Chicago’s Jason Scheff admits he’s a little young to fully recall when “The White Album” was released in 1968.
“I’m 57, so when ‘The White Album’ came out, I was 6 years old,” he says. “It really wasn’t on my radar.”
The San Diego-born Scheff is older now, and he’s landed his “dream job”—celebrating the collection’s 50th anniversary with the “It Was Fifty Years Ago Today Tour,” which comes to The Magnolia on Sunday, December 8. The band is Scheff, Micky Dolenz, Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross and Joey Molland.
The 2 1/2-hour show—with an intermission—is theatrical (thanks to Dolenz and Rundgren, Scheff says), fun and eye-opening.
“We’re performing the music and each one of us has a distinct personality,” Scheff says. “Christopher Cross stands and delivers. He’s not animated—we have Mickey and Todd for that. Joey is this regal royal British statesman. Me, I’m in the middle. I like to move, but I’m really focusing on the music.”
The concert begins with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence,” the latter of which features Scheff.
“I’m playing the bassline and singing,” he says, “That’s what Paul did and does and that’s what I get to do. It’s challenging, but I love that stuff. It’s an intricate bass part, but I’m singing and playing the whole time. Peter Cetera really set the bar with playing spirited basslines in the early Chicago records. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of thing.”
Returning to San Diego is meaningful to Scheff.
“Whenever I perform in San Diego, some of the people who were at my first gig I played at as a teenager—the Red Brick Church Dance—actually come. It just seems like yesterday. They have the same smiles and looks on their faces as when I was playing as a 13- or 14-year-old. It brings it all the way back home to me.”
Scheff’s brother, Darin, helped him kickstart his music career with local kids from their hometown of Point Loma.
“We performed in El Cajon, so it’s cool that we’re performing in El Cajon at The Magnolia,” he says. “I’m weird this way. I show up at these places and I can feel the energy of when we were playing there all these years ago.”
Scheff joined Chicago in 1985 after Cetera left the group to pursue a solo career. Scheff was noted for his uncanny vocal resemblance to Cetera. His lead vocals were debuted on the 1986 single “25 or 6 to 4,” a remake of their 1970 hit, then followed up with “Will You Still Love Me?”
Scheff, who says he was inspired by Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as a youngster, recently released his own album, “Here I Am.” Produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts, “Here I Am” is available on Scheff’s website, jasonscheff.com/hia.
He doesn’t play those songs on “The White Album” shows, but he does do “25 or 6 to 4,” which, he says, ties everything together.
“It’s fun to see everybody connect the dots,” he says. “It’s fun to be part of this tour.”
“It Was Fifty Years Ago Today”
8 p.m. Sunday,
The Magnolia, 210 E. Main Street, El Cajon
Tickets start at $34.75