Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18: The one and only lead guitarist with the Rolling Stones and "Author" Keith Richards is 70-years-old today.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Keith as the "10th greatest guitarist of all time." Fourteen of the songs he has written with songwriting partner and Rolling Stones lead vocalist Mick Jagger are listed by Rolling Stone magazine as among the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Keith, an only child, was born in Dartford, Kent. His maternal grandfather toured Britain in a jazz big band called Gus Dupree and his Boys. He was an early influence on Richards's musical ambitions and got him interested in playing guitar.
Richards' mother introduced him to the music of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and bought him his first guitar, a Rosetti acoustic. His father was less encouraging, telling his son to "Stop that bloody noise."

Richards attended Wentworth Primary School, as did Mick Jagger. The two knew each other as schoolboys, and lived in the same neighborhood until 1954.After Keith's family moved away, Keith attended Dartford Technical School from 1955 to 1959. The Dartford Tech choirmaster Jake Clair noticed Richards's singing voice and recruited him into the school choir. In a trio of boy sopranos Richards sang) at Westminster Abbey in front of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1959, Richards was expelled from Dartford Technical School for truancy, and the headmaster suggested he would be more at home at the art college in the neighboring town of Sidcup. At Sidcup Art College Richards spent most of his time playing guitar. There he traded a pile of records for his first electric guitar, a hollow-body Höfner cutaway.

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One morning in 1961, on the train journey from Dartford to Sidcup, Richards happened to get into the same carriage as Mick Jagger, who was then a student at the London School of Economics. They recognized each other and began talking about the LPs Jagger had with him – blues and rhythm & blues albums he had acquired by mail-order from America.

Richards was surprised and impressed that Jagger not only shared his enthusiasm for Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters but also that he owned such LPs which were extremely rare in Britain at the time. The two discovered that they had a mutual friend in Dick Taylor, with whom Jagger was singing in an amateur band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.

Jagger invited Richards to a rehearsal and soon afterwards Richards also joined the line-up. The group disbanded after Jagger, Richards and Taylor met Brian Jones and Ian Stewart, with whom they went on to form The Rolling Stones (Taylor left the band in November 1962 to return to art school).

By mid-1962 Richards had left Sidcup Art College to pursue a music career full-time. He moved into a London flat with Jagger and Jones.

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In 1963 Richards dropped the "s" from his surname and began using the professional name "Keith Richard," because Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham felt it "looked more pop." He used the new version as his pen name and stage name until the late 1970s when he restored the "S" at the end.

Chuck Berry has been a constant inspiration for Richards. Richards and Jagger played many Berry numbers with the first band they played in, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, and they introduced Berry's songs to The Rolling Stones' song list.

Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters records were another early source of inspiration, and the basis for the style of interwoven lead and rhythm guitar that Richards developed with Brian Jones. In the late 1960s, Brian Jones's declining contributions led Richards to record all guitar parts on many tracks, including slide guitar, which had been Jones's specialty in the band's early years.

Richards's backing vocals appear on every Rolling Stones album; and on most albums since Between the Buttons in 1967, he has sung lead or co-lead on at least one track.

Richards views the vocal training he got in his choirboy days as part of his professional arsenal, and has said of his own singing: "It's not the most beautiful voice in the world anymore, but the Queen liked it, when it was at its best ... It's not been my job, singing, but to me, if you're gonna write songs, you've got to know how to sing."

On 28 October 2008 Richards appeared at the Musicians' Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee, joining the newly inducted Crickets on stage for performances of "Peggy Sue," "Not Fade Away" and "That'll Be the Day."

In August 2009, Richards was ranked #4 in Time magazine's list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all time. On October 17, 2009, Richards received the Rock Immortal Award at Spike TV’s Scream 2009 awards ceremony at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles; the award was presented by Johnny Depp. "I liked the living legend, that was all right," Richards said, referring to an award he received in 1989,"but immortal is even better."
Richards' autobiography entitled Life, was released October 26, 2010. (See above.)


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