The Lonely Hearts
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The Lonely Hearts

Sussex, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Sussex, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Pop Rock

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The fab four were out back taking a dip in the pool.

It was a Monday evening, nearing 8:30, and band practice was supposed to begin about a half-hour earlier. Eventually, they pattered quickly across the wet cement, waists wrapped in towels, and went inside to change.

It was time to become John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The home's downstairs rec room is where the Beatles tribute band, The Lonely Hearts, practice. It belonged to the parents of brothers Jesse and Mark Cortez, the "John" and "Ringo" of the group, respectively.

Jesse, 20, a Hamilton High School graduate, now a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, returned barefoot but in black jeans and a Pink Floyd T-shirt. (He would remain barefoot all night. Of course, this has a McCartney-ish association, but Cortez definitely has a more natural young Lennon look to him - long dark hair, thin, a perpetual grin).

Mark, 16, a Hamilton High School sophomore, came out looking less rock 'n roll-ish, in red athletic shorts and T-shirt. But his early 1960s Beatles haircut, having just been towel-dried, achieved that perfect pushed-forward, mop-top look.

The utility "George" and "Paul" players in the band, Jackson Shepard, 14, a North Shore Middle School eighth-grader and Blake Kenney, 21, also a Hamilton High School graduate and currently a junior at Cardinal Stritch University, then appeared, ready to play, still in their damp swim trunks.

The group entered a well-lit, nicely carpeted room lined with stacks of amps, about 10 guitars, a Casio keyboard double decker, bongos and a drum set. They scrambled for the instruments, in a manner most common during musical chairs, as if snatching up the closest before the other could.

Jesse slid on a black-and-white Rickenbacker, a guitar similarly used by Lennon in the early days. It belongs to his dad. Or did. "My dad can kind of play this thing," Jesse said, holding it out. "Kind of. He's getting better."

The guitar had been lying around the house for years before Jesse took interest in it. This was only about three years ago, just as he discovered the massive Beatles Anthology. It was then full immersion. He studied the music and DVDs, teaching himself not only the guitar but also to play the bass, harmonica and piano parts.

(Incidentally, it was while Jesse was plinking out "Hello Goodbye" on the keys that Mark, his then 12-year-old brother, first picked up the drumsticks and started keeping beat. "He just started playing along," Jesse said).

The band now also has a McCartney-style Hofner bass, as well as a replica Fender Stratocaster that George Harrison used during the "All You Need is Love" 1967 worldwide broadcast. It's a red one, with a groovy design across it. "We painted it together," Jesse noted, proudly.

With guitars plugged in, Jesse kicked off the first number of the night, the recognizable chords of "Get Back" rising up slowly. When finished, they breezed immediately through "Taxman," "All My Loving" and "Back in the U.S.S.R" - barely coming up for air between songs.

They definitely didn't seem eager to stop and answer lame questions about the reasons they latched onto the Beatles, in particular. In fact, they unabashedly agreed that, "What's your favorite Beatles song?" was the worst question ever. "How are you going to pick one from all of them?" said Kenney to no one in particular. And no one, subsequently, answered.

(Except Jackson, later on, quietly saying that "Blackbird" was his. It was the first Beatles song he remembers hearing. "I was 9 years old," he said. Shortly after, he began playing guitar. Similarly, Kenney acknowledged that the first cassette he ever bought was the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack at age 5. His dad and uncle began teaching him guitar not long after).

These guys are particular about their sound too. They were going to play "Come Together," but Mark wouldn't have it. "I don't have my rags down here," he said, referring to pieces of cloth similar to those Ringo placed on his drums during the recording. Without them, it wouldn't have the right sound. The others shrugged. They played "If I Needed Someone" instead.

Afterward, Jesse knelt at a nearby bookshelf, hauling out a giant hardcover with the title, "The Beatle Complete Scores: Every Song Written and Recorded by the Beatles." It's a beat tome with a loose spine, filled with frayed blue Post-It notes. "This is what we first crowded around to learn our parts," Jesse said.

The band unofficially began around 2007, after Jesse and Kenney, as high school friends, started playing together, with Mark at the drums. They had a couple other guys playing with them for awhile. "Then we met Jackson at one of our shows," Jesse said.

The Lonely Hearts were soon being hired to play graduation parties and various local shows, including ones at Nixon Park in Hartland and the Waukesha Art Crawl, hamming it up in their usual Beatle period garb, from "Ed Sullivan-appearance" suits to "Abbey Road-cover" costumes.

That night's practice, however, was closing in on 10 p.m. The band, not yet tiring, was into "Twist and Shout" - the song they generally close shows with - when Jesse and Mark's dad, fittingly, came down the stairs. Jesse and Kenney were on summer break, but Jackson and Mark had school in the morning. It was time to wrap it up.

Ringo still had homework. - Lake County Reporter - Journal Communications Inc.


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Based out of Waukesha County, WI, The Lonely Hearts were founded in 2006 and quickly gained local popularity performing their complete-in-costume “Beatles Tribute” at countless Private Parties and Local Concerts. In the 4 years time since its inception, the band’s repertoire of music has grown immensely, as well as their ever-so-groovy guitar and outfit collection! Jesse, Blake, Jackson, & Mark continue to impress and excite audiences of all ages with every show they play!