Featuring up to nine performers, Rolling the Stones pays tribute to Mick and company. “Every member of the band takes a keen interest in playing their part,” says bandleader Mick Adams (aka Mick Jagged). Vince Lupo (as Charlie Swatts) drums to the beat, Bernie Yantz (Bill Why-man) is a dead ringer for his bassist counterpart, Terry Myers (Ronnie B. Goode) plays rhythm guitar, Bobby Key mans the sax, Chuck Level bangs on the keys, and the band often includes backup vocals courtesy of Merry Fisher and Lisa Clayton.
Jackson Martin, aka Keith Riffhard, pounds out the classic riffs. He was George in a Beatles tribute band once, but it didn’t work out. Why not try a Stones tribute? It was 2008, and Martin began auditioning like-minded musicians who looked the part. “We actually stole Mick from another tribute band,” he says. “We weren’t a working band at that point,” he says, “but we were a better band.”
Martin says that not only do the five RTS members actually look like the real Stone they play, “but our personalities are similar. It’s scary.” Of the Stones it is Keith Richards who is perhaps the most mystical, when you consider that his past includes such events as getting bloodied by Chuck Berry or having had at least one transfusion to beat a drug rap. He is the real-life figure that Johnny Depp famously modeled his pirate character on.
So, how is Martin like Richards? “Do we really wanna put that in print?” We do. Martin laughs. “I don’t carry a gun around any more,” he says, “but Keith still likes to carry a gun and a knife and I’ve always been like that. Keith is also known to go off the handle and bop somebody, and I don’t do that anymore either.”
He’s spent a ton of coin to dress the part (“I’ve got $900 dollars alone in two pieces of jewelry – the skull ring and the manacle-handcuff bracelet) but, can Martin hack it on guitar like Richards? Pretty much. “I understand Keith’s guitar playing. It is simple, it’s visceral, it’s animal, and it comes from the groin and the heart and the soul.”
Rolling the Stones cover material from what rock historians consider the three main eras of Stone: Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, and Ronnie Wood. Their set lists are “Paint it Black” predictable, but ramp up to more adventurous material like “All Down the Line.”
Unlike the real Stones, who have recorded little of consequence in three decades, will RTS attempt to write and record? Probably not, says Martin. “Try to write a song like ‘Brown Sugar.’ I tried to write a Stones-style song once, and it’s bloody difficult. You’ve either got it or you don’t, and Keith’s got it.”
The band won the 2009 Ultimate Music Challenge at Viejas Casino.