A journalist explores the offbeat world of tribute bands.
Following close on the heels of the Rolling Stones 2005-06 tour, journalist Kurutz traveled with two Stones tribute bands, Sticky Fingers and the Blushing Brides. The bulk of the narrative focuses on the former, especially their energetic frontman, Glen Carroll, who looks the part of Mick Jagger more than he embodies it with his voice. The owner of hundreds of Stones recordings and pieces of memorabilia, Carroll has served for more than two decades as the de facto leader and business manager for Sticky Fingers, booking the gigs and coordinating an endless rotation of musicians on tours across the country and abroad. The band has performed at a wide variety of events, including bars, small clubs, fairs and corporate parties, but their biggest draw is among fraternities at Southern universities. “At a frat party,” writes Kurutz, “where hundreds of coeds are stuffed into a room, chugging cheap beer, the songs of the Stones, loose and sexual, celebrate a lifestyle.” The Blushing Brides—who bill themselves as “The World’s Most Dangerous Tribute to the Music of the Rolling Stones”—play many of the same venues, and a spirited rivalry has developed, provoked mainly by the Brides’s Jagger, Mitch Raymond, who maintains a near-endless well of vitriol for Carroll. The author traces the origins of tribute bands to Beatlemania, the hit 1977 Broadway musical based on the music of the Beatles, and he offers a trenchant evaluation of how and why that production ultimately failed. Readers will appreciate the author’s light touch and warm-hearted portrayal of the musicians who toil in the tribute trenches, and Kurutz provides enough behind-the-scenes anecdotes to keep the pace moving. In a particularly amusing section, the author points to tributecity.com for numerous examples of tribute bands: Lez Zeppelin, AC/Dshe, Red Hot Chili Bastards, Kounterfeit Kinks, Pretend Pretenders, Hendrix Rockprophecy and Zoo Zoo Mud (“Missouri’s tribute to ZZ Top”)—as well as “not one but two KISS tribute bands peopled by dwarves—Mini Kiss and Tiny Kiss.”
An enjoyable tour of a unique musical subculture, limited only by its narrow scope—readers may wish for more information about non-Stones tribute bands.