Mark Loudermilk was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 10 years old, as was his youngest daughter. “It’s been a part of our family ever since I was [a kid],” Loudermilk says. “I still remember my mom leaning over the steering wheel and bawling her eyes out when the doctor told her what I had. And I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I thought I was dying. She said, ‘You’re a diabetic,’ and I didn’t even know what that meant.”
As an adult, Loudermilk does more than live with Type 1 diabetes—he fights for life-saving research and awareness supplied by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF), an autoimmune disease that affects less than 200,000 in the U.S. With Loudermilk’s Wilmington-based Beatles cover band, The Moondogs are gearing up for its third annual concert for JDRF at Brooklyn Arts Center on February 7.
The Moondogs will play The Beatles’ 1964 album “A Hard Day’s Night” and 1965’s “Help!” from start to end in a show they’re calling “Double Feature.” For the audience, it will simply be a fun outing to revisit Beatles songs. For Loudermilk the show is his way of aiding JDRF in their search for a Type 1 diabetes cure.
Despite his family history, Loudermilk had not attended annual fundraising walks or galas for JDRF before starting these concerts. “I always felt guilty about not getting involved, especially after [my daughter] Amelia was diagnosed,” Loudermilk says. As a guitar player performing in multiple bands and for his church for years, it finally struck him how he could contribute to the cause. By talking to a fellow church-going musician, Loudermilk decided to start a band that would play once a year to raise money for JDRF. “I was inspired by my friend who was part of a band in Greensboro,” Loudermilk recalls. “He played albums from start to finish.”
It was not clear at first which albums Loudermilk and his bandmates would cover. Though an Eagles and Led Zeppelin fan, Loudermilk thought The Beatles would be a better fit because of their music’s crowd-pleasing nature. “The thing about [The Beatles] is they have such a wide appeal,” Loudermilk explains. “Everyone knows Beatles songs.”
Loudermilk founded the band with Bill Koff in 2016. They looked toward the Beatles’ early days in 1959 for the right moniker. based on Johnny and the Moondogs. The band featured John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Shortly after, Ringo Starr joined and the Fab Four became The Beatles.
Soon after Wilmington’s Moondogs started, New York firefighter John Iammatteo joined on drums. Though Koff ended up leaving the band, others have since hopped onboard, including multi-talented percussionist and harmony-singer Alex Tomlin, bassist and Wilmington real-estate agent Art Ricks, as well as John Rogers and John Toppings on guitar. Rogers and Toppings bring Lennon- and McCartney-like voices to the band, respectively. The Moondogs newest and youngest member, keyboardist Ethan Graves, is an 18-year-old at Cape Fear Community College who will perform with the band for the first time on his birthday this year.
Guitarist John Parker is Loudermilk’s endocrinologist, who offered the band leader $1,000 to let him play just one song onstage with The Moondogs. In the end, Parker was so good the band recruited him. “During the first show, we let him play two songs and he was really good!” Loudermilk remembers.
Loudermilk leads The Moondogs and hopes to play all 13 Beatles records from their core catalogue. He even sees them potentially playing a night of songs from each Beatles’ solo career. “We rehearse [a lot] to play these songs only one time,” Loudermilk admits of their annual show. “Folks have asked us to come and play at other events or golf tournaments, but this would take away from the [draw] of, ‘You will only hear us play this set once.’”
Loudermilk is also the executive director of fab4JDRF, the nonprofit which sends all proceeds to the Coastal Carolina chapter of JDRF. The band’s first show, “Rubber Soul Live” earned JDRF $14,350, while the second—they played the “White Album” for its 50th anniversary—raised $19,000. All funds helped further Type 1 diabetes research. Money raised by JDRF goes to research a cure and for devices that aid those affected by the disease, including continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and an app that tracks blood sugar levels.
“The technology they had when I was 10 years old is nothing compared to what they have now,” Loudermilk says. “They didn’t have insulin pumps when I was 10 years old—you just had to give yourself a shot every few hours or once a day.”
To help JDRF continue their advancements in medicine, purchase tickets to The Moondogs’ upcoming concert at fab4jdrf.org.