Judging from the reaction of the crowd of 150 fellow Rolling Stones freaks, captured on video, you’d think Mick himself had stormed the stage. Sporting the famous red Stones tongue logo — on shirts, pants, jackets and a few tattoos — the audience members sing, dance, clap, laugh, shout and point back at him.
Here, Potash, a 68-year-old Annapolis wealth manager and divorced dad of one, is something akin to a rock star, or at least a fixture in the rock firmament. He has seen 172 Stones concerts and attends backstage “dinner with family and friends” of band members before shows. He’s met Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood several times, along with keyboardist Chuck Leavell and backup singer Bernard Fowler, and knew the late saxophonist Bobby Keys. And he’s known to Stones fans worldwide through his fan club, Shidoobee With StonesDoug — named after the refrain from “Shattered,” the raucous four-decade-old Stones song capturing the extremes of late-’70s New York. The fan club has a lively website and Facebook group with thousands of members; it also hosts offline gatherings at concerts as well as events like this one. And the club is often the first to break band news.
Potash’s group holds its biggest annual celebration Labor Day weekend, when hundreds of Shidoobees — as they refer to themselves — descend on a motel in Wildwood, N.J. With Stones banners, posters, blankets, photos and oversize tongues hanging from the railings of balconies, Shidoobees belt out Stones songs into poolside microphones. They deliver impromptu concert reviews and recite set lists dating back decades. They exchange Stones books and bootleg audio and video recordings. And they trade Stones stories — such as the one Gail Hoffman, a self-described “Mick Chick,” likes to tell about the time in 1994 when she was backstage at a Stones concert at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and Jagger passed by a few feet away. “Suddenly, I was 14 again,” Hoffman says, laughing. “I couldn’t catch my breath and felt like I was going to faint.”
Hoffman, who by day is the controller at a New York consulting firm that works with major corporations, has seen the Stones 183 times, often from the front row. She says Jagger smiles or points to her from the stage at just about every concert she attends and has had picks emblazoned with his name delivered to her a few times. She and her daughter, Lauren Miller (who has seen the band 96 times), have been members of Potash’s club for 20 years. Potash, she says, “has brought me so many years of happiness through the Shidoobees. ... I have so many friends for life because of him bringing together people.”
Potash, who grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J., has been a die-hard Stones fan since grade school. Back then, “we didn’t talk to the Beatles kids because they were the goody-two-shoes, and we were the guys who got into trouble,” he says. Potash will always associate “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with the raging hormones and angst of adolescence, and still laughs when he recalls a Boy Scout leader constantly telling him and other teen scouts to turn down the song blaring from their tent at camp in Pine Hill, N.J.
He attended his first Stones show at Steel Pier in Atlantic City in 1966, the summer after ninth grade, with founding member Brian Jones playing guitar. Jones irked Potash when he pushed the teen away as he tried to climb into the Stones van post-show. So, Potash grabbed Jones’s coat, nearly ripping a button off it. The incident became a Shidoobee insiders’ joke on the origins of the “Between the Buttons” album title.
The first time Potash heard “Shattered,” on DC 101 in 1978, the driving opening guitar groove, snarling vocals and cocky lyrics left Potash spellbound. He soon got the custom license plates “SHDOBE” while living in Chevy Chase, Md., then “SHATTRD” after moving to Chicago in 1983. Potash recalls Richards spotting the two plates affixed to his tattered denim jacket at a party after a charity gig the guitarist played in New York in 2006. “Hey, I wrote that!” Richards exclaimed, pointing to the plates.
Other songs evoke more poignant memories. “As Tears Go By” always reminds Potash of his mother, who died of cancer in 1986. “It’s the one Stones songs my mom always loved,” Potash says. “When I was a boy, she would ask me, ‘Why can’t they do more beautiful songs like that one?’ ”
In 1997, Potash was working in Annapolis for a company that delivered films to movie theaters when he joined an AOL chat group for Stones fans. In 2000, he started the group Shidoobee With StonesDoug. Membership quickly grew after fans began connecting online and arranging meetups before and after concerts.
Potash says the Stones remain popular because their songs provide a soundtrack for people’s lives like no other group. The Stones have spanned 11 American presidencies; five major U.S. wars; the civil rights, women’s and gay rights movements; baby boomers, Generation X and millennials. And despite entering their 58th year and being led by two often-feuding septuagenarians — one of whom (Jagger) underwent heart valve replacement surgery in April — they can still fill 80,000-seat stadiums.
Potash’s son, Trevor, 35, has attended 10 Stones concerts with his father since he was 13 years old, even though he prefers Led Zeppelin, 311 and the Roots. He says his father derives immense satisfaction from fellow fans’ joy at Stones shows and Shidoobee gatherings. “What he’s done with the Rolling Stones group is really just an extension of his personality,” Trevor says.
When his father follows the band on the road, he sometimes goes online to find people looking for a place to crash and invites them to stay with him. Then, before a concert, they show up clad in their Shidoobee T-shirts, custom-made for each tour, and they know, to borrow a phrase, it’s all right now. “There’s just like this great sense of camaraderie,” Potash says. “It’s like a big family reunion.”
Gary Gately is a writer in Maryland.