They've got the musical talent, on-stage mannerisms and authentic instruments, right down to the 1960s-vintage Ludwig drum kit.
But what sets Stockwood apart from other Beatles tribute bands is a boyish exuberance.And it's as genuine as the drum set. After all, these guys aren't even in high school yet.
Stockwood -- billed as the world's youngest Beatles tribute band -- comprises Collin Berg and J.D. Fuller, both 14; 12-year-old John Morefield; and Evan Berg, Collin's 10-year-old brother. Or on stage, John, Paul, George and Ringo, respectively.
They've been together for three years, since a talent show at their Woodstock school, Dean Street Elementary, where they did "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Can't Buy Me Love."
A teacher who saw them was putting together a fundraiser for a few weeks later and asked J.D.'s father, Jay Fuller, a physical education teacher at the school, if the boys might be interested in playing. They learned six more songs, and the rest is music history.
"We've played 78 or 79 [shows since]," said J.D., sitting on a couch in his family's basement during a rehearsal break. "I just counted the other night."
They've played at festivals, benefits, block parties and store openings. From the Taste of Polonia to the Fest for Beatle Fans, where last year they won the battle-of-the-bands competition. Venues have ranged from the House of Blues in Chicago to the Rosewood Retirement Home in Elgin, one of their first gigs. They have a Web site ( www.stockwoodrocks.com), there's talk of a CD, and they play all over the Midwest, taking their love of the Beatles with them.
"I've liked Beatles music since I was very young," Collin said. "Everybody [in the band] loved it when they were young. We just loved the music, the good messages in it."
"We just enjoy the style," added John.
Right now they're preparing for their third appearance at Abbey Road on the River, a five-day Beatles festival this month in Louisville. Stockwood is one of seven Chicago-area Beatles tribute or cover bands that will be performing. Stockwood will kick off the event's Friday program by performing the entire 12-song "Meet the Beatles" album.
And that's what a recent Monday practice was all about, nailing down the six songs that had not been part of Stockwood's repertoire.
The boys warmed up by doing scales and practicing harmonizing. They've been taking voice lessons for about a year, according to Rob Murphy, J.D.'s uncle and their business manager, an effort to keep puberty from pulling a Yoko Ono on the band.
Then they took a nice spin through "A Hard Day's Night," during which Collin let loose with an on-the-nose Lennonesque scream -- any Beatles fan can hear it in his head -- before the last verse.
J.D. took over vocals on the next song, "Can't Buy Me Love," which ended with the three guitarists nailing the Beatle bow (picture any of the "Ed Sullivan Show" appearances).
These guys are amazingly good. So good, in fact, that they get lumped in with the likes of Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson, who were caught lip-synching their performances.
"People say that all the time," Murphy said. "'They're playing soundtracks behind them,' 'They're not really playing.' But it's them."
What is artificially enhanced is their hair. All four are blond, and three have opted for dye jobs.
"J.D. was the only one who decided he was OK with being a blond," Murphy said.
"He's J.D. 24 hours a day," said his mom, Debbie Fuller. "He's Paul only a couple hours a week."
The boys' Beatles knowledge comes from studying. They read books, they watch videos. J.D., in fact, is right-handed, but he studied clips of the left-handed McCartney playing bass and taught himself to do it as well. They also talk to other Beatles tribute bands out on the circuit.
The boys have varied musical tastes. Collin, J.D. and John play in their jazz band at school. ("Not that we play jazz from the '20s, '30s and '40s," John said. "No offense or anything, but it's kind of boring.") They also like classic rock from the '70s and '80s.
Someone asks about The Rolling Stones.
"Never heard of 'em," John responded with a twinkle in his eye that would have done Paul McCartney proud.
How long the boys will keep Stockwood going is anyone's guess. It's also their choice.
"They're not forced into anything," Murphy said. "We tell them, 'Anytime you want to quit, it's OK.' We don't want to be stage parents."
This thing may continue for a while, though. Stockwoodmania has its advantages.
"The groupies," Murphy laughed. "There are six or eight girls who follow them. I swear they're at every show."
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Coming together in Louisville
Somehow, it's hard to visualize thousands of people turning out decades from now to listen to Green Day tribute bands.
But Abbey Road on the River continues to expand -- this year's Beatles blowout will be five days, May 24-28 -- and is expected to draw upward of 25,000 people to Louisville, paying homage to a band that broke up more than 35 years ago.
Promoter/producer Gary Jacob expects fans of all ages, not just Boomers who fondly recall that first "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance in 1964.
"Even though most 20- and 25-year-olds do not have the passion for the Beatles that we do, there are millions who do," Jacob said. "We see a lot in that age group. It astounds me how many 20- to 25-year-old women come to our event."
Jacob gets positively cosmic when he tries to explain people's continued devotion to the Beatles.
"I often think about the whole time-space continuum," he said. "I think the Kennedy assassination was the tear in the fabric of time in our lives. It changed everything in our lives forevermore. Then these four kids came along, out of nowhere, out of Liverpool, and they defined the next 50 years."
This year's fest, with eight stages and 60 bands, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." To that end, "Sgt. Pepper" will be performed live three times. In addition, all 14 original EMI/Capitol albums will be re-created by participating bands, as will "Love!" the 26-track remix of Beatles hits that was released last year. It's being staged with 30 musicians and video projection on a 3,000-square-foot stage.
"We spend a lot of time with transcribers and charting it and rehearsing it," Jacob said. "If we pull it off, it'll be quite memorable."
For more information, go to abbeyroadon theriver.com.
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