Ricky Vacca's voice carried through Old Courthouse Theatre recently as he stood in front of a bare stage, strumming his timeworn guitar.
"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay...," he sang.
The classic Beatles tune echoed across the audience of empty red seats. One day, he wants to perform with those same seats filled with people.
"This is my kind of room," he said.
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The 46-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native has been performing as a Paul McCartney tribute artist for years, but lately, finding work has become more and more difficult.
He's sold most of his guitar collection to cover expenses and help support his wife and 12-year-old son. Of his 10 guitars, only three remain. He's selling another - a left-handed 1957 Fender Stratocaster worth about $1,500.
He's received offers for only $250, but you've got to do what you've got to do, he said, shaking his head.
Made it to Broadway
Vacca started out singing on the street corners and subways of New York City, with an open guitar case at his feet for donations.
"Those were the days," he said.
Then a friend convinced Vacca, who had been told he looked and sounded like Paul McCartney, to audition for "Beatlemania," a musical performed on and off Broadway.
Vacca got the job.
He's been touring with the cast for 15 years, playing across the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe. But the demand for performances waned when the economy faltered, and Vacca hasn't gone on tour in a couple of years, leaving him to find work elsewhere.
Record deals came and went. It's just the nature of the business, Vacca said.
"One day you're famous and the next you're flipping burgers," he said.
A new band
Vacca moved to Concord about two years ago, and up until January, he worked as an electrician, moonlighting as a singer. Now he's waiting on unemployment benefits.
"Being an electrician is an honorable job, but I don't get any satisfaction out of it," he said.
Now he's forming a McCartney and Wings tribute band. Vacca started running ads searching for band members two years ago. That's how he found Mike Cook of Harrisburg, who will play lead guitar for the group, and drummer Matt Cole of Harrisburg.
Vacca dubbed the group Junior's Farm after a song McCartney wrote and performed with Wings, the band he formed after The Beatles' 1970 breakup.
Cook said the group has been dissecting the music, spending 30 minutes perfecting a part of the song that may only last about 10 seconds. It's all about attention to detail, he said.
"If you don't play the songs right, it's going to stick out," Cook said. "Beatles fans are like the Trekkies from 'Star Trek.' They know everything about every song."
The group is still looking for another guitarist and keyboard player. It's a difficult process, Vacca said, because he wants members to not only sound like the band but look like them, too.
Vacca never had any professional training. He taught himself how to read and write music. Although Vacca already looked and sounded similar to McCartney - he's even a left-handed guitarist like The Beatles star - "Beatlemania" producers had him study footage to learn how to walk, talk and sing like McCartney.
He learned the subtleties of McCartney's expressions and went as far as to memorize things McCartney said during performances on the Ed Sullivan Show, Vacca said, switching between his native Brooklyn accent to McCartney's British voice.
But his impersonations aren't just a schtick. And performing isn't just about making money.
"When I perform, I want people to say, 'Wow,'" Vacca said.
He also writes and performs his own music, but people always ask for The Beatles' songs.
"So I figured it's just meant to be," he said.
Vacca said there's no greater feeling than knowing that a song he's performed has touched someone in the audience.
"I feel like I have a purpose," he said. "I need to sing."