Larry Dumas attracted some attention Friday night when he walked into the Mount Airy Public Library carrying a classic album by the Beatles and a poster of that band.
But this was a logical occurrence, since Dumas’ destination was a special program at the library, “The Beatles: Band of the ’60s.” The Mount Airy resident was one of about 35 people who made the trek to the library on a cold evening, all of whom seemed to share an affinity for the boys from Liverpool who revolutionized the American music scene forever.
“I’ve been a Beatles fan since 1964,” Dumas, now 66, said of the sound they produced which captivated a generation.
“When they came out with that song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ in 1964, it was a different sound,” Dumas said of what caught his attention.
A musician himself, Dumas explained that the Beatles’ music reflected unusual chord progressions and the use of minor keys that were far from the norm at that time. “It was just different,” added Dumas, who said the English group became his band of choice as a teen.
Friday night’s presentation at the library — by Aaron Krerowicz of Carmel, Indiana, billed as the only full-time professional Beatles scholar in the U.S. — was tailor-made for Dumas and other local fans, who included both younger and older persons.
Krerowicz, 30, who studied music theory in college and is an author as well as a musician, highlighted technical aspects of the Beatles’ unique sound during his appearance Friday night, as cited by Dumas. Krerowicz also detailed how the group evolved from humble beginnings to the top of the music charts in the 1960s.
His multimedia presentation included photographs and snippets of Beatles songs and interviews with band members.
“Last June, I kind of quit my other jobs so I could do this full-time,” Krerowicz told Friday night’s audience regarding his present role. It involves nearly 80 scheduled appearances at universities, libraries, continuing education programs and community centers in 20 states.
He won a research grant through the University of Hartford in 2011 to study the Beatles.
“I like my job,” Krerowicz said of giving presentations on the group. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work.”
One might wonder how a person born in 1985 — 15 years after the band broke up — became so interested in the Beatles. “Probably because of my dad,” Krerowicz said Friday night during a question-and-answer session with an appreciative audience.
“My dad really exposed me to them when I was little.”
One unusual aspect surrounding the group is that while the Beatles music continues to be popular today, the band itself was only in operation for the 1960s decade.
Its origins date to 1960, when George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney found themselves in a five-man group called the Quarrymen. Drummer Ringo Starr was not yet involved, with Pete Best handling the percussion duties.
The Quarrymen also included bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe, who would die of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 21 in 1962, believed to have been caused during an earlier brawl.
In those pioneering years, the group had the look of a boy band, with short hair. The legendary Beatles haircut had not yet emerged, which was spawned after Sutcliffe showed up one day sporting that longer style. Although others in the band laughed at Surtcliffe, they later would adopt the trademark haircut.
“It was a gradual thing,” Krerowicz said.
Sutcliffe also is credited with the changing of the band’s name to the Beatles, in honor of Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Krerowicz said a pivotal period in the Beatles’ career came during 1960-62 when the group made a series of appearances in Hamburg, Germany. Since the audiences tended to be inebriated, the band was compelled to become quite animated and expressive onstage, which taught it how to become showmen.
The Beatles reigned during a turbulent period marked by drug experimentation, and their own narcotics involvement began in Hamburg, where they began using the weight-loss supplement Preludin to maintain their energy for performances and also recreationally.
Another key time for the group came in 1962, when it met record producer George Martin, triggering a long association.
Martin suggested that the group replace Best, the drummer, for its studio sessions while retaining his services for live concerts, but the other members had been looking for an excuse to get rid of Best altogether, Krerowicz related.
Starr joined the band to form the Fab Four with which fans are familiar.
Martin helped the group refine its sound. “None of the Beatles had any formal musical training,” Krerowicz said.
The chord progressions evident in the harmonies of some of the Beatles’ earlier songs were inspired by the Everly Brothers and Carl Perkins, the speaker said.
In 1963, the Beatles’ rise to greatness began when they played at Royal Albert Hall in London, as well as on British television shows.
The Beatles’ popularity soared, leading to the group’s first visit to America in 1964 for concerts in Washington, D.C., and New York and a legendary appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS-TV.
In addition, a movie starring the Beatles, “A Hard Day’s Night,” was released in 1964.
Krerowicz said another transformative moment for the Beatles came later that year, a meeting with legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
Friday’s presenter said this led to the lyrics in Beatles’ songs becoming more mature and thoughtful, rather than teeny-boppish, and their music evolved from fast-paced rock and roll to a more earthy, deliberate style. Lennon and McCartney gained prominence as a formidable songwriting duo.
Another key decision was made later in the 1960s when the Beatles stopped giving live concerts, ironically because of their vast popularity that kept the musicians from perfecting their sound.
“The volume of (fans’) screams just drowned everything out,” Starr said during an interview that Krerowicz shared Friday night.
He added that the group also feared for its safety, since the crowds often got out of control, with the mania even captivating the police assigned to protect the Beatles.
“So the only place we could develop was in the studio,” McCartney said in an interview snippet of how the band’s growth was fueled as a result.
Their subsequent studio sessions produced two of the Beatles’ best-known albums, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”
As time passed, the four Beatles seemed to head in their own musical directions, Krerowicz said, which was a precursor to solo work later on that would reflect distinctive styles.
The Beatles performed one last live show, in January 1969, from the rooftop of the Apple studios in London, the group’s record label at the time.
“Let it Be” was the last Beatles album to be released, in May 1970. “Abbey Road” was the final LP the band recorded, but it came out before “Let it Be.”
Krerowicz ended his presentation with a lively question-and-answer session that revealed the undying popularity of a British rock group in Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 2016.
“I thought it was very good,” Wanda McAlexander of Mount Airy said of the program. She attended with her husband Dwight, while carrying a framed yellowed copy of a flier promoting the showing of the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” at the Mount Airy Drive-In Theater in October 1964.
The McAlexanders remember that time well, and seem to consider the framed announcement of the Beatles’ movie locally a prized possession.
“I had it in a scrapbook for years,” Mrs. McAlexander said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.