what a great suprise for your alibis

by Liza Mitchell
George Dickinson knows what it takes to make it in the music business. Over the years, he’s done it all, “playing every instrument ever known in every kind of band” imaginable. He’s dabbled in television, commercials and film, always with the same goal – to entertain.
With a hat for every occasion, Dickinson is also keenly aware of the business end and understands that even the most creative ventures must operate like a well-oiled machine.
As a founding player in Hotel California: A Salute to The Eagles, Dickinson does what he knows best. He makes music that makes people feel good but he keeps the scales balanced.
“It is a small business. We have to get up each day and find work, do the work and make the money to pay the bills. To do that we need to generate a client base and revenue. That’s what it comes down to,” he says. “The romanticism is fun, and it is definitely a part of it, but it is still a business.”
The Artist Series presents Hotel California: A Salute to The Eagles at 8 pm Friday, Oct. 23 in the Times-Union center for Performing Arts in the Moran Theater.
Dickinson knows he is “one of the lucky ones.” He’s made a comfortable living as an entertainer so when the opportunity arose to salute to one of the world’s most endearing bands, he jumped at the chance.
“For me, the idea was really fun. I play several instruments but I am a guitar player and I get to break out the steel pedal guitar and the mandolin,” he says. “We just get some really cool gigs. We’ve traveled the world. If I die tomorrow, I won.”
Honoring The Eagles is not hard work. Protecting the integrity of the music, however, is key. Dickinson is quick to point out the difference between a salute and a tribute and the common misconception that often confuses the two. A tribute, he said, is a group that attempts to honor an artist by looking like them, dressing like them and sounding like him. A salute, however, celebrates the work of a particular artist in a simple, straight forward and honest way.
“The audience is going to know the lyrics to every song we do. Every song is a hit. We play all of the favorite songs and the audience is going to have fun…That is what the whole thing is about. That is what rock ‘n roll is supposed to be about. Our goal is to respectfully portray their music but we do it in our own way.”
For over 20 years, Dickinson and company have perfected the artistry of The Eagles, faithfully bringing to life the Grammy Award-winning harmonies and musicianship that helped to shape one of the world’s most revered rock bands.
With such a vast catalog to consider, the band’s set list features several of the Eagles’ monster ballads as well as such rock-infused classics as ‘Heartache Tonight’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane.’
“We have to play ‘Desperado,’ ‘Take It To The Limit’ and ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ but we pick up the pace,” he remarks about playing the Eagle’s most recognizable hits, including ‘Hotel California’ and other crowd favorites to get them on their feet. “We want people to remember they had a great time.”
Dickinson said the songs remain relevant to new audiences even after over 30 years because they are so well-written. Any artist could sit down and play a song written for guitar on the piano and the transition is seamless. The material also translates in different musical genres.
Country duo Brooks and Dunn recorded a version of ‘Best of my Love’ while the pop punk group The Atari’s released a memorable cover of the class ‘Boys of Summer’ on their 2003 album ‘So Long Astoria,’ changing a reference to seeing a “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” to a “Black Flag sticker” to capture the attention of the younger fan base.
“A great song is great art. It is easy to stand the test of time,” Dickinson says. “Since the beginning of pop music it’s always been about great songs from artists like Bill Haley and Chuck Berry to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Stuff that has an extended life people remember. That’s the bottom line. That’s what’s given them the opportunity to become iconic.”
Dickinson doesn’t know if any members of The Eagles have ever seen one of his shows but he notes that the Hotel California: A Salute to The Eagles is the only such group to receive official authorization to reproduce the band’s music.
“We add our own flavor but we don’t detract from the original material. We never want to lose the chemistry of the band as a whole. Each had a vision of where they wanted to go and somehow they managed to hammer it out. They are here to stay.”
When asked about the best compliment the band could receive from Don Henley, Glenn Frey or Joe Walsh for their heartfelt salute, Dickinson said a simple thank you would be music to his ears.
Tickets to Hotel California: A Salute to The Eagles range from $25.50 to $55.50 and are available through the Artist Series Box Office at 632-3211 or online at www.artistseriesjax.org.