DO YOU WANT TO PLAY THEM?
In October of 2016 I get this email from a good friend of mine from Liverpool, Kenny Heague…'Hey Mark! Is this still your email?'
I immediately emailed back, 'KENNY!!! Yes, this is still me! Long time no see. How's things with you?'
He writes back, 'Wait till you see the pics I'm sending you, tonight!'
We met Kenny in the late 80s when we were touring in Canada. He was working for the sound company on the tour and we hit it off straight away, as they say.
A few years passed and we caught up with him again but this time he was working in Indianapolis, Indiana as the assistant to Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts.
As many people know, Jim is a huge music fan and gear head. He has acquired some of the most impressive and significant celebrity owned instruments in rock history, including but not limited to:
Ringo Starr's 1963 Ludwig Black Oyster Downbeat drum kit,
The Beatles bass drum head from their first Ed Sullivan show performance,
John Lennon's 1964 red Rickenbacker 1996 guitar.
1963 orange Gretsch 6120 guitar.
Vox prototype guitar.
George Harrison's 1964 GIbson SG guitar.
George Harrison's Harptone acoustic 12-string guitar.
So, the next email I get from my scouse friend, Kenny, has him sitting on Ringo's drum set with a huge smile on his face, and the caption was: 'Not bad for a kid from Liverpool to finally be sitting behind Ringo's Drums!!!'
Of course, I'm blown away and fired back: 'LUCY…you got some 'splainin' to do!!!' In the following phone calls I found out about all the instruments in Irsay's collection and Kenny said he could set up a tour for us the next time we were in Indy.
On February 17th, 2017 we had a sold out show at The Palladium on the north side of Indianapolis. True to his word, Kenny set us up with Chris McKinney, who is in charge of the Irsay guitar collection
and we toured the facility on the afternoon of our performance.
Mark Benson with John Lennon's 1964 red Rickenbacker 1996 guitar.
Chris is as big a fan of vintage guitars as anyone and was thrilled to show us the Beatles instruments in the collection. The room is beautifully done with display cases for the guitars and a small riser for the drum set with an Ed sullivan backdrop that has a video screen right in the middle playing Beatles live clips.
We were all a bit gobsmacked just looking at these instruments that we'd seen thousands of times in videos, and then Chris says…
Do you want to play them?
Huge Thanks to Chris McKinney for being so gracious, and to my pal, Kenny Heague…'Thunderbirds are go, mate!!!'
"Seeing and playing Ringo's 1st drum set was a dream come true. Being asked to tune them was unbelievable! I just happened to have a drum key in my pocket that day. Hmmmm...... Fate!!!"
"Jim Irsays's collection of Beatles instruments...
...I was literally speechless! So generous of him!"
"It was just unbelievable! To see and play such iconic, history making instruments was an unexpected, once in a lifetime treat."