Rolling Stones Sidemen Have to Play Their Solo Shows for Free
Rolling Stones backing singer Bernard Fowler revealed one downside of being part of the giant band: He struggles for other work because people think they can’t afford him.
Fowler, who’s been involved with the Stones since the ‘80s, previously worked with Herbie Hancock and others, and also maintained his solo musical interests. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, he recalled the “real shift” that came about when he took part in the Steel Wheels tour in 1989.
“Singing with Herbie was nicer than everything else had been,” he said. “And being with the Stones was just next level. There is no higher level. And to be asked by the greatest frontman in rock ’n’ roll to sing for him, what bigger honor is there? I’ve always done my own things. I was doing my own things before the Stones. I do my stuff when the Stones aren’t doing their thing. I’m still doing my thing.”
But he recalled a conversation with bassist Darryl Jones, who became part of the Stones’ touring entourage in 1993. “I remember telling [him] that it was a double-edged sword," Fowler recalled.
"You would think that because you were working with the Rolling Stones, when you get off the road … your phone is going to be ringing off the hook. And it’s just the opposite. They think that because you’re doing that, they can’t afford you. You’re not going to work for $100 anymore. People are afraid to call you since they’re afraid you’re going to cost too much.” He added that he and Jones "talked about this. We started doing gigs for free just so people knew. We’d go and do gigs for free! Nobody was going to call. We had to call and offer. ‘Hey, man, we’ll do it. No problem.’”