Let us introduce to you:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band

By Christian Carvajal on May 17, 2018

Music erases distance. There are about 4,600 miles between Liverpool, England, and northeastern Texas, but those vanished when 9-year-old Dave Walser first encountered the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was early 1964, and even Walser knew his life had just changed. "I'd been playing guitar since I was 6," he recalls. "To me, guitar was about bluegrass. ... I loved it. To me, that was better than watching cartoons." 

Walser started a church band called Younglife in high school and gained respect as a Dallas-area studio musician. Even so, the Beatles' "devil music" continued to seize his attention and adoration. It was time for Walser's musical repertoire to expand to embrace it. "People forget," he says, laughing, "back in 1700, all those (sacred) songs were new. It's like, ‘What's wrong with the Gregorian chants we were doing?'"

Walser realized the Beatles' "harmonies were like bluegrass." He formed a band called Beatlegras (sic) in 2003 with upright bassist George Anderson and "Milo Deering, who currently travels with Don Henley. He plays steel guitar. He plays everything. ... I said, ‘Why don't we come together' -- no pun intended -- ‘and just jam?'" That lasted through 2010. After a year off, Walser formed a new outfit, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bluegrass Band (SPLBB), with Gerald Jones (banjo and mandolin), Bach Norwood (double bass and vocals) and Reginald Rueffer (fiddle, violin and vocals). "It's all come together nicely," says Walser. "We have a lot of fun."

Perhaps the best description of the band's sound appears on its website: "What if ... The Beatles were actually from somewhere in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota?" Some Beatles tunes, in fact, "Blackbird," "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Lady Madonna" among them, seem written for bluegrass instruments; those are of course featured in SPLBB shows. But despite the twang in Walser's speaking voice, his singing voice is similar to that of George Harrison. Thus it makes sense his band would take on more experimental, late-'60s album cuts including "Hey Bulldog" and "Tomorrow Never Knows."

Of his planned Oly set this weekend, Walser says, "It's really a roller coaster. We like to think there's really not much predictable to what we do. That's part of crafting the show." He also has a solo album arriving in a few months. "I'm one song away from it," he says. "It's songs I've written over the last 40 years."

"Our show is about four guys who love the Beatles," Walser concludes, "and our goal is to connect with other people who love the Beatles. We're happy to hear conversations about other people's stories about the first time they heard the Beatles, so we do a meet-and-greet (after the show). ... Bluegrass and Beatles - It's been in my blood since I was a kid."

SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY BLUEGRASS BAND, 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 18, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $28-$45, 360.753.8586, washingtoncenter.org