Watching his mother repeatedly battle cancer and having to deal with his own medical issues throughout his young life, King Tobias was able to forget his troubles for a few hours this summer as he spent time with the surviving members of the best-selling musical group of all time.
Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney met with the 6-year-old Los Banos boy backstage at separate Bay Area concerts in July and August. A Beatles fan since he was 2 years old, King even knows the most obscure Fab Four tunes – assuming there is such a thing as an obscure Beatles song. King answered Beatles trivia, played the band’s songs on his guitar and showed off his extensive Beatles memorabilia collection while visiting Starr and McCartney.
“It made me feel good because that was the real Beatles,” King said of his time with the music superstars.
King’s mother, Cali Tobias, has fought breast cancer four times and is now dealing with the ovarian form of the disease. She said her goal in life is to make each of her four children’s dreams come true. King’s journey to meeting the Beatles started before his fifth birthday. In early 2013 at Stanford University Medical Center, while his mother awaited treatment, King encountered a man playing guitar to soothe patients.
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“He was sitting there playing the guitar and King walks around the corner and goes, ‘Excuse me, sir, do you know any Beatles songs?’ So he started playing and King started singing,” Tobias recounted. “He wanted to test him a little, but King knew every single song he played. People started crowding around him, they were amazed this little kid knew all these Beatles songs word for word.”
The man eventually let the little boy play his guitar. Using what his mother believes is a photographic memory, King was able to play the Beatles music he loved singing. Tobias said someone suggested she take her son to Starr’s concert in San Jose. When Tobias called to order tickets she encountered someone familiar with her son.
“The person I was speaking to was also a cancer patient at Stanford and had seen King performing. They were like, ‘I know exactly who you are. I’m going to talk to my boss and see what I can do about getting you some VIP tickets.’ ”
The tickets turned into access backstage, where the Henry Miller Elementary School first-grader played Beatles tunes on his guitar for Starr and his band. “They were saying ‘He’s amazing’ and asking how long he’s been playing,” Tobias said. “I told them he’s only been taking lessens seven or eight weeks, but he plays all the time at home, it’s what he loves to do.”
King, who suffers from pulmonary issues, has loved the Beatles since he heard “Love Me Do” on a television music channel when he was a toddler. His favorite Beatles songs are “Because,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Rock and Roll Music.” He also went through a year-long phase where he would introduce himself as his idol John Lennon.
Tobias was pregnant with triplets in 2008 and decided to name her prematurely born son King because he was the only one to survive. When Starr learned of this, he told King that the Beatles will be his brothers. “His face lit up. That blew him away and he kept saying ‘That’s my brother,’ ” Tobias said.
Before their time with Starr was over, he told Tobias he would contact McCartney and let him know about King. Days later Tobias was picking her daughter up from Pacheco High when McCartney called her cellphone to invite King to his concert at Candlestick Park. Tobias didn’t believe the singer was on the phone. “I was like, ‘yeah right,’ ” she said, “but talking to him, nobody has a voice like Paul McCartney.”
Tobias was not allowed to take pictures when her son met McCartney backstage because of a documentary the singer was making. King will be featured in the film, according to Tobias.
McCartney listened to King play and went through the boy’s Beatles trading cards with him. McCartney also signed two guitars for the boy.
After meeting both living Beatles, King is reluctant to pick a favorite. “Paul has the most beautiful voice, but I like them all,” King said.
In the course of her son meeting Starr and McCartney, national and local media have swarmed Tobias to let them tell King’s story. Tobias said her phone was constantly ringing for weeks, but all the inconvenience was worth it.
“It is my dream to make sure that all my children have great memories of things while I’m here,” she said.