Vinnie Bruno remembers the first record he ever bought: “She Loves You” by the Beatles, released in the United States in September 1963. He purchased the single for 57 cents at Woolworth’s in Jersey City. “I still have it,” says Bruno, but that’s just the start of what the Woodbridge resident has in the way of Beatles anecdotes and ephemera.
The 65-year-old former college-level business and math teacher has become something of a post-retirement rock star, lecturing on the Beatles and other 1960s acts on both coasts. His audiences, he says, are primarily “adults over 50 reliving their past,” but also teens and young adults who have turned their own parents on to the Beatles.
Marketing himself as a “Beatles scholar and ’60s rock historian” (vinniebeatles.com), the married father of two has a repertoire of 44 programs, including 25 on the Fab Four. Based on thousands of books and articles he’s read, his 2 1/2-hour PowerPoint-guided presentations on the music and mystique of the Beatles are punctuated with anecdotes of his own encounters with each member of the band. “I have tons of information on them rolling in my head,” he says. He also gives talks on Bob Dylan, the Who, the Beach Boys and the British Invasion.
Bruno’s memorabilia collection includes two original lithographs by John Lennon and two by Paul McCartney; a signed-leather-bound book of George Harrison songs; and a CD signed by Ringo Starr. His memories include at least two dozen shows by the individual Beatles. Alas, he never got to see the band itself.
In March, Bruno starts a 10-week course on the Beatles at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers (OLLI-RU) in Freehold; a seven-week Beatles course at the Princeton Adult School; and a five-week Beatles course for the Union County College continuing-education program. He’ll also teach a 10-week course on American pop, and a five-week course on Bob Dylan (starting in April) at OLLI-RU in Highland Park. Also coming up: a Rolling Stones talk April 12 in Tenafly and September 27 in Monroe Township.
“It requires a lot of work, but it’s fun,” says Bruno. “It’s become my encore.”