Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.—RUTLAND— Bennie and the Jets, the premier Elton John tribute band, will play the Paramount Theatre in downtown Rutland on Saturday. The band is led by Greg Ransom, whose vocals are naturally exactly like Elton Johns, and Greg’s piano playing is right on the money.
Ransom has the ability to make you believe that you’re at an Elton John concert. Ransom began playing the piano at 10 years old. Thanks to a piano instructor with a slant towards rock, Ransom’s interest in playing piano ran through high school, learning theory, harmony I and II, stage band, and madrigal singers.
While in High School, Ransom and his classmates formed a band they called “The Awakening.” They opened for local MTV Basement Band-winners The Breakdown at Central high school’s Halloween dance and played a dance at Springfield’s private MacDuffie School. Their big hit was a song called “Swashbuckler,” a catchy gospel-inspired pop song. Other crowd favorites were a blues song he co-wrote called “McPherson Avenue” and an evergreen ballad called “Serenade.”
At age 21, Ransom was playing piano in a downtown hotel bar when the owner of the hotel requested an Elton John song. He played “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” The hotel owner approached him afterwards and told him he sounded like Elton vocally, and that he should consider putting on the hat and glasses and forming a tribute band.
By 1995, Bennie and the Jets were formed with Greg Ransom on piano and vocals, Dan Moraski on guitar and backing vocals, Bob Lilja on drums and backing vocals, and Ken Walpurgis on bass. They played two local gigs in the Springfield area before receiving a call from a nationally known entertainment broker who needed an Elton band, so Ransom sent him a tape.
From that day forward Bennie and the Jets became an international touring act. Bob Lilja was soon replaced with Steve Lawton on drums and backing vocals and Ken Walpurgis was replaced with Mike Gibbs on bass and backing vocals. This remains their current lineup. Bennie and the Jets has performed around the world for a wide variety of venues.
Tickets: $29 (plus tax and fees). For more information visit paramountvt.org.