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Charlie Watts on his music background: “I certainly can’t claim that I came from a musical family…”

Charlie, on his music background:
“I certainly can’t claim that I came from a musical family. My dad was a lorry driver for British Railways and I reckon the only instrument any of them could play at home was a gramophone…. I’d been brought up on Johnny Ray which I thought was great. I’d seem him and people like Billy Eckstine. All that. That’s what my parents loved. But then to go into Earl Bostic – that was something. When I started buying records, it was jazz for some reason, which I never ever had any difficulty listening to. When I was twelve I heard a record called Flamingo by Earl Bostic and immediately wanted to be a saxophone player, and then I heard Walking Shoes by Gerry Mulligan, with Chico Hamilton on drums, and decided I wanted to be a drummer, and that idea seemed to stick. The first albums I bought were by Johnny Dodds, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Then I heard Fats Domino and that I loved. Then I missed Elvis and the rock and roll bit. I didn’t deliberately do that. I just heard Gerry Mulligan and then Charlie Parker. I feel in love with the music of jazz… Our block was really full of Duke Ellington and that sort of thing. We used to sit in people’s houses and listen to that music all night, like Mood Indigo. We would sort of sit there having a good time, a party, sitting around listening to Mood Indigo when we were 14! It was really fantastic. I always wanted to be a drummer. I always wanted to play with Charlie Parker. When I was 13 I wanted to do that… I had an incredible loathing of rock and roll. If you liked jazz you didn’t touch rock and roll… I mean, I didn’t know what the hell Charlie Parker was playing… I just liked the way he played. Then friends of mine played records to younger guys who learned to play bass. And I’d play them things. Then we started going to clubs in England and we’d see guys. It was something that I always enjoyed. I don’t think I ever wanted to play any other instrument instead of the drums…Someone like Max Roach… well, he’s a real idol of mine. Maybe only another drummer can understand exactly what he is doing and how well he does it.”

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