Bobby Keys, who was born in Slaton, Texas is best known as the main saxophone player for The Rolling Stones, playing on every album from 1969 until 1974, and from 1980 to present. He performed on all Stones tours since 1970 except for the 1981 US Tour when Ernie Watts - no relation to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts - replaced him.
Keys has performed with a myriad of other musicians as a member of one of the most in-demand horn sections of the 1970s. He appears on albums by The Who, Harry Nilsson, Delaney Bramlett, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Keys has been on the road as a touring musician since 1956.
Keys started touring at age fourteen with Bobby Vee and fellow Texan Buddy Holly. Keys has played on hundreds of recordings, including many uncredited performances such as on Dion's "The Wanderer."
He is known for playing the saxophone solo on the 1971 hit "Brown Sugar" and for the film shot of him and Keith Richards (born the same day as Keys) throwing a television set from the 10th floor of a hotel somewhere during the 1972 American Tour, as seen in the Stones' unreleased 1972 concert movie Cocksucker Blues. He is also featured in the 1971 concert movie Mad Dogs and Englishmen narrating the story of his early life while driving around downtown Dallas.
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Keys met the Rolling Stones at the San Antonio Teen Fair in 1964. Keys came into the Rolling Stones around 1969 with the track Live with Me. Keys, with the addition of Mick Taylor, changed the sound of the Rolling Stones. Both horns and Mick Taylor made their debut on Let it Bleed.
Keys became Richards' new "partner in crime," as well as brilliantly complementing Richard's guitar playing on numerous Stones classics. Jagger was always dubious of Keys' entrance into the Stones because it enhanced Richards' leadership. Jagger and Keys, however, would become close in the early 1970s, with Keys serving as an attendant at Jagger's wedding.
|In France while working on "Exile on Main Street"|
From 1973-1975, Keys participated in John Lennon's famous Lost Weekend in Los Angeles along with Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon. Keys had played with Lennon in the Plastic Ono Band and while in Los Angeles he played on Lennon's albums Walls and Bridges and Rock 'n Roll. Additionally, Keys took part in the last known recording session between Paul McCartney and Lennon; this session is known as A Toot and a Snore in '74.
In the late 1980s, Keys became the musical director for Ronnie Wood's Miami club Woody's On the Beach. The first week the club opened, Keys booked Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and The Crickets.
Although more commonly well known as a session musician, Keys released two albums of his own in the 1970s; a self-titled instrumental album on Warner Bros. Records that featured Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Eric Clapton in 1972; and Gimme the Key on Ringo Starr's record label Ring O'Records in 1975.