Ladies and gentlemen, the Deaf Aids.
The late, great Ed Sullivan didn’t live long enough to welcome this classic acoustic Beatles tribute band to his really big Ed Sullivan show like he did with the real Beatles so we’re doing it here in tribute to him.
Without further adieu, in this first of two parts, may we introduce to you the act you might not have entirely known for all these years but that’s famous on this Island, John Booth and the other members of the band.
Booth, 65, plays the John Lennon role in the band. He grew up in Chemainus and graduated from Chemainus Secondary School in 1970.
His working background has also been at the Chemainus sawmill.
“I was in and out of the mill just as I was in and out of different projects with music,” Booth said.
His first band in high school was known as Jet Black. “We did Gloria and Satisfaction. We had about two songs,” Booth chuckled.
His next band was called Peacefields and then he did an Alice Cooper show at the old Caprice Theatre in Chemainus. After that, Booth was part of the group Package and then Crossfire where “we were kind of all over the province,” he indicated.
Booth also played with the group Broadstreet for a year and did a solo acoustic Beatles tribute before the founding of the group Switch that had a great run of about 20 years before packing it in around 2005.
Booth retired from work at the age of 55 in January of 2008. “That was my goal and I stuck to it,” he indicated.
After moving to Yellow Point, the Yellow Point Lodge became his main stomping grounds for playing musical gigs. He and wife Charlene started doing some Beatles harmonies.
“We had 15 or 20 songs we could do,” he pointed out. “I was doing all John Lennon vocals and Charlene all Paul McCartney.”
Booth lost his voice for a long period of time from a torn vocal chord and “things came to an abrupt halt,” he noted. “It took about six months to get my pitch back.”
After his voice returned, the wheels were set in motion for the basis of the current Deaf Aids. “It was totally acoustic, then we added the bass after a year and then the drums after another bass,” he explained.
“We’re mainly the first six albums and singles in between,” Booth indicated.
“All the records were released differently in the U.K., then they came over here. We actually do the songs in chronological order of how they were released.
“It’s gone over really well. We’ve added and made ourselves broader; we can play some fairly large rooms now.”
Booth, nee Henry, John’s wife, turns 60 in May and grew up in Crofton, graduating from Chemainus Secondary School in 1975.
“I got married, that’s my life,” laughed Charlene.
She saw John at the Alice Cooper show and “I had to ask him to the Valentine’s Dance at the school,” Charlene grinned.
They’ve now been married 41 years.
Charlene doesn’t have a musical background. “I just started doing a bit of harmony at the Lodge,” she said. “I was extremely shy. It just kind of carried on from there.”
Performing may have seemed terrifying, but “she always wanted to do it,” noted John.
Atkinson, 66, was born in Ladysmith and never left, he said, graduating from Ladysmith Secondary in 1969. He worked in the paper mill at Crofton before retiring six years ago.
“I learned to play the piano classically,” said Atkinson. “I started lessons at five, picked up the guitar in my mid-teens.”
Atkinson joined the group Generation Gap in 1970 and the next band of any meaning, he said, was Rock Hard and Ready from 1996 to 2000. There was another hiatus before “John called one time and asked me to come out to the Yellow Point Lodge and the rest as they say is history.”
He fills the George Harrison role in the group.
Mitchell, who turned 60 last April, is also Ladysmith born and raised and graduated from Ladysmith Secondary School in 1975. His drumming talents put him into Ringo Starr mode for the group.
“I always played the drums in high school,” he said. “I started playing drums at 10.”
Nobody wanted to play the snare drum, but Mitchell was more than willing. He played with a youth brass band and did recitals through Ferguson’s Music.
After high school, Mitchell was a member of Antix that toured around for a bit and took some time off from the Doman’s mill in Ladysmith.
Mitchell went to the L.A. Musician’s Institute for a year and “just did a ton of playing down there,” he indicated.
Mitchell hooked up with the group Moondog for a while and when things got slow with bands, he played in the Pacific Gale Pipe Band in Nanaimo.
Williams, 65, was born and raised in Duncan and graduated from Cowichan Secondary School in 1970.
“I never played anything in high school, but that’s where I met some friends that were playing,” he said.
Williams had a conflict with Boy Scouts and guitar lessons during his youth and chose the latter at 16 years of age.
He played in a couple of small groups. The one of the most renown was Rufus, but the name had to be changed to Crazy Jane because of a conflict with Chaka Khan’s trademark group.
John Booth approached Williams during the formation of Switch, and that began their long-time affiliation.
“We stayed together, I believe it was 18 years,” said Williams. “We never really dissolved it.
“I didn’t know him (John) when he first approached me. It turned out very well. I’m glad he approached me.”
Williams’ indoctrination into Deaf Aids was swift. He initially didn’t have time to join the group, but two years later, he came on board and had a mere two weeks to get up to speed for a gig at In The Bean Time in Ladysmith.
“That was a lot of cramming for me,” noted Williams.
With the Deaf Aids, he’s like the fifth man. “I’m really a nobody,” he said. “I’m not a vocalist, I just play bass.”
Next Week: More on the Deaf Aids and their Beatles backgrounds.