Gary James' Interview With Chris LeGrand
of The Rolling Stones Tribute Act
Since 2001, Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones Tribute Band, has performed over 1600 shows! In 2005, they became the first ever Rolling Stones show to debut as part of the Legends In Concert show. In the Fall of 2007, they were featured on the CBS News New York Special on the rise of tribute groups. In 2008, they were honored to be contacted by Paramount Pictures and the IMAX Corporation to assist in promotion of the new Martin Scorsese produced documentary film Shine A Light. The film highlights The Rolling Stones performances in New York City along with vintage clips from the past. In 2010, the show received their highest accolades ever as they were approved by The Rolling Stones to perform long-term engagements annually with the Walt Disney Corporation. The group has now launched a new project entitled "A Symphony For The Devil", which features the group performing with a symphony orchestra around the world. We spoke with Chris LeGrand, who portrays Mick Jagger in Satisfaction.
Q - Chris, of all the tribute groups I've interviewed, your group seems to have the most gigs.
A - Yeah. We're very lucky. We've got about 125 plus shows on the books this year. So, we're very lucky. We're happy, despite the economy over the last few years, we have been able to keep it going. This is our 13th year.
Q - What do you think accounts for all this interest in your group?
A - Well, when we started from Day One, we wanted to have an authentic product. Obviously we put this together to be a full-time tribute to The Rolling Stones. I noticed when I began researching, putting the show together, that there was not a full-time touring group to The Rolling Stones. There was a number of Beatles shows. There's hundreds of thousands of those in the world, but I couldn't find a Rolling Stones show that was taking it on the road and bringing it out to the US and doing something international. I knew that the fan base was there. The Stones were obviously in the twilight of their career when we started it. They would come around every five or six years. I knew there was a market there, it was just putting a group together that was authentic and a talented cast. I just believed that it would work. I saw the vision. I put it together to see if we could attain it and here we are in our 13th year and we've been very blessed to keep this thing going.
Q - It's also a lot cheaper to see your show than it is to see Jagger and company.
A - Yeah. We are $20, $25, $30. We do some park concerts and free events too. We are able to go to small-town America and play the secondary and third markets where The Rolling Stones are not going to go. Obviously on this tour they are on, they have skipped most of the country, but we are able to visit those small towns and theaters. We do Miami and New York and everywhere else too, but it's nice to be able to go to Omaha, Nebraska and play Oklahoma City and some of those cities that have never gotten a Rolling Stones concert. So, there's a huge market, a huge fan base and we're the guys trying to fill it.
Q - I see the tribute act business as a growing business. Not everyone sees it that way. Since you are right in the thick of it, how do you see it?
A - Well, 20 or 30 years ago there was a Beatlemania show on Broadway, a handful of tribute shows, not many, and there were a lot of Elvis impersonators. And that was kind of the market probably 30 years ago, probably late '70s, early '80s. Something started to change and the classic bands were retiring or not coming around. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin. And so these acts started developing tribute groups to them and they were primarily located in major cities. They were just kind of weekend bands, but then it started taking off. Some of The Beatles shows started getting a little bigger, touring around doing the small theaters. I have to tip my hat to them. Beatlemania,
1964 and some of those groups that were able to go out on the road and do a theater show and maybe even do 40 to 50 dates a year. It just started opening up doors for other groups and The Stones were certainly one. That's when I took notice and said there's a market here. I've been doing it 13 years and in the last 10 years it has just blown up. Wow, there's good and bad with that. You got the cream that rises up, the groups that work very hard and be authentic and like a restaurant chain, you have got your B and C level groups that can sometimes be a parody. That's just the way business is, people jumping on the bandwagon. But it's a big business. It's been welcomed into a lot of venues that would have never done it before. 1964: The Tribute, they play Carnegie Hall once a year and Carnegie Hall doesn't hire junk. It's a big business.
Q - What were you doing before you put Satisfaction together?
A - Back in the '70s and '80s I was a touring musician and just doing the circuit, playing The Holiday Inn and every Rock bar I could, trying to make my own music. I went through the Punk, the Hair / Metal phase. I did all that stuff when I was a youngster. Then it was more about drinkin' beer, chasin' women and havin' fun and see if you could be the next Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. When that didn't work out in my mid-20s, I pretty much gave up and went back to school. I got married, settled down. I was out of the music business for about 10 years. When I got back in, in the late '90s, I was working in an industrial sales job. I had gone back (to school) and gotten a degree in Business and was working in Sales And Marketing in industrial equipment and playing on the weekends. I've been getting comparisons to Mick Jagger all my life. One day a light bulb went off and I said, "You know, I keep seeing these Beatle Tribute groups. What if I could pull off a Rolling Stones act?" This was like '98, '99. Everybody got a computer and this thing called the Internet came out. I started researching because before that you really didn't have a capability to do it. I looked around the Internet and that's when I found The Beatles shows doing well. I didn't see a Stones. I thought if I can put this together, there's a market. I thought it would be a specialty market that I would just fly out on the weekend, go to Vegas, do a couple of shows. Everything just blew up and it took off and the next thing I knew I had this thing on the road and playing everywhere I could. I got to go back and apply the business techniques that I learned over all the years combined with my love for music and performing, it became more of a business than just fun and that's what it is today.
Q - These comparisons to Mick Jagger, would they happen when you were in other bands or when you're walking down the street?
A - Well, primarily when I was younger, I was in my teens and 20s. I think I've had the same hair length for 30 years. Sometime when I was in business I had my hair cut shorter. I was always in groups when I was younger. Back then I wrote it off as a goof. I didn't want to be compared to anybody. I wanted to be my own guy, but people would say, "Hey, you look a lot like Mick Jagger." Back then I was playing guitar and bass. I wasn't even a front man. People are amazed when they find out I wasn't even a front man until I put this band together. I was always a guy standing back there playing bass or guitar. I'd sing a couple of songs, but I was never the front man or the lead singer in any of the groups I was ever in. I was just another guy. I got compared (to Jagger), but back then I just kind of brushed it off. 20 years later I just turned it into a career. I just said let me see if I could do this. I didn't really even know if it was something I could do. I was in a band with some guys back in Louisiana where I was living and I came to them one night and said, "Hey, I'm thinking about putting together a Rolling Stones tribute show. What do you think?" The first thing the drummer said to me was, "Who is going to be the singer?" (Laughs). I said, "It's gonna be me." He said, "You're a bass player. You don't jump around." (Laughs). I said, "Well, I'm going to take a shot at it." It was kind of strange the way it all transpired. Here I am.
Q - In your show, do you have a Ron Wood or a
Mick Taylor character?
A - Well, in the primary show we have a Ron Wood character. We do have a couple of other projects involved in this act. One of them involves a '69 era show and we have a Mick Taylor for that particular era show. We're developing that as we speak. It's gonna primarily be focused on 1969. We're developing several projects, but we're going to try to re-create all of the different eras of The Stones' tours. The first one is '69 because it's kind of a definable tour and we do have a Mick Taylor on that particular show. The Brian Jones in the early '60s is on the radar to do, but not as of right now. The thing about The Stones is, they have gone through different guys, unlike The Beatles. That was just the original four. There's some variables there when it comes to The Stones.
Q - Do The Stones know about your group? Have they ever commented on it?
A - Well, we actually had to get approval from them and their management back in 2010 I think it was. We were going to perform for Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Corporation decided that they were going to do some summer concert series. A tribute group they were going to hire is gonna have to get permission from the original artist, if they're alive, to perform on the property. It's a legal thing. We actually tried to start doing it back in 2008 and it took us about three years to finally get an answer. But we finally got an answer. The initial answer we got from their legal department was we're gonna fly this by Mick Jagger and Sir Rupert Lowenstein when he was still the manager. On a Monday morning meeting in July it actually had to go all the way up the ladder. They signed off on it. We don't really say we have an endorsement from them. We say we had an approval. So, they know who we are. It's a nice little feather in our cap.
Q - If you hadn't gotten the approval, what would have happened?
A - Well, we just wouldn't have been able to perform at Walt Disney World. We pay all the BMI, ASCAP fees like all the other artists. We don't really sell any of the music. I don't think anyone wants to own a CD of us performing their music. We kind of shied away from selling CDs or DVDs of our regular show. Go buy a Rolling Stones album if you want an original recording. We pay our fees and keep it all legal. If we hadn't gotten the letter, we wouldn't have been able to perform at Disney. It was a Disney thing more than anything else.
Q - What do you think a Randy Jackson or a Simon Cowell would have thought of a Mick Jagger audition had the show been around in 1963 or 1964?
A - Good question.
Q - Would they have laughed?
A - Probably would have. Looking back in 1963 or 1964, they probably would've written him off as a goof. It was pretty raw and undeveloped at that point. The whole band was. Even The Beatles early on were pretty raw. The Beatles I think had a little more refined talent. The Stones were pretty raw, pretty edgy. So it's hard to say. Probably would have cast them off as not pretty enough. (Laughs). The Stones were notorious for that whole bad boy thing.
Q - So talent and the ability to sing with this perfect voice doesn't necessarily enter into the picture of Rock 'n' Roll success. Something else has to be going on.
A - Absolutely. There's charisma. Obviously for a group to have some longevity there has to be some original music. A lot of these American Idol (singers) are primarily gonna be cover artists. I don't know if any of them are gonna develop into songwriters. Hard to really say. It's a different world now. It's a little troublesome for someone who's obviously a fan of yesterday like you and I are. Having to see some of this, I'm not sure how I really feel about some of it. I hate to sound like my dad, but I'm a little disappointed in even some of the music today, but then there's a turn to some of the more root(sy) music that I hear. All is not lost yet.
Q - Was it difficult to find guys for Satisfaction?
A - It's always difficult to find somebody who can fulfill a role, trying to be somebody other than themselves. That was a challenge for me too. It's an unnatural thing for you not to be yourself. You can do an impersonation, but your natural instinct is to be yourself. What we always try to find is somebody who could develop the look, the sound and the attitude. Obviously the sound and the talent was the most important thing, but if you could find a guy who could look the part, play the part, then we had something. So, it took a few years to find the right characters. We didn't start off with the success we've had. We didn't start off with the group of guys we have. It took a while like any company building a business or building a sports team. You don't come out and win the Super Bowl the first year you're in business and we didn't either. It took a while to find these guys. Eventually we built a winning team.
Q - Do you know what Bill O'Reilly's favorite Rolling Stones song is?
A - (Laughs). Well, I know who Bill O'Reilly is and I would have no idea what would be his favorite song. (Laughs). That's a great question.
Q - Bill O'Reilly's favorite Rolling Stones song is "Midnight Rambler".
A - Really?
Q - Which just goes to show how popular The Stones are with all kinds of people.
A - Absolutely. I'll keep that in mind and spring that on the boys.