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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fake Stones: The Great Impressionists of Rock

LEUVEN, Belgium -- Strutting and pouting his way through the Rolling Stones classic "Satisfaction," lead singer Nick Dagger boasts that his group is probably the second-greatest rock'n'roll band in the world.


The real Rolling Stones started a multi-million dollar world tour in Washington Aug. 1. Now the impressionists are trying to cash in.


The Counterfeit Stones, who started emulating their idols in 1991, began their lower-key "world tour" at a rock festival in the Belgian university town of Leuven on Aug. 14, drawing thousands with their rendition of the Stones' early work.


After playing in Belgium for a week, they travel to Spain, Switzerland and Germany for a succession of gigs.


"There have always been two bands doing this job," Dagger, flanked by fellow band members Keef Rickard and Byron Wood-Taylor-Jones, told Reuters with a laugh.


"They do the big stuff, big stadiums and we do the close, dangerous stuff ... The Stones are so far from the audience they have become performing ants," added Dagger. Swigging from a trademark bottle of Jack Daniels, the copycat group have worked hard to emulate their heroes.


The Counterfeit Stones believe their tongue-in-cheek performance is helping to revive interest in a rock legend.


"We have helped their record sales. After a gig many people go out and buy compilations of the Stones," said Rickard, who like Stones guitarist Keith Richard roams the stage with a cigarette dangling from his lips.


Most of the Counterfeit Stones gigs are to small audiences in bars or at weddings and private parties. Last week they were booked by 35,000 Hell's Angels who held a convention just outside London.


"You guys are pussycats in comparison to what we're used to. We've just flown in from the United States to be with you. Let's party-boo," screamed Dagger to the Leuven crowd. Dagger, who saw the Stones in 1969, only plays the early hits of his idols.


"People aren't interested in the new stuff. We give the crowds what they want to hear. Also we are a lot cheaper and more accessible," said Dagger, sporting a skin-tight catsuit.


"We see ourselves as a celebration of what they used to be," he added.


Mick Jagger's wife, Texas-born model Jerry Hall, saw the Counterfeit Stones last March at the Hard Rock Cafe in London.


"Mick was busy with the other band, but Jerry loved us. We had a photograph taken with her afterwards," said Wood-Taylor-Jones, a mock-up of hard-living guitarist Brian Jones, who was found dead in his swimming pool in 1969.


The Counterfeit Stones have faced some problems from Jagger's legal team, who were upset by the group using the pouting lips and tongue logo with a marijuana cigarette hanging from it.


"They should be pleased we bother to play their music," retorted Dagger. "And better than they do anyway," he said.


The Rolling Stones 1989 "Steel Wheels" tour earned the group $310 million. The Counterfeit Stones pull in four-figure amounts at the most.


"Money can't buy you love, as that other famous group (the Beatles) said. We may have to go to a gig in a lesser vehicle, instead of a helicopter, but we have a rich life," said Dagger.


The real Stones have been jeered at by some rock columnists as "Wrinklies" and described as the "grand old men" of rock, a label which horrifies grandfather Jagger.


Time, said Dagger quoting a famous Rolling Stones song, is on the Counterfeit Stones' side.


"Maybe when the real Rolling Stones finally break up, that's when we'll hit the big stadium time. But for the moment we are a window on the sweet past of the Stones," he said.