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Default S.I.'s free Fab Four fest, Beatles Blast, upsizes 2 ballpark 4 autism awareness


Staten Island's free Fab Four fest, Beatles Blast, upsizes to ballpark for autism awareness
Rob Bailey / Staten Island Advance By Rob Bailey / Staten Island Advance
on July 18, 2013 at 3:35 PM, updated July 18, 2013 at 3:37 PM

STATEN ISLAND, NY — Live music has always played an integral part in the Borough President's Free Summer Events Series, starting 23 years ago with Guy Molinari's rock concerts in Gateway Park, right up to the annual Thursday night Starlight Concerts designed to showcase local musicians and parks.

But three seasons ago, BP James Molinari dedicated one Starlight stage per season to a cause: Promoting autism awareness.

And then 2012's inaugural "Beatles Blast" unexpectedly packed 2,000-plus music lovers into Silver Lake Park.

That's when the BP's office couldn't just let it be: Why not combine both popular events — in the biggest venue this borough has to offer: Richmond County Bank Ballpark?

Think about the possibilities: More consciousness-raising. More local talent exposed. More BEATLES BLAST!

The idea quickly came to fruition when ballpark execs hunkered down with BP staffers to secure a coveted Friday night slot in the sprawling St. George venue. Hence, Beatles Blast 2013: Dedicated to Autism Awareness, taking place Aug. 2 from 7-10 p.m.
0718BEATLESBLASTWEB.jpgView full sizeDesigned by Mary Garrison
Q104.3-FM's Ken Dashow will host a lineup of stellar local talents paying homage to the Fab Four, with star turns by a bona fide veteran of the British Invasion, Billy J. Kramer, and 17-year-old Garrett Gardner of NBC's "The Voice."

But wait, why all the hoopla about music recorded nearly a half-century ago?

"That's the same question people in Liverpool were asking in 1960: 'What is it about these guys that turn people on?,'" says Dashow, the classic rock superjock who also hosted last year's Beatles Blast. "Nothing has changed. It's like throwing a stone into a pond and ripples continue forever. They changed the world with music ... Like John Lennon said, 'All you need is love.' When will that ever not be cool?"


"This is a wonderful family event that showcases our talented young people, making it the perfect opportunity to promote increased awareness about autism," says BP James P. Molinaro, who spear-headed the formation in 2010 of S.I.'s Committee on Autism, which published the borough's
Beatles Blast 2013: Dedicated to Autism Awareness
New works by the Staten Island Camera Club, up through Aug. 11.


Richmond County Bank Ballpark, 75 Richmond Terr. in St. George


7-10 p.m. Aug. 2

How much

Admission is free; 500 tickets are reserved for preferred seating. Interested parties can call the special events office at 718-816-2133 to request them. They will be admitted to the ballpark at 6:30 p.m. General admission will be at 7 p.m.

More information

Sponsored by Northfield Bank. Donations for various autism support groups will be accepted at the event. Check for updates.
first-ever comprehensive guide to autism services.

Reps from organizations such as Eden II, G.R.A.C.E. Foundation, On Your Mark, J.C.C. of S.I., Volunteers of America and the Seton Foundation for Learning will staff informational tables at Beatles Blast, so parents and caregivers can learn more about services available to them.

"This developmental disability continues to grow at an alarming rate, particularly here on Staten Island," Molinaro says. "Two years ago, one in 110 children was diagnosed with autism. Today it's one in 88. I am committed to doing everything in my power to raise awareness and help parents cope with this little-understood disorder which has seemingly touched every family."


Among the returning acts are popular Brit Invasion tribute artists The Blue Meanies, as well as Giffords Lane (called Faze 4 Rockers last year), a pair of pre-teen rockers that absolutely slayed the Beatles Blast crowd last year.

If your sensing a trend here, the emphasis on youth is intentional.

"Yes, it's very much in the spirit of Lennon and McCartney; they met at a church affair when they were 15 and 16," says Deputy BP Ed Burke.

Now, Burke's brush with Beatlemania might not be as extreme as his officemates (did we mention press secretary Pat Wilk's Beatles-bewigged home movies?) but the power of nostalgia is still palpable.

""I look at my 6-year old nephew and think, how can I remember so vividly watching The Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" when I was that age?" Burke says. "But I do remember sitting on a chair and my Grandma's house and watching. Then the next day my parents went and bought me the record and I played it on little Victrola."

Also on the Beatles Blast bill: Eight Days a Week, Identity Crisis & Friends, Cause & the Effects, Revolution 4, Cathy Michetti, Graceful Glee, London Fogg, Garrett Gardner and Billy J. Kramer.


Garrett Gardner made quite a splash this year as part of Team Shakira on "The Voice." After a false start the previous season, it was the 17-year-old's second shot at reaching millions of viewers on NBC's smash hit singing competition.

But before he scored glowing praise from Usher and Adam Levine, the Ringwood, N.J., native was the lanky frontman of the funky pop-rock band Blueberry Acres at 2012's Beatles Blast in Silver Lake Park.

He grew up around music (mom and dad played together in a band) and rocks the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, ukulele and mandolin. His inspiration: Everyone from the Beatles to Bruno Mars.

"I think 'The Voice' really gave me a good foundation for the rest of my career," says Gardner. "I pray that it wasn't my peak, because I think I have a lot to offer."

We can all be the judge of this promising talent performs Aug. 2 at the Ballpark.


And now for a bona fide Beatles connection.

William Howard Ashton was born on Aug. 19, 1943 in Bootle, Lancashire, England, and grew up as the youngest of seven siblings. Choosing the name Kramer at random from a telephone directory, the teen apprentice for British Railways spent his spare time playing rhythm guitar in a band before switching to frontman duties.

It was John Lennon who suggested a "J" be added to the name for a "tougher edge."

Billy J. Kramer soon came to the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, turned pro and sought out the services of the Manchester-based group, the Dakotas.

Both acts signed to Parlophone Records under legendary producer George Martin. Once the Beatles broke through, the way was paved for a tide of Merseybeat music and Kramer was offered the chance to cover "Do You Want to Know a Secret?," first released by the Beatles on their own debut album, "Please Please Me."

Kramer's cover, backed by the unreleased Beatles tune I'll Be on My Way," hit No. 2 UK Singles Chart hit in 1963.

After this impressive breakthrough, Kramer was given a series of songs specially written for him by John Lennon and Paul McCartney which launched him into stardom: "I'll Keep You Satisfied," "From a Window," "I Call Your Name" and "Bad to Me" earned him appearances on the TV programs like "Shindig!," "Hullabaloo" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The big hits penned by Lennon and McCartney suggested that Kramer would always remain the Beatles' shadow, unless he tried something different. Despite being advised against it, he turned down the offer of another Lennon–McCartney song, "One and One is Two", and insisted on recording the stateside chart hit, 1964's "Little Children."

It became his second chart topper and biggest hit. In the U.S., this was followed up with the B-side, "Bad to Me," making it the only debut single of an act on the Hot 100 where both sides separately reached that chart's top 10 (No. 7 and No. 9, respectively).

The year 1965 saw the end for the beat music boom, and Kramer's cover of "Trains and Boats and Planes" found itself in direct competition with Dionne Warwick's version, which won the day. Kramer's effort still reached a respectable number 12, but was the group's swan song, as all subsequent cuts missed the chart.

Kramer had a solo career over the next 15 years, working in cabaret and television, after which he went to live in the United States. The Dakotas re-formed in the late 1980s and still tour and record.

In late 2012, Billy went back into the studio for the first time in years to record "I Won the Fight," which features some new songs written by Billy as well as some covers. Perhaps we will hear some of both at Beatles Blast 2013.
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