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POP MUSIC : Rock ‘n’ Roll History Show Strikes the Right Chords

One of the more popular shows in Las Vegas is the Imperial Palace’s “Legends in Concert” revue, featuring a cast of celebrity impersonators who attempt to sound like, and are made up to look like, a bevy of legendary rock stars, most of whom are dead.

Since mid-August, Carlsbad resident Michael Saquella has been producing a similar retro-rock revue at the California Earthquake cafes in San Marcos (Wednesday nights) and Mission Valley (Thursday nights).

Saquella is a former “Legends” cast member. For two years, he was one-half of the Blues Brothers, impersonating John Belushi. And “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” scheduled to run indefinitely at both cafes, is something of a poor man’s “Legends.”

The concept is the same, but the budget is a lot smaller. Most of the eight impersonators are faced with the challenging task of impersonating not just one rock star, but two, three, four, or even five.

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Amazingly enough, they pull it off--some better than others. The production is a 90-minute musical romp down memory lane every bit as entertaining as its big-budget Las Vegas counterpart.

The show opens with the seven-piece backup band playing several classic rock ‘n’ roll instrumentals, starting with Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions.” Then comes the rest of the crew, lending their collective voices to Danny and the Juniors’ “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” and Bill Haley’s “Shake, Rattle & Roll.”

Chris Broggan, behind thick glasses, does an OK job of imitating Buddy Holly on a medley of “That’ll Be the Day,” “Oh Boy,” and “Not Fade Away.” He needs a little more grease in his hair, and a little less rasp in his voice.

Osayande Baruti comes out next. He’s a regular musical chameleon. Wearing a silver-white satin cape, he starts out with a Little Richard medley (“Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti Frutti”), complete with the obligatory leaps and mugs. The cape comes off, revealing a plaid sport coat, and--presto!--he’s Chuck Berry (“Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode”), duckwalk and all. Then the jacket comes off, the sweat starts to pour, and he’s James (“I Feel Good”) Brown.

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Broggan reappears later, wearing a black-leather motorcycle jacket and tight black jeans. Yes, it’s Elvis. The impersonator’s medley of “Hound Dog,” “Teddy Bear,” and “Jailhouse Rock” are remarkably, eerily faithful. So what if he doesn’t look the part--he sure sounds it.

The rest of the show has its share of hits and misses. Identical twins Nakato and Bebidiye Abernathy look and sound lovely, harmonizing on the Supremes’ “Baby Love.” Nakato subsequently does a mean Aretha Franklin (“Think”) and Bebidiye, an even meaner Tina Turner (“Proud Mary”).

The Beach Boys, on the other hand, could use a little work on their harmonies. The Beatles might sound more like the real thing if there were four of them, not just two.

And the show-closing performance by the Blues Brothers (Saquella and Rolf Sammons) is terrific, except it’s too long. But as Earthquake Cafe owner Bob Geiserman said, “Michael’s part of the act, and it is his show.”

My advice: Check it out. It’s really a lot of fun, and it’s also a bargain. While tickets to “Legends” are $20, tickets to “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” are just $5. In a Vegas showroom, that might get you a drink.

Dr. Feelgood and the Interns of Love won the Entertainers of the Year award, and Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers took top entertainer Monday night at the ninth annual Entertainer Music Awards in Encinitas.

The two-hour awards ceremony, a tribute to the local music scene, was for the most part a smooth and professional production that nearly sold out (upward of 400 attendees, the majority of them musicians) the La Paloma Theater.

Ken Harrison, who hosts a talk show on Carlsbad radio station KCEO-AM (1000), was emcee of the event, which was a benefit for the Marylou Clack Center for handicapped Children. To liven things up between presentations, just like the real Grammies, organizer Kevin Hellman enlisted several of last year’s winners, including Dr. Chico’s Island Sounds and Char Carroll and Crossover.

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There were a few funny moments. When it was announced that the Beat Farmers had won the Best Rock ‘n’ Roll--Original Music award, Country Dick Montana was next door at the Full Moon Cafe, chugging tequila. Paul Kamanski, who has written several songs for the Beat Farmers, accepted the solid-bronze “Jolson” on the group’s behalf.

Earlier, celebrated bluesman Charlie Musselwhite took time out from his show at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach to present the Best Rhythm-and-Blues award to the Blonde Bruce Band. But it took a little more time than he had intended: Someone had forgotten to give him the envelope.

And after the ceremony, Montana was back at the Full Moon, trying to pawn his two Jolsons--the band won one, he won another--for a little beer money.

The rest of the winners:

* Best Contemporary Solo or Duo: Billy Fowler and Susan Kively.

* Best Contemporary Group: Hut-Sut Ralston.

* Best Reggae/World Beat: Dr. Chico’s Island Sounds.

* Best Jazz: The Easton-West Band.

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* Best Vintage Jazz: Tobacco Road.

* Best Country & Western: The Savery Brothers.

* Best Vintage Rock: Rockola.

* Best Top 40 Rock: The Siers Brothers.

LINER NOTES: Local public radio station KPBS-FM (89.5) will air portions of last month’s 1990 Newport Folk Festival on the next two installments of “Sunday’s Folk,” Sunday and Sept. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. Among the performers at the two-day folk festival, which was held Aug. 11 and 12, were Joan Baez, the Roches, the Indigo Girls, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Richard Thompson . . .

Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. for Los Lobos’ Oct. 20 appearance at the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park, and for Judas Priest’s Nov. 10 concert, with Megadeath and Testament, at the San Diego Sports Arena. Tickets go on sale Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. for Billy Idol’s Oct. 26 show at the Sports Arena. Faith No More will open. . . .

Best concert bets for the coming week: John Doe with Kimm Rogers, tonight at UC San Diego’s Triton Pub; the Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson), tonight at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds; Black Uhuru with Yellowman and Sophia George, Thursday at the Starlight Bowl; the Dynatones, Friday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach; Crosby, Stills and Nash, Saturday at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theater; and Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Tuck and Patti, Sunday at Humphrey’s on Shelter Island.


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