In 1963 I was 12 years old. I was already a garage band veteran when The Rolling Stones released their first LP. My lead guitarist (not yet dubbed Fidel, for his dictatorial ways) played it through a guitar amp, rating each song – “King Bee” was the only track deemed “lousy.” For 25 years, Stones covers comprised half our set.
As lead singer, I was expected to sing, dance, dress, think, and behave like Mick Jagger! This was patently absurd, as I was a timid, tremulous, introverted Jew, who had two left feet and a voice like a frightened little girl. Even at 18 I resembled a ten-year old.
I did it though, and Cesar Romero laughed his head off when we opened for Lionel Hampton at the Beverly Hills Friar’s Club (my dad sold shoes to Serene Leavenworth of their Wednesday Guild). With maracas in both hands, jutting hips and ants in my cords, I pouted and pranced, extolling my studly prowess. Fidel, as Keith Richards, wore long feathered hair, a dangling cigarette, and a look of disgust.
We took our 3” tape to Capitol Records, where John Cale (A&R) pronounced it “Kiddie/Comedy Rock with no potential.” Fidel’s cover band from The Holiday Inn intrigued him though.
I grew up to comparisons of Mayberry’s County Clerk, Howard Sprague, but was still aping Jagger (vocally, his clone). Fidel set me up with nudie floozies, though high school teachers compared me to an 80-year-old man.
Due to the embarrassment and dizzy spells (from the gyrating), I returned to my early operatic/cinematic novelty approach, which led to a distinguished career as a prestige act, garnering five-star reviews in European trades, while the labels buried the CDs, taking a loss for my nonexistent fan base (my advance, a pitiful stipend).
Fidel’s other band foolishly turned down a record deal. He hit the sauce and became a kept man in Colorado. My brother (the bassist he slapped for making mistakes) became an acclaimed session man, working with Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. He told them of our plot to steal their amplifiers at the Hollywood Bowl. Keith said, “You should have done it!” Our drummer now travels the world, selling the paint they use on highway lines.
When I learned The Living Catfish Karaoke Band was doing a Stones night here in Chico, I wanted in. I’d made an investment. My voice had changed though; I couldn’t sing their early R&B. I picked their most obscure track, “Gomper”, a mostly one-chord, one-verse, Brian Jones jam off Satanic Majesties. The audience would be nonplussed.
The night of the show, it seemed ludicrous as ever. I’d have to walk a half mile in darkness to an hour bus ride riddled with taunting cranksters, to wait two hours in a venue lit like a Winchell’s Doughnuts for a white-haired PBS audience to jubilantly sing along to the most commercial of later-day Stones singles, sung by rank amateurs for an open mic (I won’t even do songwriter showcases and contests), with the flu and Norovirus going around. Then toss in a strange bed, having to cancel my own Chico rehearsal the next day. All the girls over 25 are taken anyway, but I was dismayed to learn the Olson-esque, Amanda Detmer, was at Duffy’s with her entourage.