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What It’s Like Opening For The Stones

The Greg Kihn Band opened several shows for the Rolling Stones back in 1981, at the behest of Bill Graham, who called at the last minute to see if we could replace Prince who opened the shows in LA a few days earlier.  Apparantly Prince stripped down to his black thong underwear and pranced around the stage, much to the chagrin of Stones who fired him from the tour on the spot.  I guess, in Mick’s mind, there was room for only one sex symbol on this tour and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be Prince, who was relatively unknown at the time.  You don’t upstage the Stones at the their own gig.  So we got the call.  In his heart of hearts, Bil Graham knew I’d keep my pants on during the show.  Professionals that we were, we did as we were told, and here’s the punchline- Bill liked it so much he let us do an encore!  That’s unheard of by an opening act.  We were later replaced on the tour by George Thorogood.

I wish I had a poster of that gig, but alas, I do not.  However, the T-Shirt of that gig still exists.

Cool, huh?

So we jumped on a plane and flew to Seattle for the first of two shows at the Kingdome (which has since been torn down.)  I remember doing the soundcheck in the huge stadium.  We went out there with out little club-sized amplifiers and we were absolutely dwarfed by the size of the stage.

The Stones were staying at several hotels around Seattle- and we found out that Keith Richards was at our hotel.  I figured, we gotta party with Keith but nobody would tell us his room number.

The Stones travelled to and from the gig in a pair of white non-descript vans.  We, on the other hand, got limos.  There were a gaggle of groupies and Stones fans hanging around the limo assuming it ws Keith’s.  Imagine their surprise when my guys stepped out.

The gig itself was insane.  My heart was pounding so hard I thought I might hyper-ventilate on stage.  From the vast reaches of the Kingdome we appeared as ants, far away and nearly invisble.  I can’t tell you what it’s like to be staring down the barrel at 80,000 people in a giant indoor stadium.  All I can say is, adrenilin takes over, and the next thing you know it’s over and you’re bathed in sweat and high as a kite.

We hung out at the hotel bar hoping to meet Keith but he never showed up.  There were a ton of high-classed groupies waiting for the Stones.  We struck out with each and every one of them and wound going back to our rooms to smoke a fattie and watch reruns of Columbo.

After the second show, I looked for Bill Graham (who was the promoter of the Stones tour 1981) to thank him for the gig.  My mother always told to thank big Bill after every gig.  So, I went looking for him.  I found him wandering around backstage.  He grabbed my arm and said, “Follow me.”  I didn’t argue.

He lead me through 5 layers of security, deep into the bowels of the old stadium, through one checkpoint after another.  Until, at last he opened a door and…

There were the Stones!  We had breached their inner sanctum.  I was standing in the Stones dressing room!  There was Keith and Ronnie tuning guitars, Mick and Jerry Hall sat on the couch, and Charlie Watts chain smoked.  I sat down between Mick and Charlie and struck up a conversation.

Tomorrow- Be sure to read part two of this saga for the whacked-out of how I met the Stones!

Greg Kihn Band – Debut album, Greg Kihn Again and Next Of Kihn Now available from Apple iTunes.

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One Response to "What It’s Like Opening For The Stones"

  1. janettwokay says:

    Loved the story. I felt like I was there with you as it was unfolding. Very nicely done. By the way, today (October 25, 2011) is the 20th anniversary of Bill Graham’s death, so it was quite poignant that I stumbled into your blog and the story of how Bill Graham gave you your shot at opening for The Rolling Stones shortly before his death. An hour ago I watched Ari Gold’s video, “Helicopter” (it’s on YouTube). It tells the story of the aftermath of his mother’s (Melissa Gold) death. She was in Bill Gold’s helicopter on that fateful night.

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