Gary Grimes (1950 - 2010)

Gary Grimes, who for nearly 25 years performed as ''Paul McCartney'' in the very popular band 1964: The Tribute, died of a brain tumor Monday at a local hospice.  He was 60 years old.  Mr. Grimes, of Tallmadge, played McCartney from the band's inception in 1984 to May 2008, when he was forced off the road by his illness.

During its 26-year history, the band became a full-time, wildly successful touring act that was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as the ''best Beatles tribute band on Earth.'' It sold out annual concerts at Carnegie Hall for 11 years and has been featured on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, USA and the Nashville Network.

1964: The Tribute has become known for its exacting re-creation of the look and sound of the Beatles' touring years (hence the band's name), using the vintage Vox amps and instruments favored by the Beatles and employing three-part harmonies with Mr. Grimes and his band mates Mark Benson (John Lennon) and Tom Work (George Harrison). Bobby Potter portrays Ringo Starr.

Mr. Grimes, a right-handed guitarist, even learned to play the bass left-handed to ensure authenticity.


Born in Akron, Mr. Grimes lived in Norton and was a guitarist with many area bands before becoming a part of 1964: The Tribute. Initially the band was regarded by its members as a fun monthly side gig that would appeal to baby boomers, but a few years later, they found themselves selling out college venues and theaters, touring constantly to play for generations of Beatles fans. Mr. Grimes was known among those fans for being friendly and generous with his time.

Benson, who had known Mr. Grimes since high school and joined him in a pre-1964: The Tribute band called Bock Together, said that was just Gary.

''One of our players coined
the phrase 'the happiest man in show business,' '' Benson said. ''As long as I've known Gary, he's always had a chuckle in his voice and he says hello to everybody. It was just immediately like you've known him forever.

''I never saw him turn anybody away who wanted his attention and he'd give you the shirt off his back just for the asking, and that really was Gary. I think it was just something that he brought with him. He was just an open guy.''

Outside of 1964, Mr. Grimes wrote songs for commercial jingles, with his list of clients including Napa Auto Parts, the Cleveland Indians and Ohio Edison. In the early '80s, Mr. Grimes also recorded and released a solo album of melodic, artsy, progressive pop-rock called Starhand Visions that featured all the members of 1964 and is still available at iTunes, the Orchard and

1964: The Tribute is scheduled to perform Saturday at Tangier restaurant in Akron. Benson said the show will go on. (Ricky Vacca replaced Mr. Grimes as McCartney.)

''The band is strong but my personal thing, and it's not a criticism of the band, but it's different. Not better or worse but . . . different.

''I don't know how that'll be, but I think it'll be fine,'' Benson said. ''But I'm still kind of waiting for him to call. It's not quite real yet.''

On the Facebook page of 1964: The Tribute, Maria Pinsent Work, wife of Tom Work, posted a final quote from Mr. Grimes to his fans in response to the many well-wishes and prayers he had received.

''Let them know I believe their prayers haven't been in vain,'' he told Work. ''Always peace.''

Mr. Grimes is survived by his wife, Suzy, and children Michael and Michelle.

By Malcolm X Abram 
Beacon Journal music writer

Published on Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010