Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2: The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts is 72-years-old today.


Did you know?

In Canada's Macleans magazine, Charlie Watts told interviewer Brian Johnson that he has had a compulsive habit for decades of actually sketching every new hotel room he occupies – and its furnishings – immediately upon entering it. He stated he keeps every sketch.

Watts is noted for his personal wardrobe: the British newspaper The Telegraph has named him one of the World's Best Dressed Men. In 2006 Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, joining his style icon, Fred Astaire.

Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts was born in London, and raised in Islington and Kingsbury. As a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football.

Watts' parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955; he was interested in jazz, and would practice drumming along with jazz records. After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs.

In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated. Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated as well as working at the advertising firm of Charles, Hobson and Grey.

In mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs, but it wasn't until January 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join the Rolling Stones. In his autobiography, Life, Keith Richards wrote that up until then Charlie Watts was “too expensive.”

Watts has been involved in many activities outside his life as a member of the Rolling Stones. In 1964, he published a cartoon tribute to Charlie Parker entitled Ode to a High Flying Bird.

Although he has made his name in rock, his personal tastes focus on jazz; in the late 70s, he joined Ian Stewart in the back-to-the-roots boogie-woogie band Rocket 88, which featured many of the UK's top jazz, rock and R&B musicians.

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Watts at Scott's (Dig)

In the 1980s, he toured worldwide with a big band that included Evan Parker, Courtney Pine and Jack Bruce, who was also a member of Rocket 88. In 1991, he organised a jazz quintet as another tribute to Charlie Parker.

In 1993 Warm And Tender, by the Charlie Watts Quintet was released, which included vocalist Bernard Fowler. The group then released Long Ago And Far Away in 1996. Both records included a collection of Great American Songbook standards.

Charlie with Jimi Hendrix
After a successful collaboration with Jim Keltner on The Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon, Watts and Keltner released a techno/instrumental album simply titled, Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, Featuring their favorite jazz drummers. Watts At Scott's was recorded with his group, "The Charlie Watts Tentet,” at the famous jazz club in London, Ronnie Scott's.

In April 2009 he started to perform concerts with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie together with pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters plus his childhood friend Dave Green on bass.

Besides his musical creativity, Watts contributed graphic art to early records such as the Between the Buttons record sleeve.

Before the Stones’ 1975 tour announcement press conference in New York City. The band surprised everyone by driving and playing "Brown Sugar" on the back of a flatbed truck in the middle of Manhattan traffic. At the time, Watts said this was a common way for New Orleans jazz bands to promote upcoming dates.

With Mick Jagger, he designed the elaborate stages for tours, first contributing to the lotus-shaped design of that 1975 Tour of the Americas, as well as the 1989–1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour, the 1997 Bridges to Babylon Tour, the 2002-2003 Licks Tour, and the 2005-2007 A Bigger Bang Tour.
There are many instances where Jagger and Richards have lauded Watts as the key member of The Rolling Stones. Richards went so far as to say in a 2005 Guitar Player magazine interview that the Rolling Stones would not be, or could not continue as, the Rolling Stones without Watts.
An example of Watts's importance was demonstrated in 1993, after Bill Wyman had left the band. After auditioning several bassists, Jagger and Richards asked Watts to choose the new bass player. Watts selected the respected session musician Darryl Jones, who had previously been a sideman for both Miles Davis and Sting.

In 1989, the Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the July 2006 issue of Modern Drummer, Watts was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame along with Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Steve Gadd, Buddy Rich, and other highly esteemed drummers.


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