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updated: 8/25/2013 8:27 AM

How our reporter got rocker to change his tune on Beatles story

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LAKE GENEVA, Wis. -- Yes, the Lake Geneva dateline is a bit beside the point, but I was so excited about a story Josh Stockinger wrote in Friday's editions I felt compelled to add my 2 cents while on a mini vacation.

Actually I wanted to be the first to add an online comment. It would have read, "Hey, I played with the New Colony Six, too! Well, OK, I mean I played kazoo with the group's frontman, Ronnie Rice. Once. On one song ('Runaway')." I was stopped in my tracks by the first post on Stockinger's story -- a guy who said lying is the accepted norm in the rock 'n' roll business. So my brush with rock 'n' roll fame embellishment with a quick explanation of the truth seemed pretty lame.

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But the story behind Gary Goldberg's lie -- that he played in a band that opened for the Beatles at Comiskey Park in 1965 -- and how Stockinger got Goldberg to own up to the lie is what made this one of the most compelling stories we've published in a while.

Stockinger, though he already had one mid-story confession under his belt, did not set out to do an exposť on Goldberg. In fact, Josh is a big music fan; he went to the Elmhurst Historical Museum a week or so ago, expecting to hear from the guy whose '60s-era music was being rediscovered. Turns out a bunch of former band mates and other acquaintances showed up to accuse Goldberg of making up the business of opening for the Beatles, stealing a guitar and other nefarious stuff. This of course put the brakes on the feature story Stockinger had planned, and he instead made numerous calls to the principals trying to get at the truth. He had a pretty strong case that the Beatles story was a lie when he met with Goldberg to confront him with the evidence.

Josh, it should be noted, does not come on like Mike Wallace in these interviews. He prefers a kinder, gentler touch and he told Goldberg he completely understood how one could get caught up in such a remarkable story.

And while this made for a great story, Stockinger took no smug satisfaction in bringing down this aging rocker and his now-debunked tale. "I love music, and I like musicians," he says. "I honestly felt bad for the guy."

Stockinger, who normally covers DuPage County courts, got another guy to confess to something a bit more serious than fabricating tales about brushes with the Beatles. A couple of years ago, he came across a case of a Woodridge man accused of practicing as a lawyer without a license. Stockinger talked to the then-alleged victim and got an earful; he called the alleged phony lawyer, who promised to present evidence that he was on the up and up. But when Josh presented the facts, the man changed his tune.

"This was a situation that got out of control," he told Stockinger. "Clearly I'm just an average guy," The man pleaded guilty to theft and got 90 days in jail, probation and was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution to his victim. And not unlike the Goldberg confession, Stockinger obtained this one by being empathetic rather than confrontational.

When he's not covering courts, Stockinger is our go-to guy on rock 'n' roll matters. He's found the time to interview musicians as wide-ranging as Todd Rundgren and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth for our Time out! section. He's been to no fewer than 12 concerts this summer. If that's not enough, he also put together his own shrink-wrapped CD, "The Horse Thief: Horses and the Paranormal," containing 10 original songs, on which he plays all instruments and does all the vocals.

Hey that's just like Paul McCartney on his first post-Beatles solo album.

And I'm not making that up!

Jdavis@dailyherald.com

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