by Sean O. Murphy
Feb 04, 2012
The British are coming! The British are coming! The British Invasion Group is coming home to Oklahoma. The British Invasion Group are four professional musicians with Oklahoma roots that bill themselves as “the original 60’s mania group” and recreate through period costume and instruments the sights and sounds of the era of rock n’ roll history known as “the British Invasion”.
Jim Lett, Mark Robins, Joey Clift and Donnie Record are the members of the British Invasion Group. The band has been around in different incarnations since the 1980’s but has had the same line up since 1995. Lett plays guitar. Robins does the drums and percussion. Clift plays bass and Record plays keyboard. They share the vocal duties depending on the song. Although they all have separate careers playing music professionally, they have recently reformed the British Invasion Group and brought their act back home to Oklahoma.
It was over coffee that I got to speak with Jim Lett. He exudes mellow “cool” and I could instantly pick him out of a busy Starbucks without having ever met him before. He has the lanky stature and slim physique of a prototypical rock star. His hair in an unruly mop and he could have come directly from central casting for an aging rock legend. It is easy to imagine him in the role of “the quiet Beatle”, George Harrison that he has played for twenty years. The last five years he has played with the Beatles tribute band, Yesterday appearing at the Tropicana Las Vegas, Tropicana Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe, Harrah’s Reno as well as touring the country and Europe as well. “Cities like Las Vegas are nice places to visit as a tourist. I didn’t care to live in Vegas. It is drab and colorless and all the houses look alike. It just doesn’t feel like home with the hills and the trees. Oklahoma is home.”
He also plays Bill Wyman in a Rolling Stones tribute band. Which begs the question, “Are you a Beatles or Stones guy at heart?” Jim winces a little at the question and crosses his legs. “Beatles. I guess I have to say the Beatles. I appreciate the Stones a lot too. They really each have their own flavor. Actually all the bands of that time did, the better ones weren’t just Beatles clones.”
“We play this music because that’s what we all grew up listening to on KOMA. The guys in the band and I have a real appreciation for this music because it was the real deal. They weren’t overproduced. There weren’t programs like Pro Tools to make everything sound perfect. What you heard on a record was the way these guys played.” Lett explained. “That’s what we try to do when we perform is allow people to relive that moment in music. We play in the same key and use the same instruments. They were authentic so we play it authentically.”
Lett was quiet at first but opened up as we talked about music. We talk at some length about the legacy of the “British Invasion” and the era of the sixties and the cultural and political shifts that made the conditions just right to make legends out of musicians and how the consumption and production of music has changed especially with the internet.
“That’s what I play but I don’t limit myself to listening to just that sort of music. My iPod is full of a little bit of everything; Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins, Motown, Bad Finger and lots of power pop and newer artists. I like The Strokes and I just heard a good one by a band called Parachute”, Lett tells me. “There are a lot of good artists out there. It seems like you have to look a bit harder but they are out there.”
It figures that Jim Lett would know something about new music as Lacey Lett, his daughter hosted “The Oklahoma Rock Show” for thespyfm.com. Lacey Lett is an unabashed fan of The Beatles (particularly George) but is known as a promoter of the Oklahoma music scene.
“When you travel and tell people you are from Oklahoma, it comes with so many preconceptions.” Lett shrugs and shifts in his seat, ”When there is a tornado, the Weather Channel always picks the one guy in the trailer park that only has two teeth in his head. Those ideas about our state are changing though. Moving back it is great to see Oklahoma City has all of these different districts each with their own feel to their neighborhoods. There is beginning to be a real music community here too which is something we have dreamed of since I was a teen.”
“These young musicians appreciate the bands we play. You can hear it in the way they play. The kids know good music when they hear it. When we do our shows there are six year olds up front singing along. They know the words better than I do.” Lett smiles, “It’s not just nostalgia. These British bands are of their time but its appeal is timeless.”
For more information or booking go to britishinvasiongroup.com or search the British Invasion Group on YouTube to watch videos of past performances.