To millions of Beatles fans across the globe, Louise Harrison is referred to affectionately as "the flying mum."
Harrison is the older sister of the late George Harrison, who — along with bandmates Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr — rose to worldwide fame with the Beatles in the 1960s.
At the time, Louise Harrison was living in Illinois with her husband. Before the band made it big in the United States, she went from radio station to radio station, begging producers to play the Beatles' records.
Now, nearly 50 years later, Harrison carries on her brother's legacy through a Beatles tribute band, the Branson, MO-based "Liverpool Legends." Since 2006, the band has been performing songs spanning the entire career of the Beatles, as well as the band members' solo years.
The Liverpool Legends are part of Harrison's "Keeping Music Alive" program, which brings live, Beatles-themed shows to high schools and college campuses across the country in an effort to promote music education.
On Friday, Nov. 18, the Liverpool Legends will take over Lemont High School for a special concert event. During the show, students will have the opportunity to play with the band, as well as meet Harrison herself.
Part of the proceeds from the show will be given directly back to the school's music department.
Lemont Patch Editor Amanda Luevano chatted with Harrison on Wednesday to learn more about her organization, the Liverpool Legends and the legacy of her youngest brother.
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Patch: The students at Lemont High School are incredibly excited about the Liverpool Legends show next weekend. Can you tell us more about "Keeping Music Alive" and how the organization got started?
Harrison: The whole idea of "Keeping Music Alive" originally came from my brother. George did a public service announcement in the late '90s in conjunction with the film Mr. Holland's Opus. In that PSA, he encouraged music education in schools. It was important to him to say, "Don't let the music fade. Look what it gave to me." (VIDEO: George Harrison's PSA)
George's message is what drives "Keeping Music Alive." With the economy the way it is, there are many schools that don't have adequate funds to keep any of their extra programs going. But we do want to keep music alive.
We decided that are a group of musicians we have a wonderful band, lets see what do to go to schools help schools have students take part. all cost, give nice amount to school.
Patch: What can people expect from the show next weekend?
Harrison: I would not have myself involved with the Liverpool Legends if they were anything less than excellent. I've always been very concerned about the reputation and integrity of everything I've been involved with because I wouldn't want to let George down. I've been careful to make sure these boys are good musicians and good impersonators. They're good men. I think they're the types of guys George would love if he were still around. I can see him jamming with them after the show.
Every show we've done, there are people that tell me it's one of the best shows they've ever seen. We really bring the Beatles experience to life, so I think people will love it.
Since I'll be at the show, I'm also hoping that I will be able to speak to the student body for a bit about the Beatles and give them a bit of history on the band.
Patch: What has it been like to work with the Liverpool Legends and recreate the magic of the Beatles?
Harrison: It's been very gratifying and rewarding. I feel responsible to celebrate the boys and their music in an authentic, vigorous, joyful way and to keep their message going.
Patch: The Beatles' universal appeal has carried their music through decades of change. Why do you think their songs are still so relevant today?
Harrison: They were all about love and peace, and those things transcend time. But their other message was that people need to come together and make things better for each other.
When you see all of the things going on about the 99 percent of people and the protests, I think it's very relevant. If John Lennon were alive, he would be in forefront of all of that. "Give peace a chance. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world" — that's happening in this country right now. People are fighting for themselves and for each other. That's what the Beatles were all about. And that's why I love talking to students today, so I can show them the connections they have with the Beatles — the ones they don't even realize.
Patch: What was it like to grow up with George and be part of his rise to fame?
Harrison: I was 11 when George was born. When he and the boys were taking off in Britain in the early '60s, I had just moved to the United States. My parents would send me their singles, and I would go around to all of the American radio stations saying, "This is my brother's band. You should play them, they're at the top of the charts in England."
I started doing a lot of research on the difference between the UK and American music markets. In order to get a record on enough stations to make a difference, you had to have a lot of money and a lot of clout. I told their manager in England the things I was learning to help them figure out how to do things over here. I told them to get on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Once they became big over here, I started writing and broadcasting reports, just because there was such a large demand for Beatles news.
Patch: Did you have any idea the Beatles would become as big as they did?
Harrison: I think I knew they were special early on. But George was my kid brother, so I loved them regardless. I had no idea they would become a worldwide phenomenon. I just did the best I could to get them heard.
Patch: Did your life change at all?
Harrison: A little bit, especially when they became a global phenomenon. When they really took off, my parents became a 'mum and dad' to the global family of Beatle people. After they died, I took on that role. Now people call me "the flying mum."
Patch: Do you have a favorite Beatles song?
Harrison: It would be so hard to choose. Each one is such a great song in its own way
Patch: How important has it been for you and your family to carry on George's legacy?
Harrison: It's one of the reasons I've been so involved, even apart from getting things started over here. When the band started to take off, my parents were answering hundreds of thousands of fan letters. I was in the United States, but they always said how important it was for all of us as a family to respond to his fans. They knew George and the boys didn't have time to do it themselves.
It's up to us as family to give back the love, for George and the boys and their fans. We try to do that the best we can.
Patch: What did George think about the level of fame the Beatles reached and their influence on pop culture?
Harrison: (Laughing) You know, for longest time he hoped he would just become a good guitarist. That was the kind of attitude they all had. None of the boys thought they were God's gift to the world. They just wanted to make music.
One time George said to me, "All this fame and all this being in the spotlight, all the people who know all about us — I hope when I get a bit older I'm good enough to just play in a bar or Holiday Inn."
Patch: Well, coming from a Beatles fan, it's been a pleasure, and I'm so looking forward to the show in Lemont next weekend.
Harrison: And you will get your Harrison Hug!
Patch: A Harrison Hug?
Harrison: A Harrison Hug, it's something that started before George died. One of the last times I saw him, he gave me a hug and told me to pass it on. After he died in 2001, I started giving people hugs and telling them they were from George, and that they had to pass it on.
Several years ago, I heard from a fan in Argentina. The person had received a Harrison Hug on their birthday from someone I had hugged in Cleveland in 2003.
George is no longer here, but with these hugs I can feel his love circling globe.
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The Liverpool Legends will play at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the Lemont High School Performing Arts Center, 800 Porter St.
For more information on the upcoming concert or purchasing tickets, contact Performing Arts Center Manager Terry Redford at email@example.com or (630) 243-3286. For more information on Liverpool Legends, visit www.liverpoollegends.com.