Gary James' Interview With Maurice Raymond Of
The Rolling Stones Tribute
The Blushing Brides
Maurice Raymond has been fronting The Blushing Brides for more than three decades. Every night he gets to go on stage and portray Mick Jagger. What a story Maurice Raymond has to tell and we were right there to listen to it!
Q - Maurice, what is the marketplace like these days for a Rolling Stones tribute band like The Blushing Brides?
A - It is for us, because we were I guess you could say pioneers of this, for us now it's a little bit tough, reason being the market place is saturated. I think what happened is, we sort of fell into this by, not by choice, but by chance. We were a recording act that had some internal strife, broke up, and when we got back together we realized that really we had been black-balled in the recording industry, especially in Canada because we had frowned or caused a break-up and had a very large contract from R.C.A. Records and they sort of took it that we had been shunning or basically thumbing our nose at them for this whole break-up thing. It really left a bad taste in the mouths of the recording sort of powers-that-be. We could never get another recording contract. We tried, but no one was buying, so what we ended up doing was doing the next best thing and that's playing the music of The Stones the way we play it, not as a Stones clone band like people dress up with the wigs and this and that. I'm not denying I look a bit like Jagger and Paul Martin, my guitar player, isn't denying that he looks a little bit like Keith Richards. We always play the songs in our own way. We always put our own twist and take on it and personalities. That is what separated us from the rest of the gang of clone bands out there. Everybody missed the whole point of the matter, to play the music, and I always look at it this way, like an actor in a Shakespearean play. No two actors play Othello the same way. They both have their own take on it, their own presentation, their own energy, their own emotion. All we do is take the compositions of Jagger and Richards and play them in our own certain way, put our own energy to it, our own twist, and let the chips fall where they may. If people dig it, they dig it. If they don't, they don't. But for the most part, they dig it and that's really what's most important to us, and that we were able to earn a little bit of a living doing it. But right now, the marketplace is saturated with two-bit circus acts that try to dress up with wigs. Every clone band Keith guitar player wears a leopard skin something with a head band and this... it's ridiculous. It's a joke. It's a circus.
Q - But The Blushing Brides aren't playing bars.
A - Yeah, we'll play anywhere man. We'll play any juke joint in town. In fact, most of the clubs we play are now tiny little bars. We do play some big venues still, but you play where you can. You play where they'll give you a chance. That's what you do.
Q - Is there more work for you in the U.S. or Canada?
A - I would say it's 50 / 50. There's not much work for bands like us anymore. One, because the market place is so saturated with really bad bands, so when a band like The Brides try to get booked and say "We need this much money to play", they go "We're gonna hire that really cheap band. They really look like The Stones 'cause they dress up like monkeys." So it's hard for us to get gigs as opposed to the old days when we were the only pony in town. And we were a good band. A double bonus for the club owners. Now, people really don't care. It's really simple to create the illusion of The Rolling Stones. Get a band that doesn't play very well, a bunch of guys with wigs on, look like Mick and Keith, and they get away with it. The public goes "Oh yeah, oh yeah. They're playing Brown Sugar. That's great. He looks like Mick." That's really all the public wants. They don't really care about the musicianship anymore. There were some really good tribute bands years ago. Guys like Crystal Ship. It was a U.S. band. They used to do The Doors' stuff. There was a band in Canada called Liverpool that used to do The Beatles' stuff. I'm talking these guys were serious musicians, not hacks. These guys that are out there now doing it are a dime a dozen. There must be fifty KISS bands out there. And there's gotta be fifty Stones bands. I kid you not. There's Hot Rocks. There's Hot Rocks East. There's Hot Rocks West. There's the Hollywood Stones. There's the Rolling Bones. There's the this, the that. I look at all this and go "Are there that many fuckin', two bit, shitty-ass musicians who learned a few bar chords and threw on a fuckin' scarf and decided they were a musician? And people are buyin' this shit? I've been playin' music since I was twelve years old and I play with guys that are serious musicians. They fuckin' give a shit about what they play and how they do it. To have these monkeys out there doin' this shit by looting... I know it's weird for me to say this, and people will go "What, are you, nuts?" There's a difference to The Blushing Brides and serious musicians who play their stuff and these guys out there are an insult to what we do. It's a shame in what it is, that people will go out and see ass-fucking, backward musicians who are screwing up the whole scene and it belittles the whole art form of paying tribute to somebody. Here is the way I would equate it; You would go see the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and it's beautiful. They're playing Beethoven and Mozart, a concerto. Then you would go see the Volunteer Fire Department band and they're playing the same thing and people are saying "Oh yeah, they're quite good," and comparing it to the Symphony Orchestra. What? Are you deaf? This is what we have to put up with. These guys that are out there have screwed the market place and there's hundreds of them.
Q - So many of the tribute acts I talk to do cruises. Could they not have a Rolling Stones Tribute Cruise and hire The Blushing Brides? That would be a new venue for you.
A - They do, but they hire those schmucky bands. The circus acts. It's hard for us. We've priced ourselves pretty much out of the market because we get old and cranky and we want to get paid what we deserve. You know, it is what it is. We'll manage to work our way through it. After a few more years, we'll see where it takes us.
Q - At one point you were doing 250 gigs a year.
A - Right.
Q - Were those in bars, theatres?
A - Bars, small amphitheatres, theatres, a lot of college dates. Everywhere. We played everywhere. We played arenas. We did everything. When you play 250 shows a year, you pretty much cover the gamut of every possible venue that's out there.
Q - These days you work 30 days a year?
A - About 30 I think, yeah. Maybe it will be a little bit more next year. We're working on putting a little bit bigger, more succinct show and trying to find some investors to put it on in theatres and so it separates us from the rest of the schmucks out there.
Q - And you're working the rest of the time in a friend's printing shop?
A - I was. I'm now just basically working on The Brides. I'm kind of retired from that. I was doing that for awhile. I'm sort of out of that now.
Q - I was gonna say, how could you be happy doing that job?
A - Well, it's just lucky there's no handguns in Canada or I would've blown my brains out a long time ago. (laughs) Yeah, it's very tough to go from being a musician for twenty-five years, playing two hundred shows a year, down to thirty and having a real job. It's a very odd transition. It's very difficult.
Q - To me, The Rolling Stones will always be those five original guys. It's not about Mick Jagger. It's about Brian Jones.
A - Well yeah, the Blues band and then Jagger and Richards stole the band from Brian. They stole the control of the band from Brian. But actually Brian allowed them to do that 'cause of Brian's own frailties and his insecurities led him to a life of alcoholism and addiction and he basically swirled down the drain. Now, I'm as disgusted as any Rolling Stones fan about Mick and Keith allowing that to happen and basically took the band over. It was Brian's band.
Q - Since The Stones started out as a Blues band and you play Mick Jagger, do you think The Stones would've continued on if Jagger didn't dance on stage?
A - That's a hypothetical that I think is almost impossible to answer. I think the thing that separated The Stones from the rest of the pack was Jagger starting to do that. Initially the thing that separated The Stones from all the rest of the bands was they were Blues purists. In fact, they were the cats that brought Howlin' Wolf over to England and had him on Top Of The Pops and that was Brian's doing. They all loved big Blues aficionados as well, but it was definitely a group thing. What happened was, they were basically told by their manager, Andrew Oldham, that "look, you have two choices, one is to remain a Blues band and possibly have success or fade into oblivion, but the new trend that is happening is to become a Pop band like The Beatles, and you've got to get into the mainstream." Brian really didn't handle that well. Mick and Keith? Well, let's face it, ego is a powerful thing and it took them over. In the case of The Blushing Brides, we had a very similar scenario. When the band started, Paul Martin was the leader of the band and as natural selection would have it, you have a front man like myself that's leaping about and being very physical and people gravitate towards that creature and it created some problems in our band.
Q - So, Jagger's dancing has more to do with getting into the Pop music side of things? It has nothing to do with R&B, does it?
A - Not at all. It doesn't. You're absolutely right. It doesn't. I think one of the great turning points in The Rolling Stones' career is when they did the TAMI Show and they were on the same bill as James Brown. Actually, James Brown opened, preceded The Stones. James did his regular shtick, "Cold Sweat" and the pivoting and sliding on the one foot. The crowd went nuts and The Stones came out and Jagger literally mimicked James Brown, or tried to in a very awkward, white boy way, and yet the place went nuts. The thought it was amazing, that this white boy with this floppy hair was doing this. And it changed them completely because that was on national television. That was sent back to England. The English kids saw it and that was his whole thing. Andrew (Loog Oldham, Stones manager) just kept tell him "Don't stop doing what you're doing because they love it." It was about success and they wanted it.
Q - Now Syracuse, N.Y. played a part in the success of The Blushing Brides didn't it?
A - Uncle Sam's (Syracuse club) was a huge part of our success. We had never played in the States before. We were starting to get some success in the Ontario and Quebec regions of Canada. But we played our first show in the U.S. at Uncle Sam's in Syracuse. It was very odd because it was just packed. I think it was circumstance. I don't think the people really knew what they were getting into. There was no talk of us being a Stones band or anything like that. We were just this Canadian band coming down and they had no idea what we played. I think we opened the show with "Brown Sugar" in our neurotic, insane way. I think we blew them away. It changed the music industry in many ways because there really was no Stones clone or tribute bands at that time. I mean, there were, but they really weren't successful. There was a couple in Canada. It was nuts because we had an agent down there that saw us. The place went nuts. They hired us and we played other shows and there was an article in the Boston Globe actually called us "Stones Clones Invade New England" and that's where the term clone band came from. They had comments from Jagger in there, actually asked him questions about it. He said that famous line to us, "America has a large appetite for re-cycled garbage." He thought it was "Rather flattering, but rather stupid and mad" as he put it. From there it just went crazy. After that, we ended up putting out two of own albums. After the whole RCA debacle, and we were breaking up and we had no options to make a living as musicians, or we thought. It was easy for us to play The Stones and make a living and that's why we did it.
Q - Do you think radio advertising had anything to do with the people who turned out to see you at Uncle Sam's?
A - No. I think it was a Saturday night in Syracuse, N.Y. and this band with an interesting name, a lot of the people there, a lot of the guys thought there was girls in the band 'cause the name Blushing Brides. We've had many people ask us over the years "Where's the girls in your band?" We'd just go "It's just a weird name. I'm sorry, there's no girls." I think it was circumstance and fate. It was weird. It was a packed night. In those days, '79, '80, you could go to any club, any Rock club in the any town in the Northwest of the United States and Canada, those clubs were packed. It was what people did. People went to Rock clubs. It just happened that it was packed and we happened to hit all the right buttons, played a great performance. Another big show for us in Syracuse is we played S.U. (Syracuse University) one time. It was a big outdoor show. That was a momentous show as well. There were thousands of people and it was crazy. I think we had already built our reputation and there was this buzz going around. "You gotta see this Stones band," and it got pretty nuts.
Q - Before The Blushing Brides, what were you doing?
A - I was in a band called Jade, in Montreal, as a kid. Paul Martin, the guitar player from The Blushing Brides, is from Kingston, Ontario. He was playing a gig with his band in Montreal and some girl told him he had to come and see this band called Jade because they did a lot Stones, and we did Dylan and Bowie and Springsteen. Weird stuff that most cover bands don't do. We did "B" sides. We didn't do the hits. He came and after the show he walked up to me and said "I want to make a band with you." And I went to Kingston, Ontario and I made a band with him. And we called it Blushing Brides. When we put the band together, our goal was to be an original band. Original bands in those days would play a few of their own songs and a few covers. Unfortunately for us, some of those covers were Stones covers and we played them so well, they overwhelmed everything else.
Q - Where along the line did RCA catch your act?
A - I was probably a year into it. We did a big show at the El Mocanbo. There was all kinds of record people there. CBS was there, MCA (Records). We decided to go with RCA. I'm not sure why. But that's what we did and the rest is history.
Q - Did you know there was a Syracuse group called Jukin Bone on RCA?
A - I've never heard of them. First time I've heard that name.
Q - So that means you wouldn't have heard of Joe Whiting, Jukin Bone's lead singer.
A - I do know Joe Whiting. He's a good singer. A real good singer.
Q - The thing about RCA is they were very good at promoting male singers, Elvis, John Denver, David Bowie. Not so good at promoting groups for some reason.
A - Yeah, I know. They weren't very good. They were good at the solo artists. Maybe I should've went in as a solo artist.
Q - If The Stones decide to retire, does that mean the end of The Blushing Brides, or is it just the beginning?
A - You know, it's probably the middle. It'll probably just be the continuation. The Blushing Brides are their own entity. The Stones... would it boost our popularity if The Stones retire, maybe leave a void and allow us an opportunity? Yeah. Or it could make it that they become less important and people wouldn't give a shit about seeing us. You never know, but I think The Brides will just keep doing it like The Stones until we don't do it anymore.