this a long time. But, his band didn't even have to be there for the sound check. He actually used DATS to E Q the show. He just walked on and off in an hour. That's a pro.
Q - How are you marketing your original CD?
A - We've actually had a couple of original CDs out over the years. By and large we sell them pretty much through our website (www.mahoneybros.com) or at engagements. We move most of our stuff at 'live' shows. We plug that. We have a merchandise table. Check out the original material. That's where we sell most of our stuff.
Q - How about Satellite Radio?
A - We have a company out of Arizona...Comstock Records and they market us overseas for airplay. We've gotten airplay in about twenty different countries. It's a whole different ball game in the States to get airplay. You really need to be on a major label and have major money behind you to get on the air. Overseas, there's a lot of small radio stations that will play you if they think you've gotten something worth putting on the air. We've done well in Europe. We just got an e-mail from a guy who found the CD and he's playing it in Australia. That's always cool to hear.