Through The Years, Stones Have Rolled Out Some Class Acts

Posted: March 11, 1999

Many a stunning act and only a few dogs have had the privilege of opening for the Rolling Stones in their 30-year-plus career.

"The group used to believe that the opening slot was the way to pay back the acts that had inspired and influenced them - from Chuck Berry to Muddy Waters to Ike and Tina Turner - and was also a way to educate their audience," notes local Stones authority and avid concertgoer Tom Sheehy.

"Only later in their career, when they started worrying about their faltering popularity and ability to still pack stadiums, would they start to add acts merely because some agent told them the group could help to sell tickets."

Most of the time, Stones fans have been at least moderately kind to the openers, though one Los Angeles gig in 1981 will go down in infamy - when Prince's opening set caused a riotous trashing of the stage.

Here are some of the talents who've graced the warm-up spot locally for the rock and roll kings.

May 1, 1965: Thanks to ditties like "Henry The 8th" and "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daugher," Herman's Hermits were almost as big as the Stones when both acts debuted locally at the Civic Center. Where have you gone, Peter Noone?

Nov. 6, 1965: Backed here by opening act the Rocking Ramrods, second-billed Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells did their big hit "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman." Keith Richard says that's the night he first fell for Bluebell Sara Dash, who 30 years later joined his group the Expensive Winos.

Summer 1966: The Stones played three shows at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City (all-day admission: $1.90) with support from the Standells ("Dirty Water") and the McCoys ("Hang On Sloopy").

1969: Their first time in the Spectrum, the Stones gave the warm-up slots to English singer/songwriter Terry Reid and blues master B.B. King - a payback that greatly expanded B.B.'s following.

1972: The Stones toured this long hot summer with Motown acts - a newly grown-up Stevie Wonder (who opened here) and the Commodores, soon to explode with "Brick House."

1975: No opening act was included, because of the Stones' elaborate lotus petal stage.

September 1978: On this stadium tour landing at JFK, the Stones started putting on acts strictly for ticket-selling ability, "acts they didn't personally like, like Journey," grumbles Sheehy. Reggae legend Peter Tosh, signed to the Stones' record label, also was on this bill.

Summer 1981: At this JFK return, Delaware destroyer George Thorogood asked the Stones to "Move It On Over."

1989: Psychedelic soul-rockers Living Colour got the opening slot on the Steel Wheels tour. Too bad half the audience were still stuck outside the Vet for most of the set.

December 1989: Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and those Guns n' Roses dudes joined the Stones for their pay-per-view special from Atlantic City Convention Hall.

1994: The Voodoo Lounge tour at the Vet featured a warm-up by Blind Melon and an unbilled field performance by the rhythm-centric Haitian group, RaRa Machine. Most people thought the latter was a pre-recorded "atmosphere" builder.

1997: At the press conference announcing the "Bridges to Babylon" tour, Mick Jagger "had to go into his pocket," recalls Sheehy, "to summon up the names of the opening bands" - including Dave Matthews and (for their Philly shows) Blues Traveler. "The Stones were getting smart - reaching out to attract a younger audience with these opening acts."

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