Lawton – The “John” Lad of the BeatLads
Although not necessarily looking like the oldest member of the band, Lawton is the elder “Lad” of the BeatLads. Age is more how you feel than when you were born, though, so Lawton is probably really still quite a bit younger at heart (like, thirteen or something…) than in body.
Lawton, like younger brother Kevin (the “Ringo” Lad of the BeatLads), was born in Huntsville, Alabama in the 1960s and lived his “growing up” years in the metro Birmingham (Alabama), metro Atlanta, and Tuscaloosa (Alabama) areas. He was turned on to the music of the Beatles by Brown Elementary School classmate “Burn” Stoney, who had two older brothers, both of whom looked like George Harrison in those days of the early 1970s (as Lawton now recalls), thin, lanky, and hairy. “I remember coming in the Stoney’s front door one day and hearing the riffs of what I now know to George Harrison’s What Is Life?, and being absolutely amazed to see one of Burn’s brothers sitting on the couch with a Les Paul and playing the song note for note like I’d heard it on the radio – I was blown away. Burn had several of his brother’s ‘hand-me-down’ vinyl albums down in the basement. We’d sit for hours listening to Abbey Road, the US version of Rubber Soul, and the US release Hey Jude album. I believe I was ‘moved’ during one of those times to someday myself take up guitar.”
So Lawton got a guitar for his 13th birthday (a Univox 3022 acoustic) and thus it began. An electric guitar for Christmas (a Fender Mustang) a few years later continued to feed the smoldering musical passion (har har). But Lawton was drawn more to other pursuits in those days (football and females) and devoted little real time to guitar. An abortive attempt, along with brother Kevin, at forming a band (to have been named “Starfire”) with some friends from south Alabama (Clark Chesser and Rick Heisler) was the nearest thing to any organized musical participation for Lawton (other than high school mixed chorus). “Starfire,” interestingly enough, had begun as an “air guitar” lip sync band that exclusively “played” – you guessed it – the music of the Beatles. In an appropriate foreshadowing of what was to come, Lawton played “John” and Kevin played “Ringo” in the air guitar band with Clark (George) and Rick (Paul). Brother Kevin during these years – parenthetically – was honing his considerable percussion skills with the award winning Model High School band (Rome, Georgia).
With Starfire never really getting off the ground the guitars went into the closet for a decade or so, until Lawton got involved in church youth ministry and in church camp leadership. Guitars are, of course, required in such settings, and one thing led to another. Lawton began singing and playing with Jamie Glass (the “Paul” Lad of the BeatLads) in the early 1990s at Forest Lake UMC in Tuscaloosa. The local church leadership expanded to conference (area) level leadership in the camp (Sumatanga) setting, and Lawton’s and Jamie’s love for the Beatles bled over into the camp musical repertoire, which grew into the BeatLads “project” in the early 2000s (see the website’s “History” section for those details).
The smoldering musical passion is now no longer smoldering, but in full flame. Lawton’s love for guitars, for acquiring guitars, for trading guitars, for buying and selling guitars on Ebay, etc., approaches mythic stature (humor, of course). The guitars of Beatles are, naturally, the guitars with which Lawton is most interested. Lawton owns or has owned nearly all of the guitar models used by John Lennon and George Harrison, and these are the guitars that you will see played by the BeatLads on stage. Performing and bringing the Beatles’ music to life again in a live musical setting is one of Lawton’s favorite things.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than watching the faces of an audience and knowing that they’re really digging what you’re laying down for them,” Lawton says. “Singing and playing this great music for people who love it just as much as we do,” he continues, “is just about as good as it gets.”