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Wings, Moody Blues star to play in Tuolumne

“You’d better go now.”

So says the hit single “Go Now,” recorded in 1964 by a new British band called the Moody Blues.

And if you’re reading this before dark on Sept. 12, that’s also a direct message to you.

Denny Laine, the original lead singer and guitarist for the Moody Blues — who later spent 10 years touring and recording with the Paul McCartney band Wings — will perform at 8 p.m. today at the Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne.

Admission is free to ages 21 and over.

Laine, whose friendship with McCartney dates back to the days when the Beatles were still playing in Hamburg, Germany, will present his “Abbey Road Memories” show in the Willow Creek Lounge, backed by the musicians in Peter Asher’s band.

“Abbey Road Memories” focuses on songs that were recorded in the fabled Abbey Road Studios in London beginning with the “British Invasion” of the early 1960s. The show will include a complete performance of the Beatles album “Abbey Road,” along with assorted hits by the Moody Blues, the Zombies, Manfred Mann, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Hollies, Pink Floyd, Wings and more, including Laine’s original compositions.

“We’ll do the full album and the extra songs,” Laine said by telephone from Las Vegas. “I don’t try to sing like Paul or George or John, but I’m obviously influenced by them — they’re all old friends of mine.”

Born Oct. 29, 1944, in Birmingham, England, Laine took up the guitar as a boy under the influence of Gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt, giving his first solo performance at age 12. 

He began his professional music career in 1962 fronting Denny Laine and the Diplomats before leaving in May 1964 to form the Moody Blues with Ray Thomas, Michael Pinder, Clint Warwick and Graeme Edge.

Later the same year, they recorded “Go Now” — an obscure song by American soul singer Bessie Banks — with Laine on lead vocals and guitar. The song went on to reach No. 1 in the United Kingdom and No. 10 in the United States.

In 1965, the Moody Blues opened for the Beatles on their final tour of the United Kingdom.

Laine chose to leave the group in October 1966.

 “It was a mixture of things,” he said. “For one thing, we were very young, and I was the youngest, and it turned out I had a baby boy to look after. I wanted to go into the studio and finish another album rather than touring around Europe forever. We didn’t fall out about it, it was just a decision I made. I was really a bit restless.”

 In December 1966, Laine formed the Electric String Band, featuring himself on guitar and vocals, Trevor Burton on guitar and Viv Prince on drums, along with electrified violins and cello. 

They recorded two singles and, in June 1967, shared a bill with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Procol Harum at the Saville Theatre in London. 

“Paul was in the audience for that and called me up years later,” Laine said. 

The reason? To form a new band following the 1970 breakup of the Beatles.

“It was because I knew him,” Laine said. “He knew I was progressive, and he wanted to go out, but not to do a Beatles show.”

The result was Wings, formed in 1971, with Laine joining McCartney, drummer Denny Seiwell and McCartney’s wife Linda in the new project. Laine provided lead and rhythm guitars, lead and backing vocals, keyboards, bass and woodwinds, as well as writing and co-writing some of their songs, including the No. 1 hit “Mull of Kintyre.” 

Other than the McCartneys, Laine was the only member among many to remain with the group its entire 10 years.

Before joining Wings, Laine kept busy with several other projects, including the rock band called Balls, jamming with the likes of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker — collectively known as Cream — and a year-long stint with Ginger Baker’s Air Force.

“Again, I knew all these people from the early ’60s,” Laine said. “I knew Ginger and Jack Bruce in London because we all played the same gigs. Eventually, I started knocking around with Trevor Burton from the Move. We had just got together to visit the guys from Traffic and they were putting Blind Faith together at that time. We had a little jam session and then they came to my flat and we had a little party and Ginger asked me to join.”

However, it was with Wings that Laine enjoyed the biggest popular successes of his career. He called it a collective effort, with each member contributing talent and ideas.

“It’s never been a problem for me making suggestions — bands are like that, they bounce things off each other — but the public perception was overwhelmingly that it was his band,” Laine said. “I did have that relationship where I could be very open and say what I did like or did not like and he listened to me in that regard, but at the end of the day it was his decision.”

Originally, McCartney opted not to perform any Beatles songs with Wings.

“I was the one who encouraged him to do a couple acoustic versions of his Beatles songs, which he did,” Laine said. “Other than that it was an original band.”

Laine also said Wings was partly formed to help McCartney recover from the splintering of his earlier group, which had obtained heights still unparalleled today.

“Wings got him out of his depression after the Beatles broke up,” Laine said. “Linda got him into doing something, and that’s how it came about.”

Wings went on the achieve major acclaim of its own, including Grammy Awards, top sales and a loyal following, although critics seemed to delight in attacking most of their efforts.

At live shows, however, the audience never wavered.

“We had the best equipment, custom lighting, laser lights from the Who — everything we had was revolutionary and every show was phenomenal,” Laine said. “The energy of the audience was a big part of it.”  

In 1981, McCartney decided that Wings had run its course and returned to solo work.

Guitarist Laurence Juber — who was brought into Wings at Laine’s suggestion in 1978 and who also has played in Tuolumne County — at the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland — once told a magazine interviewer, “Wings was a real band to a lot of people, and I think in the end it became a bit too much of a real band for where Paul wanted to go with his own career.”

The band’s breakup marked the end of a steady job for the members, but was not emotionally crushing.

“Musically, it was not 100 percent what I wanted,” Laine said. “I wanted to do my own thing. I was used to being the singer, the guitar player and the arranger. In Wings I was more a side man. But I learned quite a lot by being around him and you always had a big fan base that was cheering you on. It was a very, very busy period, but it was fun and I enjoyed it.” 

Laine is still in contact with McCartney, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.

“If I ever call him Sir Paul he knows I’m being sarcastic,” Laine said. “We all came through the ranks together — Elton John, Mick Jagger — and in the early days we were pretty much all rebels. We did what we wanted to do and didn’t care who thought what.”

After leaving Wings, Laine released a new solo album, “Japanese Tears,” which featured a mixture of unreleased Wings songs and solo recordings, and undertook his first solo tour. 

His previous albums include “Ahh ... Laine” in 1973 and “Holly Days,” a Buddy Holly tribute released in 1977 with both Paul and Linda McCartney contributing.

Later solo albums include “Anyone Can Fly,” “Hometown Girls,” “Wings on Your Feet, “ “Lonely Road” and “Wings at the Sound of Denny Laine.” 

He has a new album, “Valley of Dreams,” completed and ready for release. 

“When it’s out we’ll start a whole series of gigs around that,” he said.

Laine has been living in Las Vegas since 2002 and earlier this year appeared in “Vinyl — The Classic Rock Experience” with Domenick Allen, formerly of Foreigner.

He has yet to see “Love,” the Cirque du Soleil show about the Beatles.

“I stood in line for it one day,” he said. “I don’t like to bother people for free tickets, although I probably could have, so I stood in line and there was some problem, a telephone call or something, where I couldn’t go in — so I still haven’t seen it.”


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