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After Work: Corporate Bands Rock, Really

...Corporate bands are big now. Seems that inside many of those striped suits beat rock and roll hearts. The Wall Street Journal reported on this phenomenon recently in an article “ CEOs That Rock”. Seems there are rock bands of lawyers, buyout big dogs, and real estate executives sprouting up all over...

Dona Gibbs rocks with the Rolling Bones, a Rolling Stones tribute band made up of Wall Streeters and the like.

“Don’t quit your day job.”

That’s advice Charlie never listened to.

After the horrific events of September 11, 2006, that’s exactly what he did. He left his job as head marketing and communications whiz of a major Wall Street financial firm. His window looked right out on the Twin Towers.

He threw his ash-covered suit in a garbage bag and picked up his guitar. And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t looked back.

I went to see his band, the Rolling Bones, the other night down in the heart of the village. Once it was a bar that was the hang out for journalists where the buzz was a rehash of the day’s news and lots of inside gossip. It’s now a place where three bands a night play. Each louder than the next. It packs them in.

This is a Rolling Stones tribute band made up of corporate types, Wall Streeters and the like, who are all at least ten years younger than the Stones themselves. Like the Stones, they put on a great show. Unlike the Stones nowadays, they all start the song at the same time and play in the same tempo. They’ve been at it for thirteen years now. That’s a lot of “Brown Sugar.”

My friend has restyled himself as Keith Richards. Longer hair than corporations usually smile upon. An earring. Not a stud, but a large get-noticed earring. He plays a mean guitar and his stage face is stern, bordering on annoyed. Very Keith.

Like Keith he has a house in an affluent Connecticut suburb, two lovely daughters and charming wife. However, you’d never see Charlie falling out of a coconut tree.

The Rolling Bones has made a name for itself, even playing at the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame twice as finalists in Fortune magazine’s Battle of the Corporate Bands.

Corporate bands are big now. Seems that inside many of those striped suits beat rock and roll hearts. The Wall Street Journal reported on this phenomenon recently in an article “ CEOs That Rock”. Seems there are rock bands of lawyers, buyout big dogs, and real estate executives sprouting up all over

October 6-7 at the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. corporate bands will be pouring in from all over the country for Fortune’s Sixth Annual Battle of the Corporate Bands. The event has grown so big that now regional events are held all over the country to select the semi-finalists.

Past years’ performers have included bands from Air Products & Chemicals, Marsh McLennan, British Petroleum, Lehman Brothers, Harley Davidson, Fleet Capital Leasing and even the American Bankruptcy Institute.

These aren’t spoofs. These are guys serious about their music. They and other baby boomers like them are spurring guitar sales. According to the Wall Street Journal ”Last year retail guitar sales rose 13% to $1.1 billion.”

These rockers don’t have to settle for that beat up guitar and the little puny amp they saved their allowances for. Or the paneled basement of an indulgent parent. They’ve got the money to rock out in style. Great sound equipment. Excellent instruments. And rented professional studio space.

Their dads might have taken to the golf course. Their granddads prided themselves on the greenest lawn on the block. These guys have a different riff entirely.

For guys, playing in a band has lots of appeal. They get to make noise and hang out with other guys. And most importantly, they get to buy a lot of cool toys.

Charlie was sporting two guitars, one flaming red and the other a beautiful pearlized white one. I suspect there are more at home.

They certainly weren’t playing for the bucks. They charge $2,000 for a private party and $3,000 for a corporate event. Just a little more than gas money and dinner.

As the hour grew later, the volume grew too and so did the energy of the crowd. What a great hyphened-American crowd it was. Ethnically diverse but everybody knew the words. The Stones’ music was social glue.

Two hours they pumped it out. “Sympathy for the Devil” with three sweet-faced women from the audience singing backup, “Midnight Rambler”, “Brown Sugar’ and of course, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” got the crowd going.

Mick would be proud of them and probably bemused. After all, he briefly went to the London School of Economics for accounting and finance.

Only once did Charlie break out of character. During “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” he looked at me and grinned. Very un-Keith like.

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