• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

In the 2001 film Rock Star, former rapper and underwear model Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg fronts a tribute band that pays sonic homage to his favorite hard rockers, Steel Dragon. He takes the gig so seriously that he gets into an onstage fistfight with his guitarist.

“There’s no solo after the break,” shouts the alleged singer. “That’s not how the song goes!” POW, right in the kisser.

His policeman brother ridicules his sibling’s career as a clone. “You know the sickest thing about you, little man? You don’t have any fantasies of your own. You fantasize about being somebody else.”

Some musicians see tribute groups as a way to get a foot in the door of the music industry. Others have been on the other side of that door, only to find more closed doors. Copping someone else’s successful act may seem the only chance at earning a bit of applause, adulation, and -- ultimately -- affirmation, however secondhand.

In Rock Star, Wahlberg gets fired from the tribute group. One phone call later, he replaces the singer he idolizes in Steel Dragon and, within a few dozen movie minutes, he’s leading that band to greater heights of fame than ever before, transforming overnight from wannabe to bona fide.

To paraphrase another unreal character, Rocket J. Squirrel: “That trick never works.”

Though few have gone directly from paying tribute to playing stadiums, this hasn’t stopped the number of soundalikes from growing exponentially over the last few years.

We contacted as many local tribute acts as we could find, barring the endless array of Elvises (Elvi?), since they frankly get too much media attention already and this only causes them to breed all the more, like porky pop-culture kudzu.

We’ll start with the most unlikely of the lot, an all-male tribute to the Bangles who dress in drag and call themselves the Dangles.

“We acknowledge how ridiculous it is to dress up and pretend to be something you’re not, just to get a tiny taste of someone else’s fame,” says lead Dangle Tarzana Hoffs (real name Percy Murray). “We’re like the supermarket generic brand trying to Hoover a few bucks from the pocket of some chump who refuses to pay full price for his Cheerios. Or, more accurately, the TV versions of Private Benjamin or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…cash in on whatever’s hot and maybe, just maybe, lightning will strike again the same way.”

“We’re not delusional,” says Murray. “We know we’ll never have a hit record, so we just play it for fun, and the audience, when they get it, they have fun too. That’s as long as the crotch of my pantyhose doesn’t rip. I may look better in a miniskirt than Susanna Hoffs, but if Mister Happy accidentally pops out, then nobody’s smiling anymore.” Indeed.

40 Ounces to Freedom is all about Sublime. “A lot of people think I sound very similar to [Sublime singer] Bradley Nowell,” says 27-year-old front man Dane Scott. “Some people even say I bear a striking resemblance to him.”

According to Scott, “We do Sublime with a twist. We play a lot of the specific guitar solos and bass lines the same, but we also like to improvise on top and add our own arrangements of some songs…we don’t try to look like Sublime, although the drummer and I have both been tattooed by one of Bradley’s longtime buddies.”

The 40 Ouncers have a richer musical pedigree than one might expect from copycat rockers, perhaps explaining their hectic gig schedule.

Scott spent six years with Tubby and is currently working on a project with former Social Distortion player John Maurer. Bassist Sol Turpin (36) also fronts Safety Orange, while Jeremy Miller (31) plays in Stepping Feet, a Dave Matthews tribute. Adam Bausch (33) was the original drummer for Slightly Stoopid. “Adam actually played gigs with Sublime back in the day,” says Scott, “so he knows them all. I met Bradley’s widow when I worked for a store I think she owned in OB, called On the Contrary. I was her shoe guy.”

Scott says those days of reliably gainful employment are long gone. “Now, we all support ourselves with music. Nobody has a ‘real’ job. And Sol is the only one of us who’s married, for around two years now. It’s hard to be married and make a living as a musician at the same time.”

Dust N’ Bones is an homage to Guns N’ Roses. “We try to sound as much like the albums as possible,” says singer Richard Gwaltney, who founded the band in 2005. “But at the same time, we let our personalities come through. Anyone who thinks they can just go out there and be an actor will fail immediately. You have to be real, be yourself, and do what you want to do, regardless of the fact that you’re the ‘fake’ version.”

Regarding visuals, he says, “All of us go as far as we can to emulate the look of the original Guns N’ Roses members. We go for sort of an action-figure version of what everyone recognizes.”

Gwaltney — who strongly resembles his dimpled doppelganger — says gig offers increased when GN’R’s long-awaited Chinese Democracy album became a reality. “This works in our favor,” he says, “but we’re not trying to be them or anything. We just respect their artistic genius.”

The players all have day jobs and are spread around the county; they meet once a week in OB to practice. At 26, Gwaltney is the youngest member. “The other guys are all mid- to late 30s,” he says, “and the only married one is Tommy, our lead guitarist. He’s got a kid who’s way too young to understand the awesome magnitude of his father being in a GN’R tribute.”

“In my opinion,” says Gwaltney, “being married almost defeats the whole purpose of being in a Guns N’ Roses tribute. You should be able to rock out with your cock out.”

Led Zeppelin tribute Dazed and Confused has also benefited from the renewed activities of forebearers, in their case the November 2007 one-shot Zep reunion at England’s 02 Arena. “In the months surrounding the concert,” says vocalist Jason Ott, “we played more and better gigs than usual. That’s when we first began booking at A-list places like the Belly Up Tavern and Canes.”

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


sugarrock March 18, 2009 @ 9:21 p.m.

tribute bands are a trip. steely damned completely blew me away. they really know their songs and the vibe was awesome. it was amazing. don't waste your money on metal skool. they claim they are a cover band but they used an ipod when i saw them, it was like bad karaoke.. "hey, where's the second guitar coming from?" it was horrible. when i called them out on it they tried to deny it but then they later admitted that they used backing tracks. weak...


SpliffAdamz_ March 19, 2009 @ 12:13 p.m.

Marky Mark was a rapper I find that real hard to belive.


SurfPuppy619 March 19, 2009 @ 2:02 p.m.

Marky Mark was a rapper I find that real hard to belive.

By SpliffAdamz

Good Vibrations was one of the biggest rap songs ever.



GuitarFan March 20, 2009 @ 9:35 a.m.

Interesting to see a Van Halen cover band that focuses on the Sammy years...usually it's all about David Lee Roth period. Not sure Eddie's new wife would be excited about his porn parties. Here's a pretty cool video of Eddie shredding on the "Frankenstein" guitar mentioned in this article:



SurfPuppy619 March 20, 2009 @ 11 a.m.

Sammy was/is a far better singer/vocalist than Dave could ever dream of.


daviddiamond56 March 20, 2009 @ 9:10 p.m.

Re: DIAMOND IS FOREVER! the NEIL DIAMOND EXPERIENCE ..."Sherry works on the side as a video editor"

That's true, but I do (the video editing) for the band. It is not my part-time job.

The band - music - is my life and my full-time job too. I don't do anything else. It is a full-time job requiring 40-60 hours a week from me and my good friend the band's manager/promoter Ce Ce Taylor.

I think that some bands might not realize that there is a lot more to do than rehearse (and if you are lucky) perform. There is a lot of the job, heck, most of the job, that is not done on stage in the spotlight with an audience.

There is always work in the PR and Promo Department, first in creating and then maintaining a pro-quality promotional package that contains photos, press, band info and contact data. Ours also includes a 3-camera pro-shot DVD edit which we shoot and re-edit with new footage every year to keep it fresh, new and exciting. our promo package also includes a live CD. . Then there are the daily duties: sales, promotions and plain old "nine-to-five" type of office duties such as developing and maintaining a fan base, CD and merchandise sales, updating and maintaining web sites and the constant search for bookers, agents, promoters and venues in which to perform! When venues are booked there are print ads, promotional posters. postcards and the like to create and distribute. The biggest part of the job is getting the word out and getting people in the seats!

Some gigs don't require a lot of advance work. For example, when we performed last at the House of Blues for Rick Ortiz' BEST OF TRIBUTES night in the Summer of 2008, other than normal rehearsals and contacting the fan list about the date, we just walked on stage for what felt like a momentary sound check and then we rocked the House for 80 minutes!

On gigs that we produce and promote ourselves like our annual performance at the Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista (holds 2,200) we spend 2 to 3 months to put together a concert-event of that size and do all that is involved to produce, promote and pull off a successful event...but of it is of course worth it to get that time in the spotlight in front of the audience making the music we love and the audiences - feel the Neil

Lot's of great tributes in San Diego and Diamond Is Forever! is proud to be a part of it.

David the Diamondhearted

David J. Sherry Diamond Is Forever! Band

click below for our current video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcOVXM...">NEIL DIAMOND - Sweet Caroline, America, Solitary Man and more


birgittaw March 21, 2009 @ 4:40 p.m.

I was at the Neil Diamond tribute show show in that decrepit theater in Encinitas. Yes, it was freezing cold, the sound disappeared, a dog was running rampant in and out of the pews,BUT, David J Sherry didn't let all the distractions bother him and sang his heart out, much to the delight of the audience who gave him standing ovations! Bravo David, keep on singing you're the best!


concernedmom March 21, 2009 @ 6:41 p.m.

With all this chatter about everything and anything I just thought i'd slip a thought or two in the mix. After reading last weeks article (Escorts and Engagments) my 18yr old daughter,apparently downloaded the Story of an American Escort. The real shocker was at breakfast when I asked her what she planned to do for the summer. To my total amazment she replyed "I was thinking of checking out an escort service" Coffee literally spewed out of my mouth as I almost chocked to death. I could not for the life of me figure out just what the hell she was talking about. quizzing her a little more closely she informed me that after reading this novel she thought it would fun to check it out. I thought for sure she was just kidding me, i mean we go the church on sundays and live in LaJolla, but I soon realized she was dead serious when she turned to me and said "I bet you I will be rich in just two or three months and have enough money to breeze through my first year at collage with out having to work at all...Im cencerned to say the least and any advice would be greatfully appreciated.........


SurfPuppy619 March 21, 2009 @ 7:53 p.m.

I thought for sure she was just kidding me, i mean we go the church on sundays and live in LaJolla, but I soon realized she was dead serious when she turned to me and said "I bet you I will be rich in just two or three months and have enough money to breeze through my first year at collage with out having to work at all...Im cencerned to say the least and any advice would be greatfully appreciated......... ============================

Here, just in case you missed it, have her follow in the steps of this raving beauty (should clear out her crazy thoughts of "easy money");

Yeah-and her name is Christina Shultz (now Warthen), and she no longer has the cool quarter million in the safe deposit box-the IRS took it and handed her a felony conviction for income tax evasion with three years of supervised probation to go along with taking her cash.

There is always a big downside to illegal activity-no matter who says otherwise.



Josh Board March 23, 2009 @ 2:04 p.m.

Back to the tribute band story:

The band METAL SKOOL, put on a great show the time I saw them. It was like a heavy metal tribute act, that does Spinal Tap style jokes. I have friends that see them all the time, and I can't figure out why you'd want to more than once. I didn't care for those hair band songs in the 80s, and seeing them performed note for note, well...it's fun for the humor, but little else.

That singer, Ralph, is also the same guy that sings for Atomic Punks. By the way, Atomic Punks lost their former lead guitarist to the real VH singer, David Lee Roth, and he's still with him. They put on a great show, by the way.

I saw OU812, and didn't care as much for them, as I'm not a big Sammy fan (great in Montrose, with VH, not so much).

Two other bands worth noting: Cash'd Out, our local Johnny Cash tribute band, is one of the best in the land. Cash's estate endorses them, too. Catch them if you can, they'll blow you away.

And, from LA, Wild Child, a Doors tribute. They've been doing this now for 20 plus years. The singer played Morrison in a Meryl Streep movie (death becomes her), and almost got the part of Morrison in Stone's movie.


SpliffAdamz_ March 24, 2009 @ 9:34 a.m.

Surfpuppy619 are you serious!? Marky Mark a rapper please , don't make me throw-up on this computer. Good Vibrations was not even close to a great rap song , i can name ten thousands rap songs better then that crap you trying to sell. Yo surfpuppy619 don't disresespect hip hop by saying this one rap song wonder had a hit rap song. Do you really know anything about rap music? Just because Marky Mark had a song that white america like don't mean he is a rap artist. He never had a rap album so i still find it hard to belive that he is even thought of as a rapper. Saying he is a rapper that's like saying the chargers will win a super bowl one of these years.


SurfPuppy619 March 24, 2009 @ 12:17 p.m.

^^^^LOL @ SA^^^^^

Marky Mark was the sh*t man!

BTW, MM was rapping, just in case you do not know what rap is and GV was a major MAJOR rap hit.


trestles March 24, 2009 @ 1:14 p.m.

surfpuppy, I hope the dripping sarcasm coming thru is intentional. Because unless you were a teen who liked new kids on the block, marky mark was a joke. Rap at that time, 90-94, was NWA, Public Enemy, Dre, Ice Cube, Ice T etc. You really comparing markyboy to them?? By the way one of the few topics off limmits in interviews, besides the "alleged" affair with Madonna, is his rap "career. he refuses to talk about it and is said to have walked out of interviews over it.


Josh Board March 25, 2009 @ 9:42 a.m.

The problem rap fans have, the ones that actually know the genre, is when they try to say Marky Mark or Vanilla Ice, isn't rap. It is. It may suck, but that doesn't matter.

It's just like when a person that loves heavy metal tries to say that the hair bands of the 80s weren't metal. And then they come up with all these sub-categories: speed metal, death metal, blah blah blah.

In every genre of music, there are artists that suck and doing that. Even if they have a hit.

In country, maybe that's Billy Ray Cyrus and his Achy Breaky Heart. I don't know.

But to try to say "He isn't country" or "he wasn't rap," is a lame argument. Or to say that "the Chargers will never win a Super Bowl," when I'm guessing, he's a Raiders fan! All silly statements.


trestles March 25, 2009 @ 10:29 a.m.

Josh, Maybe you put it more succinctly than I did. I said he was a joke, which compared to the people I mentioned, he was. Or to use your words, he sucked.


SpliffAdamz_ March 26, 2009 @ 8:07 a.m.

So are you saying that if a person has ONE rap song they are a rapper? If you go around the country and ask people if Marky Mark was a rapper and did rap music do you really think anyone would remember the one rap song he did? Or even consider him a rapper? If he really is a rapper name some of his other rap songs besides the one you claim is a hit!! Marky Mark the shyt , yeah a shyt on the ground. Marky Mark will never be known as a rapper just face the facts people. Yo Joshb you damm right i'm in the Raider Nation and the chargers do suck.


SpliffAdamz_ March 26, 2009 @ 8:57 a.m.

Yo fred thanks for ridding my nutz you got all these words a comments about me but what dose that say about you. Did i ruffle your demon feathers. I'm pretty sure your at home sittin in your tighty whiteys with satan saying i hate this SpliffAdamz guy he's stupid he's this his that. But yet you still keep on riddin my nutz. To bad we don't consider you a writer just and idiot with access to a computer!!!!! Fred , you need to shut up when grown folks is talkin'. The only loser is the one that gave you birth don't ever forget it.


Fred Williams March 27, 2009 @ 12:57 a.m.

Yo, Spliffy, I'ze all rightin and shytt 'cuz Satan he done took ova my keybode an be makin me do it. Ain't no thang...


Fred Williams March 26, 2009 @ 8:28 a.m.

SpliffAdamz writes a lot of stupid annoying bulls***, but that still makes him a writer.

Case closed.

Mark W. WAS a rapper, just an annoying and stupid rapper, like SpliffAdamz is an annoying and stupid writer.

The difference is that Mark W. parleyed that annoyingly lightweight rap song ("Feel it, feel it!") into a highly successful acting career, while SpliffAdamz is just a loser with a loose keyboard who would rather pick pointless fights over minutia than write something interesting.

Spliff, please go roll yourself a fatty and calm the f*** down, or go to your Pentecostal congregation and roll on the floor while rapping in tongues.


RoRo April 1, 2009 @ 10:14 a.m.

I simply cannot believe, Electric Waste Band, of Ocean Beach, was not interviewed for this article. Horrible Journalism to omit them, sorry. They are one of the COUNTRIES premier Grateful Dead cover bands, probably Top 3 [ Dark Star Orchestra is considered #1). They have been performing at Winstons for almost 20 years and have a more dedicated fan base then any band interviewed.

The omission is so glaring for one reason, Grateful Dead cover bands essentially are part of the FOUNDATION of the cover band as we know it....They are one of the only bands people found worthy of covering full-time and hence are practically the first big band covered to such an extreme.

Also of note, I have seen Stepping Feet over 10 times, they are great, as is the Iron Maidens and I cannot wait to see the Steely Dammned, but EWB is simply the best and you not interviewing them for this article was shameful !


Josh Board April 8, 2009 @ 4:40 p.m.

Good point, RoRo. They've been playing Winstons forever. Although, with space limitations on stories, I'm sure there are a lot of bands that didn't get a mention, that their fans would've liked to have seen get some press.


goofygal April 12, 2009 @ 9:52 a.m.

Yeah Brother Loves has not gigged in almost 3 years and has been defunct and broken up for at least 2 - waste of space that could have been given to a band that is actually out there gigging...


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader