The King (of Pop) is dead. But Vamsi Tadepalli and the rest of Who’s Bad want to make sure his music lives on.
Tadepalli, a saxophonist, formed Who’s Bad eight years ago, when he was a senior music student at the University of North Carolina. “The idea was all about the music, just trying to re-create it live,” explains Tadepalli, 30. “I thought, ‘Man, there’s no one out there doing it. Beside impersonators, there’s no bands out there that are paying tribute to him, and somebody should be.
“So that’s the impetus behind it.”
That, of course, was before Jackson died in 2009. At that point, Tadepalli says Who’s Bad — which features two Jackson lookalike singers — was playing up to 150 shows a year. But after Jackson’s death, “demand went through the roof. The first two, three weeks after he passed away, my (cell) phone was constantly plugged into the wall, but still telling me it had a low battery because of all the texts, phone calls, interviews ...
“It was an unfortunate way to get the spotlight, but at the same time, the people wanted to hear the music. That’s why we created the band, so we’re there to do that. It’s been kind of a whirlwind as an experience.”
The Jackson family has never commented on or contacted Who’s Bad, but in November 2009 Jackson’s manager Frank DiLeo came to a show in Nashville, Tenn., and wound up visiting with the group backstage.
“We were all kind of starstruck,” Tadepalli recalls, “standing in a circle in the green room while he shared some crazy stories about Michael. And he told us Michael would’ve been proud of what we were doing — that meant a lot to us.”
Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute performs Friday, May 20, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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