It what has to be one of the weirdest headlines you’ll see this week, we’re reflecting on a moment of pure madness. A time when not only were, arguably, the greatest rock band of all time booed off the stage, but they were replaced by their support act to keep the audience from baying for blood. It just so happens that rather than an up and coming band from the local area, the support act were a group of performing monkeys.
Texas has always had a reputation for being tough. The Lone Star State has managed to traverse deserts and a whole host of unwelcomed wildlife to create a handsome abode for its inhabitants. Conservative to the last and deeply staunch in defence of their home, Texans do not suffer fools gladly and made their feelings known when Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts came to town as The Rolling Stones.
The Stones first trip to San Antonio, Texas, would be a memorable one for all the wrong reasons. The group were set to perform as part of the state fair and were accompanied on the bill by Bobby Vee and George Jones, hinting that things would not go the hysterical way of their usual performances back home.
The band were, according to various reports but most notably Jack Hutton’s of the Daily Mirror, booed off stage and replaced by a group of trained monkeys who had performed earlier. “Local singers were cheered wildly,” wrote Hutton, “A tumbling act and a trained monkey were recalled to the stage for encores. But the long-haired Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman — were booed.” If you thought it was only the parents who were dismayed by the performance then think again. ”All they’ve got that our own school groups haven’t is hair,” a Texan teen was reported to have said of the Stones.
Other performers on the day were given a fair shout according to Hutton, with many celebrated and championed under the big skies of Texas. But Bill Wyman remembered the event differently in his memoir Stone Alone. “The concert was in the open air and everyone got a poor reception from a mixed crowd of cowboys and kids,” he wrote.
“We had to go on after some performing monkeys. What the hell were we doing here? People didn’t know whether to take us seriously or as a joke. What had we let ourselves in for? Crowds were great to us at airports and hotels, but these two shows set us back years!”
It wasn’t just on stage that the band were vilified, they struggled to escape their unusual appearance in the ultra-conservative state. Wyman remembers one particularly embarrassing incident that took place “while we were sunbathing around the hotel pool in a temperature of 95 degrees, a young waiter who was serving us drinks said that a guest had complained to the hotel that girls were at the pool, swimming and sunbathing topless — that was us!”
The event has been largely forgotten by fans of The Rolling Stones, after all, who would expect one of the most subversive pop acts around to really find favour in San Antonio? However, we can’t escape the image of Jagger, Jones and Richards slowly trudging off the stage to a chorus of boos as the Marquis Chimps readied themselves for an unexpected and rapturous encore.