Mark Ehmann, a longtime member of the Beatles tribute act Hard Night’s Day, died Friday, July 21, in a hospital in Allen. He was 55.
On Friday, the band released a statement with a bevy of pictures documenting Ehmann’s tenure with the group. A memorial show is being organized.
“This was very unexpected,” drummer Doug Cox says. “None of us saw this coming.”
Although Ehmann was not an original member of Hard Night’s Day, he joined nine months after the group started in 1995. Ehmann filled the spot left vacant by founding member Tom Prejean, and had the right look. He played left-handed just like Paul McCartney.
Hard Day's Night has always had a rotating cast of members, but Ehmann played regularly with the group. He moved to Connecticut in 2008 with his second wife, Angela, but later returned to Dallas and rejoined. He played with Hard Night’s Day until his death.
“From the moment he joined the band, he clicked,” guitarist Bob Cummins says. “He added an element of excitement to the live show that hadn’t been there before.”
Cox had played in another band with Ehmann before Hard Night’s Day and always thought Ehmann had a knack for singing like McCartney. Plus, he had a Hofner and a Rickenbacker bass, just like McCartney played in the '60s. Ehmann was also up for the challenge of playing the "cute" Beatle.
“Mark was a very proper person,” Cox says. “He spoke with good diction. He didn’t speak with slang. He enunciated well. There were never any dirty jokes or profanity. He was always clever and funny. He personified the innocence of the music.”
Performing like McCartney was another mountain to climb, but Ehmann took it in stride.
“Playing McCartney is no easy task,” Cummins says. “Playing complicated bass lines left-handed while singing, Mark made it look easy. But it didn’t stop there. He knew how to connect with the audience. Not only was he a master at mimicking McCartney without coming off looking like a cheesy impersonator, he was [also] in constant eye contact with the crowd and kept the audience engaged.”
Guitarist Paul Averitt agrees.
“Mark brought his voice, more than anything else,” he says. “He was a great musician anyway, but he had an uncanny ability to imitate voices, and he could mimic the McCartney vocal lilt very convincingly. And on top of that he was also a charming and relaxed presence on stage, which helped tremendously with the overall group presentation. He was a showman. He had a great sense of humor and was a genuinely funny person.”
Ehmann's nephew John Clardy plays with Tera Melos and credits his uncle with showing him the power of the Fab Four.
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“He knew so much about the Beatles,” Clardy says, “from being so deep playing the music. He knew about recording, all these different things. I’ve always been into biographies, so I just ate that up.”
When Clardy was young, Ehmann gave him a VHS copy The Compleat Beatles, a 1982 retrospective on the band from 1982 narrated by Malcolm McDowell, and a two-sided poster of the Beatles. Clardy prized them throughout his teenage years and, years later, got to sit in with his uncle's band for "Hey Bulldog."
“I have so many fond memories of seeing them at Club Dada, the arboretum, the Hard Rock Cafe .... and it was always so fun.” Clardy says. “Being a young, impressionable musician, seeing how he was with people that liked his band had a really big impact on me. He always talked to anybody who went up to him. He was a really charismatic guy.
“He didn’t take himself too seriously,” Clardy adds. “He had a really good confidence for what he did. He wasn’t one of those guys in a tribute band who starts to think they are that person. He was very aware of the people that were like that. He had a really, really healthy attitude about it. He really loved what he was doing.”