By John Philip Wyllie
One of the earliest memories Hector Penalosa has of growing up across the border in Tecate, is that of spending his Saturday mornings in front of the TV watching Beatles cartoons. Forty years ago that weekend ritual ignited a fire in Penalosa and in many other musicians. It has never been extinguished.
“We had a babysitter that was a huge Beatles fan,” Penalosa recalled. “I remember when I was five or six years old she talked me into going to see the film “Help”. There was near pandemonium in the theatre when the film started and the Beatles first appeared on the screen. All of the girls were going bananas! It was very exciting.”
Penalosa liked what he heard. Before he became a teenager, he was learning to play his first guitar. Several years later, he was playing in a band attempting to emulate the Beatles.
On Saturday, Penalosa and the Baja Buggs, a band he co-founded in 1998 with guitarist Javier Anaya, will kick off the 10th Annual San Diego Beatle Fair at Mission Valley’s Scottish Rite Center with an 11:00 a.m. performance on the main stage. The Baja Buggs will repeat their main stage performance Sunday morning at 11:00 as the event begins its second day.
“The Beatle Fair draws lots of people from Mexicali, Calexico and Tijuana as well as Hispanics living in L.A. and San Diego,” according to Penalosa. “I think they sometimes get a kick out of seeing an all-Hispanic group performing the music of the Beatles. It helps them to feel more of a connection with what is happening at the convention.”
Lead singer and bassist Penalosa and Anaya, the band’s lead guitarist, will join Ricky Serrano (drums) and Fernando Alarcon (rhythm guitar, harmonica and vocals) and take the audience back to the Beatles’ earliest days. Only the most devoted Beatles fans will recognize some of the songs they will play from the Beatles Cavern Club era. Purposely avoiding the Beatles’ biggest hits, the “Buggs” will throw in lots of album cuts from CDs such as “Please Please Me,” “With the Beatles,” “Beatles for Sale,” “Beatles at the BBC” and “Anthology”.
The two-day affair will bring fans face to face with a number of interesting guest speakers, performers and Beatle insiders. Slated to perform are British invasion artists Billy J. Kramer (Little Children, Bad to Me) Gordon Waller, formerly of Peter & Gordon (World Without Love, I Go To Pieces) and Tony Sheridan who recorded songs with the Beatles such as “My Bonnie” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Noted documentary film maker, Albert Maysles (“Gimme Shelter”, “The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit”) heads an interesting list of guest speakers. He will discuss his celebrated film pro-jects with the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
San Diego’s superb Beatles cover band, Rockola, will perform their Beatles Rubber Soul Show on Saturday evening. The New Fab 40, Jackie Lomax and the Offbeats will also entertain throughout the two-day affair.
On display will be a large variety of 60s-era photos and memorabilia and collectors will have scads of tee-shirts, posters, books, buttons, toys and albums to sort through in the Beatles Marketplace. Certain to be among those items will be a copy of those same Saturday morning Beatles cartoons that once inspired Penalosa.
Tickets for the July 17 & 18 2004 Beatle Fair are available at the door for $25 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. For additional information contact show sponsors Come Together at (619) 687- 3687.