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Buffalo’s best kept secret is The BBC band

Author: Mark Lazzara

What is Buffalo’s best kept secret?  The recipe for Anchor Bar wing sauce, or how did Buffalo really get its name? Not at all. Buffalo’s best kept secret is The BBC band, a Beatles tribute group whose members have very special and very direct connections to the world’s most famous super group, The Beatles. Several BBC band members have their own personal and direct pipeline to original Beatles band members that very few, if any other, Beatles tribute band can claim and certainly adds to their superior quality and accuracy of sound and presentation in all of their shows. The band’s performances are rollicking, high energy, musical experiences that bring audiences to their feet!

John Connelly, bass and lead vocals, had a privileged experience where he and his entire family spent time with Sir Paul McCartney. They talked about family, how McCartney’s music influenced John’s entire musical career and just life in general.  Russ Thomas, guitar, and lead vocals, is a long-time pal of Peter Best, the Beatles first drummer, pre-Ringo. Together they have watched and reminisced on his early days with the band, and witnessed The Beatles evolution to global fame.

But the crown jewels must go to Gary Astridge, drums, percussion, vocals, and founder of The BBC Band, and who is the world’s foremost authority and historian on the drums of The Beatles most famous drummer, Ringo Starr.  Astridge fell in love with drumming and the British invasion group in 1964 when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  That experience eventually led to a website and a voracious appetite to collect and learn all things “Ringo” for Astridge.  His passion for drums inspired him to be a collector of Ringo Starr era drum sets, and this passion was noticed by Starr himself, who reached out to Gary seeking his assistance in assembling an exhibit of a set of original Beatles drums for a special exhibit; and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Buffalo native assisted in Ringo Starr’s Peace & Love exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in LA and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. His decades of research have made him the internationally recognized and leading expert on drums sets from Ringo Starr’s career with The Beatles. Gary continues to be part of Starr’s inner circle through his work as the official curator of Ringo Starr’s Beatle Drum Kits music and retail operation.  Astridge states one of his most fun career highlights with the Starr organization and Ringo was when he was opening and setting up the drum kit that was used on the Beatles last appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and on the set of the film ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’

Nowadays Gary is having fun through the rare opportunity to photograph and physically examine each of Starr’s existing Beatle era instruments. Gary’s research also allowed him to assemble a one-of-a-kind personal collection of drums that includes a period-correct example of each drum used by Ringo throughout his career with the Beatles.  Astridge gave “all about Ringo” talks at the prestigious GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, The Fest for Beatles Fans, The Chicago Drum Show, and lectures extensively in the U.S., Canada and the UK. In 2015, Gary worked with the Julien’s Auction House sale that included Ringo Starr’s first Ludwig Beatles drum set, which sold for $2.1 million. Beyond drums, Gary has an intimate understanding of Ringo’s technique throughout his professional experience.

Astridge’s research and discovery is on-going, “Ringo still owns a gold plated snare drum that was a one time gift to Ringo.” Said, Gary, “I made a copy of the drum, and brought it to him, Ringo laughed and said, mine is worth more.” However, Ringo remarked to Gary,  “Because of your research, I’ve discovered things that I didn’t know, and you brought back fond memories of things that I had forgotten.”  It doesn’t get any better than that.

The BBC Band is comprised of some of the regions most skilled and talented musicians. They are Buffalo Music Hall of Famers, professional studio musicians, educators, and top shelf performers. On Friday, September 8th at 8pm you can see The BBC Band, Western New York’s own super group at the Historic Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda. Call The BBC Band’s John Connelly directly at 716. 830-3406 or Sensu Music for details and more information on the organization.

Written by Mark Lazzara

Mark Lazzara

I have a passion for helping my fellow Western New Yorkers and advance the great things that are going on in this region. Buffalo Rising is a great booster and it’s a blast writing and contributing to BR about positive happenings in our neck of the woods. I appreciate the help I’ve received over the years from organizations and people who share my passion and supported me in efforts that put thousands of people to work and resulted in a community give back of more than $115M to Buffalo’s neediest during my days at the helm of AmeriCorps.

I’m especially grateful for the opportunities that enabled me to help cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and rebuild more than 700 family homes that were destroyed. Back at home, I was able to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience as a coordinator for ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition where we were able to repair, beautify and upgrade homes for an entire neighborhood on Buffalo’s Westside. Other projects close to my heart include a collaboration with Sail Buffalo to build the Cazenovia Boating Center at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and my annual Christmas season time is spent at Buffalo’s treasure, the Broadway Market, playing Santa Clause.

In my other life, I am a workforce development, business, marketing, public relations and fundraising professional. Earned a M.S. Human Service Management from Buffalo State, and enjoy my family life that includes four amazing grandchildren!

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