Becoming Mick Jagger is not a career path that most ex-Army helicopter pilots chose to pursue. But Glen Carroll’s military background is a little different than most of his peers. “My dad invented the game Battleship,” the lead singer for the Rolling Stones tribute band Sticky Fingers relates. “So it’s not like I ever had to worry if I’m going to be eating cat food or sleeping on a grate when I’m old.”
Carroll attempted to follow the traditions of his New England-based military family by enlisting first in the Air Force and then the Army. But in 1989, after six years, he’d had enough. “I thought that I just don’t need this for another 25 years. I always enjoyed playing music, so I moved back up to New England and started playing again.”
Asking himself the musical question, “How do you get out and play music in more than just my neighborhood and my town?” Carroll joined a local tribute band called Sticky Fingers–as a drummer. When the lead singer of the group at the time started wanting to add David Bowie songs to the set list and seemed more interested in his dream of opening a hair salon than being a Jagger clone, Carroll was enlisted to play the part of frontman.
The gig was frustrating at first. Just out of the service, Carroll had short hair and newly installed braces–the Army didn’t want a bunch of metal in a pilot’s mouth when he’s wearing a helmet mic a few inches from his teeth, so Carroll had waited to get them until after his service ended. Even though he thought at first, “I can’t do Mick,” Carroll got invisible braces and massaged his hair to make it grow. Six months later he was as close to being Mick as any ex-Army copter jockey gets.
Carroll soon discovered that being good at being Jagger involves unwanted attention from overzealous fans. A Vermont woman first contacted Carroll by email, asking if he was the one in the website photo that looked like Jagger. He answered that he was and thanked her for her interest. But he stopped writing her after the next communication revealed that she had Carroll’s picture taped to her headboard so that, as the email explained, “it is your face I see when I make love to my husband.” The woman, angered at being brushed off, found his home number and started leaving messages such as, “Carroll, you’re a dead man,” prompting him to take his answering machine tapes to the police. The woman stopped harassing him after the police visit, but found Carroll’s father’s phone number and began a war with him.
The singer, who resembles Jagger as he looked in the Get Your Ya Ya’s Out days around 1970, goes out in public without a disguise. He says it’s common to hear people remark, “that looks like Mick,” as he passes by. “Then one time in Philly I was walking into a Stones show, and someone kept saying, ‘That looks like Mick,’ and then I heard someone say, ‘That looks like Glenn.’ I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned around and they said, ‘You’re in Sticky Fingers, right?’ It’s one thing when someone thinks that you’re Mick, but when someone thinks that you’re yourself, that’s a bigger high, pal.”
Carroll-as-Jagger has been very successful with the band, earning up to $10,000 on a good night. Carroll says that under his leadership, the band has tightened up from just a Jersey-New York-Philly band to one that has been to Moscow, Panama and Bali. But the band’s success has attracted imitators. Asked if he’s heard of the California band calling itself Sticky Fingers and boasting a frontman who goes by Dick Swagger, Carroll says, “they’ve been a pain in my butt.”
This is perhaps because that group is run by Carroll’s former manager, who had an exclusive contract with Carroll and was fired when he began to ignore Sticky Fingers in order to promote an illegal clone of the Beatles tribute band, Beatlemania. When Carroll dropped him, the manager still got calls for Stones tribute shows, and started his own group to fill the need. Carroll says he has repeatedly gotten cease-and-desist orders, but they go unheeded. The singer says he has even confronted the manager face to face, telling him, “I don’t need a tribute band to my tribute band. Call it Satisfaction. Midnight Rambler. Some Girls. Bitch. I don’t care, just not Sticky Fingers.”
Carroll says he’s seen a video of the band, and he provides his own voiceover when explaining the video to an interviewer: “You guys suck. You’re all wearing girdles and wigs. You play badly. You’re not playing in open G tuning. You’re playing songs on six strings that were written on a five string. You guys are hurting my business!” Carroll says that he still has contact with the band: “Every now and then when I’ve had a few cocktails too many, I’ll send ’em an e-mail or voicemail and say ‘All right girls, I’ll tell you what. Let’s get together at the next Stones convention and we’ll let the audience decide who can keep the name. Then I’ll see something on the Internet the next day saying, ‘Glen must have been having a bad night–he called up and threatened that band again.’”
But most of the nights as Jagger are good ones, and Carroll says he hopes that he can do the show another 20 years or so, depending on when Mick retires. Before he goes, there’s one show Carroll wants to do for himself: “I’ve got an original CD I’ve been working on this year,” he explains. Carol says that he gave Entertainment Weekly a quote in 1994 saying that being in the best tribute band in the world was enough, “and it was, then. But now, I start thinking, what if I could see that joy in people’s faces with your songs? Having a bunch of people enjoying what you’re doing–feeling appreciated–it’s just a wonderful thing.”
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