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Strangest Rolling Stones Opening Acts

Prince Ron Wood
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Over the last five decades, the Rolling Stones have played countless gigs — and with the band currently back on the road for its ’50 and Counting’ tour, we’ve been thinking a lot about the highs and lows of their half-century as one of the biggest live acts on the planet, including some of the many, many opening acts they’ve toured with along the way.

It’s a pretty extensive list, as you can probably imagine, and we aren’t even trying to get into its full depth and breadth here; instead, we’ve decided to focus on some of the stranger pairings they’ve made along the way. This isn’t to say any of the acts on this list aren’t worth listening to in their own right — in fact, it includes some legends — just that they weren’t the most obvious choices, particularly at the time. Ladies and gentlemen, our choices for the strangest Rolling Stones opening acts!


The Commodores



The Stones’ 1974 album was titled ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll,’ but their choice of 1975 tour openers demonstrated the band’s fondness for funk. Just rising to prominence with their early hit ‘Machine Gun’ after a few years of opening for Motown labelmates the Jackson 5, the Commodores may have baffled audiences who showed up to hear the Stones, but they’d go on to become one of the biggest bands of the decade.



Cheech & Chong



It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but once upon a time, it was fairly common for comedy acts to open for rock bands. Knowing that, however, doesn’t make it any less strange to contemplate the notion of Cheech & Chong (followed by Santana) opening for the Stones in 1973. There must have been plenty of Big Bambu in the audience, eh?



Merle Haggard



The Stones have never been shy about singing the praises of artists to whom they owe an artistic debt, and their country excursions have certainly been influenced by legends like Merle Haggard. Still, having Merle open for them on their 2006 tour has to rank with one of the most left-field combinations in the band’s history.



Justin Timberlake



You’d think the sight of a bunch of big stars coming together to try and help fight a scary disease would be enough to put a crowd on its best behavior, but you’d be wrong — as Justin Timberlake discovered when he took a slot at the 2003 SARSFest in Toronto, opening for AC/DC, Rush, and the Stones. Timberlake’s appearance (which included a duet performance of ‘Miss You,’ embedded here) was marred by some unruly behavior from the audience, including a few who decided to try and pelt him with muffins and water bottles. As you can see in this clip, the band didn’t take too kindly to it.



Sugar Ray



The Stones have often turned to younger acts for tour support, and not all of them have aged particularly well; for example, here’s flash-in-the-pan pop band Sugar Ray, who at least had the self-awareness to title one of their albums ’14:59′ (and, it must be said, seemed to be having the time of their lives while opening for the Stones).






Lots of people love the Rolling Stones. Lots of people love Prince. But the number of people who loved both acts in 1981, when Prince opened for the Stones, was relatively small — and few of them seemed to be in attendance during the gigs, which were rumored to include His Purpleness being booed off the stage. Prince had the last laugh, of course; just a few years later, he was outselling his former headliners and dominating the pop charts.



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