Ray Whitaker is a man slightly obsessed. He knows about as much about The Beatles, their music and their era, as anyone, and he’s made it his business to share his passion with others on Martha’s Vineyard and afar.
For the past six years, Mr. Whitaker has hosted a radio show called Just Four Guys, which features (although not exclusively) the music of The Beatles. More recently, the mvyradio DJ has launched something called Beatles and Brews Trivia and Tunes at Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs. On Friday nights, diners and bar patrons can compete in a trivia game while enjoying the music of the Fab Four and their contemporaries.
Just Four Guys, which airs Tuesday at 4 pm on mvyradio.com and replays on Sundays on Beatlerama.com and also at radio.com, includes quite a bit of variety. “It’s kind of rule-less,” Mr. Whitaker said. “It’s not total Beatles idolatry. I love The Beatles, but I have to keep myself interested and branch out a bit.” Recent themes have included bands who have been influenced by Indian raga music, the legalization of marijuana, and the music of other four-member bands such as Pink Floyd.
Mr. Whitaker started mixing up his Beatles and Brews night questions and musical selections as well. What he discovered at the first Offshore trivia night a month ago is that not everyone is as knowledgeable on Beatle-ology as he.
“I hit everybody hard with Beatles — really esoteric questions,” he said. Apparently his audience was stumped. “Now I’ve made it less oriented towards The Beatles. The questions are from the 60s or have some sort of Beatles tie-in. With some of the questions I don’t care if they have any Beatles relevance.”
For example, some questions at a recent contest had to do with the movie “Mary Poppins,” the toy the Magic 8 Ball, and the TV show “The Munsters.” These proved considerably less challenging for participants. However, not all the trivia centers around pop culture. There’s a pretty equal mix of silly and serious. Last week’s questions included “Who was the first African American Supreme Court Justice?” (Thurgood Marshall) and “When did construction of the Berlin Wall begin?” (1961).
The questions are offered up at intervals throughout the evening, beginning at 8:30 pm. The game does not require rapt attention but serves more as a bit of distraction and entertainment while patrons are enjoying the food and atmosphere of the brew pub.
It’s also a pretty informal competition. As Mr. Whitaker said in starting off the evening last Friday, “This is where you just shout it out, and if I happen to see you, you happen to win.” Some participants politely raised their hands while others just raised their voices to be heard above the din of diners. It’s not a very competitive event, partly because of its informality and partly because the prizes are fairly trivial themselves. The restaurant provides tee-shirts, beer glasses, and bottle openers, while Mr. Whitaker has donated some brand-new DVDs from his own personal collection. He’ll generally make the disclaimer that the movies aren’t very memorable — there are quite a few teen-centric selections and quickly forgotten rom-coms.
Last weekend, six members of the Hallock family who had just arrived on the Island became the big winners of the night, collecting two DVDs and a couple of glasses. Prizes aside, bragging rights seemed to be what they were after. Son-in-law John Coleman joked that the family was embarking on a trivia tour of the U.S. When asked the team’s name, he improvised one by combining the titles of the two B movies they had just won to come up with Dark Silence (not a great name for a shout-out trivia competition). The Hallocks have a history of spending summer vacations on the Vineyard but were returning after a decade-plus hiatus.
The Hallocks seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Mr. Coleman said that the trivia contest was the highlight of their trip but then confessed that they had only arrived six hours previous and found their way to Offshore on the advice of a taxi driver, not, as he originally claimed, drawn by the allure of a trivia night. They were surprised by the media attention they received. Apparently no one had warned the family that if you visit the Vineyard in the dead of winter there’s a good chance you’ll make front-page news.
Mr. Whitaker has hosted trivia nights at other locations, including the Newes From America Pub in Edgartown and Alex’s Place at the Y. The next teen center trivia contest, which began about the same time as Beatles and Brews, will be Saturday, Jan. 25. According to Mr. Whitaker anyone of any age can attend the Y trivia nights and enjoy free food and prizes such as amazon.com gift certificates and DVDs.
One of the teen center’s best players, it turns out, has been Mr. Whitaker’s 15-year-old daughter, Tessa. Not because she’s been coached or made privy to the questions beforehand, but because she shares many of her father’s interests. “She’s a huge Beatles fan,” Mr. Whitaker said. “She also loves Sinatra and music from the 50s.” Tessa is a singer who got her start in the second grade performing The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” at the Oak Bluffs School talent show.
Mr. Whitaker also brings his passion for — and extensive knowledge of — rock and roll to his full-time job as a personal trainer and teacher at the Y. “I feel very fortunate to have gravitated toward a specific demographic: Folks 60 and over, those with physical challenges, and those recovering from injuries,” he said. “I combine all my interests in the Balance of Power and Tune Up classes by playing music that reflects who I am — classic rock, soul, and some metal for the Friday morning class. Since I have a small recording studio at home, I can mix it all together so it fills the length of the class. I try to make my classes and my one-on-one sessions fun — challenging, but fun.”
Okay, here’s a Beatles question from last week’s competition that’s both challenging and fun. A Mondegreen, as Mr. Whitaker explained at Offshore, is a misinterpretation of a musical phrase. He asked which song lyric can easily be confused with the line, “The girl with colitis goes by.” The Hallock family got the correct answer. “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes,” from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Beatles and Brews Trivia and Tunes, Fridays, 8:30 pm, Offshore Ale, Oak Bluffs. With host Ray Whitaker. For more information, call 508-693-2626.