Imagine concert revived on anniversary of Lennon’s death

from  Springfield News Leader MO
“Give Peace A Chance” is a John Lennon song whose time has obviously come. On Dec. 8, 11 local bands played three hours of Lennon songs to hundreds of fans at the historic Gillioz Theatre. The occasion was the revival of a Springfield tradition, the “Imagine” concert on the anniversary of Lennon’s death.

The first Imagine concert was held Dec. 8, 1985, at the Springfield Art Museum, organized by Ron and Kirsten Butler and other local musicians.

Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, gave them permission to use his likeness and offered to match the funds raised. The concert was so popular, it was repeated every year through 2003, at different venues. During that time Ono donated over $45,000.

Local organizers found that each Imagine concert required year-round work. Kirsten Butler says, “As soon as each year’s show was over, we began to plan the next year.”

After 2003 they stepped away, but they encouraged and helped with the revival. Dale McCoy, of Fools Face renown, says most of the work this year was done by Alan Pierson, a local musician and promoter.

“I booked the show at the Gillioz Theatre in June, on a Wednesday, put the information on Facebook on Thursday, and had all the talent we could handle (and then some) by Sunday,” Pierson recalls. “The Gillioz seats 1,100, and we sold 735 tickets.”

Seventy percent of the proceeds went to WIN, Women In Need of the Ozarks, and the rest paid for the costs of the show.

This year’s outstanding emcee and featured performer was Jim Wunderle, who is flat-out one of the best stage presences in the four-state area.

Many of the younger bands were not yet living when Lennon died, but their musicianship and dedication were evident. Bands included: The Scribbles; Moon Honey; Jenny Vinyard; The Tall Dark and Handsomes; The Fabulous Unexpected; Dale McCoy w/Jimmy Frink & Friends; Cindy Woolf; The Detectives; Distant Relative; The Silver Hammer Band and the outstanding Big Beat Club, with Ron Butler and friends.

Guest stars included Bill Jones, local sax artist, back from years in New York. He feels a connection to Lennon’s death, because he was playing at a club in New York on the night Lennon died. “Members of Lennon’s band came in to console each other and decompress,” Jones remembers.

Many individuals and businesses “came together” to help with this year’s concert. Downhome Productions, whose crew has provided sound, lights, and gear for almost every Imagine show, volunteered again.

Jeff Jenkins, new director of the Gilllioz Theatre, was an enthusiastic supporter, along with Joe Horton at Blue Stream Lube & Oil, Tom and Pam Pierson at Kaleidoscope, Clear Channel Communications, Journal Broadcasting and the Moxie Cinema.

“We have already booked the show at the Gillioz for next year, on December 8, of course, and already have one-half of the acts arranged,” Pierson says.

“All I Am Saying” is plan now to attend next year’s show, bring friends, and along the way, let’s all “Give Peace A Chance!”

Kenny Knauer lives in Springfield.


The Scribbles

Tall Dark and Handsomes

Cindy Woolf

Letter from organiser Alan Pierson

I received a message from Yoko regarding The Dec. 8 Imagine Concert that raised $6000 forWomen in Need of the Ozarks (WIN). I am thrilled as thrilled can be.

The poster was designed by Marina Cannon and illustrated by Cory Leick. The posters, printed on cardstock, were designed as coloring pages and were hand colored by elementary students from Hurley elementary and various coffee and chai drinkers.

This concert was a beautiful evening and a great way to start the holidays for a lot of people who had missed a Springfield tradition for too long. It was held in a beautifully restored movie palace and over 40 songs were played by 11 acts. 735 people paid w/ 250 walking up on a freezing night! The board members of WIN were thrilled. It was all a surprise to them!

We’re already booked for next year.

Deepest regards,
Alan Pierson.

IMAGINE: A Tribute to John Lennon

December 8th, 2009 saw the return of a long standing Springfield tradition. The “Imagine: A Tribute to John Lennon” concert took the stage at The Gillioz Theatre.
In 1985, Ron Butler and two other local musicians created the non-profit organization The Acorn Foundation (no relation to the ACORN that has been in the news lately) for the express purpose of staging a yearly event featuring local musicians performing the music of John Lennon with proceeds from the event donated to a local charity. The first show was held on December 8th, 1985 -the 5th anniversary of Lennon’s death- at the Springfield Art Museum.

It was necessary, in order to use Lennon’s image in print and electronic media, to get permission from his estate, which is controlled by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. Ron contacted her manager Elliot Mintz and Ms. Ono graciously honored the request. Ono also granted a lengthy radio interview which was conducted by Rick Moore on US97. She is notified every year and has chosen to grant permission each time.

Attendance at the annual event grew steadily and larger venues were utilized. Central High School Auditorium, McDonald Arena at MSU, Clara Thompson Hall, University Plaza Expo Center and Remington’s all hosted one or more of the concerts.

The last Imagine show was in 2003. Ron and his wife Kristen had done the lion’s share of the work from the first year on and circumstances simply didn’t allow them to continue producing the event.

Kristen said at one point, “As soon as the show is over, we start planning next year’s…”

But the annual event stayed in the hearts and minds of the people who had attended. Every year around this time the musicians who have long been associated with the affair are asked, “Is there gonna be an Imagine show this year?”

Local musician and now producer, Alan Pierson decided to do something to make it happen again. With the blessing and help of Ron and Kristen Butler, and other veterans of the event, he took on the formidable task of bringing the Imagine show back to life.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. The Gillioz Theatre graciously donated the venue and Downhome Productions -a company that provided sound, lights and backline gear for nearly every previous Imagine- came on board immediately. A great number of bands offered to play but time constraints limited the number of performers that could be accommodated. The 2009 line-up featured an eclectic mixture of sounds and styles and includes performers who have played since the first show as well as younger bands with members who grew up attending the concerts with their parents.

Charities that have benefitted over the years include The Family Violence Center, K.I.N.D Place (The Kitchen), Boys and Girls Clubs, Aids Project of the Ozarks, Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, and Boys and Girls Town of Missouri.

Ms. Ono matched the funds raised for 10 of the shows bringing the cumulative total to over $45,000.

This year the proceeds will be donated to Women in Need of the Ozarks. WIN is an organization that “helps single, working women not receiving any other form of public assistance. WIN offers one-time assistance in a crisis when there is no other means of support. Recipients are not required to pay back any gift; however, many turn around and give back by volunteering on a WIN committee or in some other way. WIN has helped women with paying bills, paying for services (auto mechanic, lawyer, etc.), buying a car, and writing letters to bill collectors.”
The organizers,musicians and all involved are excited to see the concert returning and especially happy to see it being presented at the Gillioz.

Imagine: A Tribute to John Lennon
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Gillioz Theatre, 325 Park Central East, Springfield, MO 65806
Phone: 417.863.9491

The Moxie, Blue Stream Lube and Oil, Swagbot, the Coffee Ethic, and Down Home Productions

The Big Beat Club, The Fabulous Unexpected
Distant Relative, The Tall, Dark and Handsomes, Jenny Vinyard, Cindy Woolf, Dale McCoy, The Scribbles, The Silver Hammer Band, Moon Honey, The Detectives.

For more information contact:
Alan Pierson, [email protected] or
Ryan Rust, [email protected]