One Coventry resident may just have the coolest job on earth.
He travels the world dressed as one of his musical heroes and sings in front of massive crowds at some of the most prestigious music venues. He is Tom Work, a George Harrison impersonator and long-time member of 1964: The Tribute, a Beatles cover band that Rolling Stone once called "The best Beatles tribute band on Earth."
The band puts on a show devoted to the pre-Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles, with members accounting for all of the early Beatles essentials, right down to their costumes, British accents and period instruments. 1964 has played all over the world, including Germany, England, Austria, Ecuador, Chile and Bermuda.
Work and his fellow 1964 cast members Mark Benson, Mac Ruffing and Bobby Potter will play at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Jan. 11 for the 13th year. This year, the show is devoted to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' invasion, as well as the anniversary of the Beatles' performance at Carnegie Hall.
"Carnegie is the place everybody aspires to play," Work said, "and the bragging rights alone are just worth it, because every time you say, 'Carnegie Hall,' everybody just goes 'Oh, wow.'"
But the world-renowned concert hall has its downfalls, too.
"It's a concert hall that wasn't built with a rock band in mind," Work said. "The acoustics are bad."
For Work, who has been touring with 1964 since the band's inception in the early 1980s – save for two sabbaticals where he worked at various office jobs – boarding a plane dressed as Harrison and being written up in Rolling Stone on weekends are just a part of the job.
During the week, he's your average father of two school-aged kids, Jensen, 14, and Cooper, 11, who are students at Coventry. Work himself is a 1971 graduate of Coventry High School where he played in the marching and symphony bands.
The weekend rock star's love for the Beatles dates all the way back to 50 years ago, when Work was in the fifth grade and the Beatles first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Work says his career as an impersonator began at the age 3, when he first mimicked Elvis. He started his first Beatles tribute band shortly after the Beatles first came to America.
"In the fifth grade, I put together a little Beatles tribute band," Work said. "We didn't wear wigs. We didn't even know how to play our instruments. Our drummer didn't have any drums, so he took potato chip cans and wrapped them in paper and he acted like he was hitting them. We played three songs, lip syncing and faking the instruments to the real record, and the crowd loved it."
1964: The Tribute, though, had more gradual success. The group began as an off-shoot of another local Beatles band. Work, along with some of his musician friends, began 1964 by playing local night clubs and the occasional concert hall. After playing a college music showcase, the band began to gain greater notoriety.
Page 2 of 2 - "We just grew and grew," Work said. "Had we jumped right into the level we are now, that would be a shock to get out of the wig and go home and cut the grass, but we got used to it first before there was a whole lot of excitement."
In addition to accolades paid to the tribute band from Rolling Stone and Dick Clark, who said "1964 creates the magic of The Beatles," the band has also appeared on a variety of different television shows.
"We had a national spot on 'Entertainment Tonight,' way back," Work said. "They took us around D.C. and filmed us on the steps of the Supreme Court building. It was really exciting."
But Work remains humble despite the band's success, citing fond memories of growing up in the Portage Lakes, which he called a "Tom Sawyer childhood."
"One of the coolest thing was, I was in ninth grade and not able to drive yet, but I was in a band and I lived on the lake and our drummer lived on a different lake, so I would put my guitar and amp in a boat and drive over to band practice. The other guys had to have their moms' drive them over there," Work said, recalling that he was a member of a 70s local band, Dogs 'n Kids, who had a song called "Back in the Lakes Again."
It is clear though, that Work and his fellow cast members are honored to be able to live their dreams long into their adult lives.
"I think it's the coolest job," Work said. "It's no secret that people are always saying 'It's so important to love your work." And I loved my office jobs that I've had, but when something is in your blood and in your bones, and all you get to do is pick at it on the weekends, then it's like a hobby. But here we are, working full-time at it and making a pretty good living, so I think all of us feel blessed or lucky to have that."
For more information on 1964: The Tribute and for tour information, visit www.1964site.com.