George Harrison was the quiet Beatle, the youngest Mop Top, who was mentored by the two greatest songwriters in the history of rock music.
As it turns out, he was also a pretty good student.
When “In My Life — A Musical Theater Tribute to The Beatles” comes to Arroyo Grande Saturday, audiences will get an overview of Harrison’s progression as a songwriter. In fact, The Beatles as a band grew considerably — until, ultimately, they grew apart.
The musical comes to the Clark Center two weeks before the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in America. The show takes audiences through the band’s career, narrated by an actor portraying manager Brian Epstein.
We spoke to Jesse Wilder, 36, who plays Harrison, about the show, the band, and the Quiet One.
Q: When did you first get into the Beatles?
A: I was pretty young — definitely in elementary school. My mom got me a greatest hits cassette tape. It had random songs on there, like “Kansas City” and “Eight Days a Week” and “Boys.” I got that, and I got the Who’s greatest hits. The Who didn’t do it for me, but The Beatles did. So I got into them at a young age and started dressing like that — like I was a London cab driver or something.
Q: Who did you get into after the Beatles?
A: One of them for me was Weezer and a lot of underground stuff — bands like Fugazi. With one of my bands people would say, “What do you sound like?” And I’d say, “I want to sound like Fugazi meets The Beatles.”
Q: Who was your favorite Beatle?
A: Growing up it was Paul. But now that I’m a George, I guess I’m biased a little bit. As an adult, I feel a stronger connection to George and his way of seeing things.
Q: After The Beatles, he exploded with a huge solo album. What does that say about him?
A: Some of those songs he had for years. He just kind of got patted on the head and tucked aside a little bit. I was listening to this interview with John Lennon last night, and it was right before The Beatles broke up. And John Lennon speaks of George almost annoyed that he was now becoming one of the songwriters of the band.
Q: Do you prefer the hairy-faced George Harrison or the clean-shaven one?
A: Now that I have to stick a beard on myself every show — I’d prefer not to. But the more things I put on my face, the more I look like George.
Q: How’d they get so many guys that had such good beards?
A: It just happens. I was in a band where we all kind of grew mustaches just from hanging around each other so much.
Q: You do the big hits everybody wants to hear. If you could play deep cuts and get away with it, which ones would you play?
A: I’m kind of a melancholy guy. Somebody asked me one time, “Tell me your favorite Beatles song — I’m gonna dance to it.” And I was like, “You don’t want to dance to ‘For No One.’ ” But “For No One” always resonated with me, and “I’m Only Sleeping” always comes to mind.
Q: How much did you annoy people with the accent outside of the gigs?
A: My wife wasn’t necessarily annoyed with the accent, but she definitely got her fair share of Beatles music while I was rehearsing. She was like, “Great — now I hate The Beatles. Thanks a lot.” But my son every once in a while will be like, “Dad — talk like a Beatle.” He’s 4.
Q: Good to get him started early.
A: He’s still kind of confused. He asks me questions all the time about the band. He’s like, “Wait — which Beatles are dead again?”
Q: So you already had to tackle the issue of death and dying with him.
A: He already doesn’t want to turn 5 because he doesn’t want to get older and die.
Q: Speaking of, how did you react when you heard that George had died?
A: I was pretty upset. I remember I was living with a couple of roommates at the time, and my friend Brian walked through the door and gave us the news. We sat around and listened to George records — we just celebrated his life right away.
I used to play original music, and I had a lyric, like, “Even Beatles die. None of us are immortal.”
IF YOU GO
"In My Life — A Musical Theater Tribute to the Beatles"
8 p.m. Saturday
Clark Center, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande
$29 to $45
489-9444 or www.clarkcenter.org
Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.
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