'McCartney Yesterday & Today' comes to Kennett Square
By Steven Hoffman
Jon Perry is a natural for the role of Paul McCartney on stage.
If he couldn't play the bass left-handed, or if he couldn't sing lyric tenor, there would be no way for Perry to take audiences on a musical journey celebrating the work of one of the most iconic figures in rock history. But Perry can play bass left-handed, and his voice is suited well for singing McCartney gems like “Let it Be,” and “Maybe I'm Amazed” and “Penny Lane.” So for nearly two decades, Perry has been showcasing McCartney's still-expanding musical catalog throughout the United States, and internationally with Royal Caribbean.
During a telephone interview a few days after two sold-out shows in Texas, Perry explained that he started out as a solo acoustic singer with many Beatles songs in his repertoire. Before long, he discovered “through the eyes of others” that, with his left-handed bass playing and his voice, he could deliver a strong performance of McCartney's songs.
Perry also bears a resemblance to McCartney in his twenties – so much so that people would comment on it, even before he took to the stage in full costume. Once Perry committed himself to portraying McCartney, he quickly discovered how important the music of the Beatles is to people.
He has made numerous television and radio appearances, and has worked with original cast members of the Broadway “Beatlemania” show. He's performed at venues like Strathmore Hall, the Hammerstein Ballroom, the Pier Six Pavilion, Inner Harbor Amphitheater, and The Lyric Theater. He's shared the stage with such notable performers as Alan White, who was John Lennon's drummer on “Imagine”; Pete Best, the original drummer in the Beatles; Steve Fossen, a founding member of Heart; and Billy J. Kramer, a singer who recorded several Lennon and McCartney compositions and was managed by Brian Epstein, who also managed the Beatles.
Perry's show, “McCartney Yesterday & Today,” is the culmination of all his experiences. He performs a broad range of McCartney's work – everything from the classic pop hits that launched Beatlemania to deep cuts on the band's later albums, to McCartney's work with Wings and as a solo artist.
Perry said that the songs hold up so well, more than 50 years later, because of the quality of the songwriting and the singing.
“The Beatles could sing the ABCs and it would sound amazing,” he said. “Paul's voice is really one of the best ever.”
Perry said that he's always adding or changing elements of the show.
“You'll always see a slightly different show and a slightly different presentation,” he said, adding that the performances will always include a lot of Beatles music because it's those songs that people have such strong connections to.
Perry has had many memorable experiences on the stage, including one time in Los Angeles when he was informed in the middle of the show that Angie McCartney and Ruth McCartney were in the audience. Angie is Paul's stepmother, and Ruth is his stepsister. He got to talk to Angie for about 20 minutes that night, and she told him that she was enjoying the performance.
“She's always been very gracious to me,” Perry said. “She doesn't give out endorsements of shows, but she's always been supportive.”
Perry has also performed for John and Martina McBride, as well as celebrated Philadelphia journalist Larry Kane, who toured with the Beatles in the 1960s.
Perry lives in Virginia now, but he spent about six years living in Drexel Hill, so he's familiar with Kennett Square and is looking forward to bringing his show back to Pennsylvania. Even after all these years and hundreds of performances, Perry still loves to get on stage and entertain Beatles fans. The reason is simple: It's the music. It's always been about the music that McCartney has created, and that his fans will always want to hear.
“I'm just as big a fan of the music as anyone in the audience,” Perry said. “I just get to wear the suit.”
More information about Perry's show is available at www.mccartneyyesterdayandtoday.com.
The Kennett Square VFW Post 5467 is at 704 W. Baltimore Pike in Kennett Square. Tickets are $15, and are available at www.mytshow.eventbrite.com. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and the show will begin at 8 p.m.