Johnny D's hosts the last performance of BeatleJuiceA courageous crowd of congregants gathered at Davis Square’s Johnny D’s Restaurant & Music Club Saturday for what would have been the second of two shows by the Beatles tribute band fronted by the late Brad Delp, the lead vocalist of Boston.
“No, BeatleJuice is not playing tonight. The band playing is Velvet Elvis,” said bartender John M. Bonaccorso to a caller five hours before the start of the 9:45 p.m., show and just 24 hours he learned Brad Delp was dead.
“We have been playing is BeatleJuice for 14 years,” said Steve Baker, the keyboardist for both bands. “I am grateful to have had the run we had. We had a great time.”
Standing with Tina DeLellis, the owner of Johnny D’s, Baker told her, “I am glad you guys asked us to come.”
Dave Mitchell, the BeatleJuice lead guitarist would be coming, too, he said to her. John Muzzy, the BeatleJuice drummer and manager, did not come.
Velvet Elvis lead singer Jimmy Rogers (left) joined BeatleJuice lead guitarist in the night's last song, The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There."
Alewife Photo by Neil W. McCabe
Johnny D’s is two rooms divided by a waist high wall. The long bar is perpendicular to the street and the dining area with the stage is two steps down through the opening in the center of the wall.
Members of the BeatleJuice family took over the back right corner of the dining room for the Saturday night show. As the men performed, wives and girlfriends watched on.
In addition to Baker and Maté, the Velvet Elvis is Joe Holaday, bass; Rich Bartlett, lead guitar and Jim Rogers, lead vocals. Holaday is also a member of BeatleJuice, along with his saxophonist son Jared, who sometimes joined the band. Muzzy was the only one not present.
For the second set, Mitchell and the young Holaday took their place on stage and it was as close to a BeatleJuice performance as one could hope to see for a while. After introducing the two, Rogers, reached for the third rail. “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming out tonight. We really appreciate your support tonight. That is all I can right now,” he said. On the next beat, Rogers and the band retreated into the safety a convulsing iteration of a Mersey-style “Long Tall Sally.”
Mitchell spelled Bartlett for half the night and closed out the show. Jared, obviously distracted, stayed on for three songs before he packed up his sax and stepped away.
Friday night was like a wake, said DeLellis. “It got so bad, I had to go downstairs to the office.”
DeLellis said people came to Johnny D’s as they heard the news because of the club’s close association with Delp and BeatleJuice. The band played more than 90 performances at the club for Friday and Saturday shows every six weeks.
“They started throwing flowers on the stage. I picked some of them up and put them in a glass.”
Opening the cash register drawer to put bills under the tray, DeLellis called over to Bonaccorso, “Look at this.” She held up for him to see the check already made out to BeatleJuice for the previous night’s show.
“The timeline starts around three around three o’clock when the band’s sound man arrived,” Bonaccorso said. “The equipment guys and roadies showed up around 3:30 p.m.
“Between three-thirty and four, the band members started to come in,” he said. “At four, they were all here except for Muzz—and of course, Brad.”
Before his son, Timmy, was born Muzzy, used to be the first one to arrive, Baker said. Afterwards, he was the last one to arrive, usually just before the show. “Brad was always on time, but nobody had heard from him and everyone was wondering where he was.”
The band’s crew chief, Jeff Maté said Muzzy called him at 4:30 p.m. “He apologized for being cryptic and he told me to tell everyone to wait for him to call back in 10 minutes.”
The call came 45 minutes later, he said. “When he called back he said he couldn’t explain, but he said to break down everything and come to his house.”
One by one, each of them made their way to Muzzy’s home in Woburn, Baker said.
“Muzz told us the news as we came in the house. Everyone was in shock.”
Mate said he was driving on Route 93 North when he got a call from a friend of his in California, who wanted to know if it was true.
“My wife Joy found out before I did,” Baker said. His wife heard it from a co-worker, who called her after she heard in on the car radio in New Hampshire as they were all driving to an after work birthday celebration.
At the house in Woburn everyone’s phone was ringing, he said. “Agents, producers, friends, clubs—everyone was calling.”
Baker said he was grateful for the two platters of food DeLellis sent over. “I didn’t think I would eat anything, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.”
When the band left, they did not tell him why, Bonaccorso, said. “I figured it had to be something serious. They took everything with them.”
Bonaccorso said he found out from a call. “Around five o’clock, a customer from New Hampshire called and asked me: ‘Is BeatleJuice playing tonight?’
“I told him no, and he when he asked me why, I told him I didn’t know.
“Then he told me: ‘Cuz, I heard a nasty rumor.’” he said.
The caller informed the bartender that Brad Delp’s Wikipedia entry had been updated to include that day, March 9, 2007, as Delp’s date of death, he said. It was also being reported on Rock 101 in Manchester, N.H., the caller said.
Bonaccorso said he put down the phone and went downstairs to the office and Google’d Delp to confirm the news for himself.
“Make no mistake, the loss of a man of his talent is a great tragedy. But, the bigger tragedy is the loss of a truly nice guy,” he said.
“He recognized all of us. It wasn’t just how the treated the people who worked her. It was the way he interacted with the people with the people who came to see him,” he said.
“He put up with people yelling out ‘More Than a Feeling’ and asking him to sign Boston CD’s and he accepted it comfortably and gracefully,” he said.
DeLellis said the crowd would be cheering for Delp and BeatleJuice and Delp would clap back at them. “He thanked the people.”
The band was supposed to go on at 9:45 p.m., but Delp would always start at 9:30 p.m., so he could play more, Baker said.
“Muzz would say last tune and he would shook his head and say, ‘No Way!’” he said. “He would play all night if he could.”
DeLellis said she gave up trying to make Delp stop playing at the legal closing. “I figured it would be better to just pay the fine.”
During the shows there was a magic, she said. One example, was the tradition of fans putting dollar bills in pools than run up to $50 guessing the next song BeatleJuice would play next.
Delp’s favorite Beatle’s song was whatever song he was playing that moment, but if he had to pick one it would be “Yes It Is,” Baker said. “We rehearsed it all the time, but I don’t think we ever performed it in public.”
For the last set of the night, Mitchell returned to the stage. Before the last song, he stood closer to the microphone and said, “Brad would always send one out to John Lennon, and then one to George Harrison. Now, that place of honor, goes to our fallen brother, Brad Delp.”
Mitchell led the band into the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” their first song on their first album, “Please Please Me.”
On cue, the table in the back right corner emptied onto the dance floor.
Backed by Rogers, Mitchell’s voice grew stronger and more loving on the final lines: “Now, I’ll never dance with another/Oh, when I saw her standing there/Oh, since I saw her standing there/Yeah, well since I saw her standing there.”
When the song was done, the lights came on and men on stage quietly packed up their gear.
Their women returned to the back right corner of the room, embraced each other and wept.