"Rod Stewart" Brings Rocker Swag To O.C.
Wolfe rocks the stage with 80's hit, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."
Families at this summer's Orange County Fair got a rare treat when veteran rocker Rod Stewart took the stage. Except it wasn't the original hot child in the O.C. belting out Forever Young to a nostalgic audience. It was Gregory Wolfe, a tribute singer whose look and voice mirrors Stewart's so closely it's easy to believe tonight's the night. Again.
It's a tribute that's lasted the past 25 years and gained Wolfe no small dose of respect and notoriety among his fellow faux rock peers. While others are looking to cash in on the lucrative look-alike scene (Michael Jackson clones are the hot ticket right now), Wolfe says he's not just another pretty similar face. "With me it's the music. The acting part is only to duplicate what Rod does on stage."
Still, bearing a striking resemblance to the British rock legend doesn't hurt either. Unlike other tribute artists who spend hours on makeup and costumes to play some of music's more colorful characters - Kiss, anyone? - Wolfe has minimal prep work in the appearance category. "I can just roll out of bed and jump on stage and I'm set," he says, running his fingers through his naturally unruly salt and pepper hair. "Works pretty well for me."
He does, however, spend time honing his vocal skills, perfecting a voice to reflect Stewart's many singing styles over the years. From the fairly shouting Hot Legs to the smooth Have I Told You Lately, Rod's repertoire has spanned across music genres over the course of several decades; a challenge to Wolfe who sings a sampling of fans' favorites each show. He says the best part about performing as Rod Stewart is feeling the energy. "The guy's charismatic. The look, the voice, his every move is second to none." Wolfe likens it to playing football, another one of his lifelong passions. "I can drop a few pounds each night just from all the running around," he says. "It would be easier if I was doing something like The Grateful Dead. They just stand there."
It all began back in 1984 when Wolfe first donned a skintight pair of striped pants, moussed up his hair, and ran on stage as "Mr. Rod Stewart!" during a mock rock contest in Lansing, Michigan, his hometown. Wolfe knew a friend who DJ'd at the club. "I casually asked him, suppose I went on as Rod Stewart? He said, 'You'd win, hands down.'" Fifteen Bacardi and Cokes later - "I had a lot of liquid courage in me," Wolfe did win and soon after started to perform locally with other successful contest contenders. As the number of gigs grew, Wolfe left his day job with General Motors and embarked upon his professional singing career full time.
His first big break: "I made it on Dick Clark's Putting on the Hits," he says. "The whole look-alike thing took off like wild fire back then. The term tribute band wasn't even coined yet. Now it's just saturation."
Indeed, Wolfe's popularity performing as Rod has stood the test of time (and many cans of gentlemen's hair gel). He's toured internationally, asked crowds of thousands if they think he's sexy, and brought down the proverbial house singing soulful Stewart ballads at elite fundraising affairs throughout Orange County and beyond. Latest news: Wolfe has teamed up with Jumping Jack Flash, a Rolling Stones tribute band based in Orange County. Plans are already underway for dual gigs throughout Southern California.
Wolfe says he has no regrets leaving G.M. for the O.C. where he now resides. "Every time I get tired of it and complain, I remember I get to do what I love to do - sing and perform." Props to Rod, too. "I don't think I'd be doing this for 25 years if it were someone boring. Has to be someone like Rod Stewart who stands out," he says. "Hey, if you're going to be a showman, be a showman."
Watch for Gregory Wolfe performances, including upcoming concerts with Jumping Jack Flash. Wolfe is also available for private events.