Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones bring Prince tribute to River Street Jazz Cafe
WILKES-BARRE — For a musician who grew up loving pop, it took Dean Ford a while to find Prince.
But once he did, he was hooked.
Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones will perform their tribute to the late funk-pop icon at 9 p.m. May 13 at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township.
A Portland, Maine-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Ford has released six EPs and one full-length album of original, synth-heavy pop, and the 27-year-old has been at it from a young age.
“I started writing songs and playing guitar when I was 5 or 6,” Ford said. “I made up my mind when I was a little kid that one way or another I would be living in the music world.”
A self-described “stereotypical story,” Ford said he would put on shows for his parents and sing for his classmates at lunch time.
The first two records he ever bought were “Make it Big” by Wham! and “Please Please Me” by The Beatles.
“Pop was going to be my thing from the beginning,” Ford said.
His middle school and high school friends, he said, were into “edgy stuff” like metal and grunge, and if he wanted to play with them, he had to delve into that world.
And in that world, his instrumentation branched out.
“All my friends played guitar, so I picked up drums and keyboards and bass and really fell in love with music that way, not just with guitar and singing but with every single aspect.”
Ford said he grew up studying pop revolutionaries like Michael Jackson and Madonna and was affected by ’90s sensations like NSYNC and Christina Aguilera, but Prince flew under his radar.
“Your parents become involved in the church, and there are aspects of Prince that aren’t entirely appropriate for a child,” Ford said.
But a guest appearance by the artist on “Muppets Tonight” introduced Ford to Prince’s music in a family-friendly format.
“I remember being a little kid and seeing this super charismatic, cool dude up on stage, and I was like, ‘Oh, Prince can be cool.’”
Years later, while sculpting his own on-stage identity, Ford was brought back to the artist.
“I started doing my hair in a pompadour and wearing eyeliner, and people started saying I looked like Prince and that my mannerisms and voice were similar,” he said.
Ford began hearing the comparison so often, he decided to study Prince’s catalogue.
“I dug into ‘Sign O’ the Times,’ and from there it was just like, ‘This makes sense.’”
Seven years ago, Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones began performing at local cover nights in the Portland area and received encouraging feedback. The band has since garnered enough attention to sell out the city’s Port City Music Hall on a yearly basis and has performed twice with The Revolution keyboard player Matthew “Doctor” Fink.
“The band is getting tighter, and it just keeps getting better,” Ford said.
Ford’s original music has earned him opening slots for acts as notable as Foxy Shazam, Fitz & The Tantrums and Panic! At The Disco.
The Panic! show took place at Portland’s 1,600 seat State Theatre.
“It sold out, which was a major adrenaline rush,” Ford said. “Playing in support for a band I looked up to from the seventh grade on.”
But the reactions Ford gets performing the Prince tribute are special for him.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Ford said. “You look out at one person who is smiling and dancing and happy. The person next to them is crying their eyes out. … There are so many emotions.”
Ford said he’s sure the range of passionate responses has more to do with how deeply Prince affected his fans than Ford’s presentation of the music and persona, but it does remind him he’s doing a good job.
“It needs to be done with love and respect and honor for the material and the artist and his legacy,” Ford said. “For me, that’s the whole thing. I adore everything about Prince, and I just want to share that.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones pay tribute to Prince
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River Street, Plains Township.
When: 9 p.m. May 13
Ticket information: Tickets cost $10 and are available in advance at bit.ly/2oQig4b.