Thursday, August 20, 2015

I've Just Seen A Fest - Mr. Sylvester's Busy Day

Terry Sylvester, on the far right of this recent compilation,
 had a busy weekend at The Fest.

Today's post takes a Hollies-centric point of view that is not meant to diminish the numerous other entertaining activities that took place at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. I'm hoping to offer some additional reflections on this event, but it might be Monday before I can accomplish that.

The second major event in A Hollies Summer In Chicago took place last weekend, although most of those in attendance knew it as The Fest For Beatles Fans. Terry Sylvester, a former member of The Hollies, was one of the Special Guests, along with Louise Harrison, Mark Hudson, Mark Rivera, and Billy Kinsley. Sylvester was there for all three days, but Sunday was particularly busy for him.

His hectic schedule started at 12:15 PM with Talking and Joking with a Bunch of Scousers, a fascinating panel discussion featuring him, Harrison, and Kinsley. Harrison, who sold all the copies of her new book My Kid Brother's Band  . . . a.k.a. The Beatles she had brought to The Fest, kicked things off by jokingly objecting to being called a scouser. Host Wally Podrazik asked her to elaborate, which led to all three panelists discussing the customs, accents, and geneology of the Liverpudlian populace. Kinsley, who was a member of The Merseybeats, lived up to The Fest program's description of him as "quite a storyteller," by weaving his remembrances of growing up in post-World War II England with the interesting tales offered by Sylvester and Harrison.

Next up for Sylvester was an autograph session that started at 2:00 PM. I gave him another Broken Hearted Toy button and he told me he still had the one I gave him when he came to City Winery - Chicago in February as part of the British Invasion Tour. We talked a bit about Distant Light, and how much he enjoyed recording it. That was the LP that had "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and other songs that found The Hollies successfully experimenting with a more hard rock oriented sound.

At 3:30, Sylvester joined The Fest For Beatles Fans MC/WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert for an interview session in the Grand Ballroom. In addition to talking with Hemmert about his tenure with The Hollies, his friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly relationship with Graham Nash, and his recording studio encounters with The Beatles, he performed acoustic versions of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from The Hollies Sing Dylan and the England Dan and John Ford Coley hit "I'd Really Like To See You Tonight." Sylvester likes to augment his appearances with deliberately cornball jokes, and comes across as a friendly guy you'd enjoy hanging out with at the local pub.

The Musicians' Forum, a freewheeling discussion and jam session that was originated by Martin Lewis (at least at the Chicago Fest) and is now hosted by Mark Hudson, was once again a highlight of the Fest. Hudson has toned down his occasionally over-the-top antics in favor of tapping into his vast musical knowledge and talent. Mark Rivera, who has served as Ringo Starr's Musical Director and plays a mean saxophone, was impressive in this basically improv format, as were Sylvester and Kinsley.

All four musicians returned later that night for guest appearances during a concert by the highly talented Beatles tribute band Liverpool. Sylvester performed "Bus Stop" and "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," with members of Liverpool joining in on harmony vocals. He also did "Hippy Hippy Shake" from his days with The Swinging Blue Jeans, and an extended take on "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" that featured some searing guitar work from Liverpool's John Merjave. It closed out an almost non-stop day for Terry Sylvester, that like Graham Nash's stellar show at The Arcada on July 28th, justified my designation of this as A Hollies Summer In Chicago.

Note: The New Invaders, a very good 1960s-oriented covers band that often includes Hollies songs in their shows, will be performing from 11:30 to 1:30 tomorrow at the Willis (Sears) Tower in downtown Chicago tomorrow.

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