(This is the second of two parts on the Beatles’ tribute band, the Deaf Aids, which has prominent roots in Chemainus and Crofton with John Booth and Charlene (Henry) Booth).
John Booth is clearly living the dream from his youth in Chemainus.
The lead member of the Deaf Aids that includes his wife Charlene, Gary Atkinson, Rob Mitchell and Mark Williams, as the fifth Beatle, has always been a Beatles fan. Performing some of their music maintains that connection into his mid-60s.
“I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and that started it,” Booth recalled.
If that wasn’t enough, seeing the Beatles live at Empire Stadium in Vancouver in August of 1964 could only be described as an euphoric experience.
“That clinched it right there,” Booth conceded. “I’ve got to get involved in that.”
He loved to play music and tuned his guitar into Beatles sets while lending a voice to the hugely popular songs.
“You go through different stages,” Booth indicated.
“The Beatles were always great for learning harmonies, song structure. (John) Lennon’s voice, I thought he had the greatest voice. The vocals were so great. It inspired me, like it did thousands of other kids from that era.”
His eventual wife, Charlene, wasn’t one of them, however.
“Not at all,” she said. “I really didn’t like the Beatles. I preferred the Everly Brothers on Ed Sullivan.”
But that’s long since changed, of course, since hooking up with John to do Beatles’ harmonies as a duo preceding the formation of the Deaf Aids.
“That was the training aspect for Charlene,” noted John. “To learn how to sing, there’s no better part than Beatles harmony.”
It was hard to escape from the Beatles’ influences in the early 60s even if you wanted to so Atkinson just got caught up in it like most everyone else.
“I think every party I went to as a teenager was Beatles’ music,” he noted.
As a drummer, Mitchell made an instant connection with Ringo Starr.
“He always looked really happy,” noted Mitchell. “They really made it look easy.”
Williams was a bigger fan of guitar gods like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix from that era than the Beatles.
“I was never really interested in the Beatles at all, other than they were a big group and I liked some of their songs,” Williams said.
Regardless of backgrounds, the five members of Deaf Aids have made beautiful music together in the few years they’ve been together performing at area establishments.
John Booth, as the most intense Beatle follower for so many years, puts his direct knowledge into the group’s performances.
“I’ve read a lot of Beatles books,” he noted. “We try to incorporate some of their story with our show as we move along.”
“In a nutshell, what John doesn’t know about the Beatles hasn’t happened yet,” quipped Atkinson.
Some of the younger generation has caught on, but it’s mostly a nostalgic kick for so much of the Deaf Aids’ audience.
“The rooms we play up and down the Island, you get an assortment of people,” Booth indicated.
The Deaf Aids don’t put their own spin on any of the Beatles’ records. “We try to do the vocals exactly as they’re done on the record,” Booth pointed out.
They now have about 75 songs in their repertoire and “no cheat sheets,” Charlene added.
Group members are often asked about the origin of the Deaf Aids’ name. Turns out it was a nickname the Beatles gave to the large speakers that John used in order to make his guitar sound louder.
The Deaf Aids played their first official gig at the Willow Street Cafe right here in Chemainus.
“I think the idea of putting the group together, when I retired you needed to have something musically to keep you going,” said John Booth.
“We do it really for the fun of it. There isn’t any money in it. It’s just because some musicians just like to keep going.”
“It’s in you, you need to let it out,” reasoned Atkinson.
“We just play for the love of playing,” added Mitchell.
Some people have been brought to tears for a variety of personal reasons from the group’s music.
“You get some interesting stories,” conceded Charlene.
Upcoming appearances by the Deaf Aids are booked for Saturday, March 24 and Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. at the Horseshoe Bay Inn Pub in Chemainus and at Riot Brewing on Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m.