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So why Bill Wyman left the Stones after all?
*By Marcelo Sonaglioni


“No one leaves this band unless they’re in a wooden box”, said Keith Richards. Well, Bill Wyman didn’t need one to do it, it seems. Before The Rolling Stones became popular and played with them during their heyday, Wyman first joined the band in 1962.

rolling stones 1963

But 30 years later, in 1992, he caused a stir worldwide by declaring his departure from the group. Considering he was part of the original lineup, his announcement, although shocking, was incredibly popular at the time.

Wyman, however, had other plans in the background. At the time he joined the group later than the others and was already a family man, so he had no reason to think he would remain this way into his late middle years. “None of us expected the Stones to last more than a couple of years.”, Bill told the Los Angeles Times back in 2019. “Neither did the Beatles. Neither did the Animals or the Hollies”, he said.

This time he was definitely going to leave the Rolling Stones, so there was no way his departure would have surprised them. After all, Wyman had declined to participate in a new, $44 million, six-year contract that they had just signed with Virgin Records. Mick Jagger then speculated, “I think Bill’s kind of had enough of it all, really. I suppose he simply has no desire to perform any further”, Mick pointed out.

There were already widespread rumors that his 1989 Steel Wheels tour would be his last. Wyman found himself suddenly flinching from the spotlight’s escalating intensity because it had been the biggest yet.

rolling stones so why bill wyman left

“Playing with the Stones, there was always such a lot of pressure”, Wyman told The Telegraph in 2008. “The next album or single always had to be the best, or at least sell more. When we got together to play it was a great moment. Working with Charlie was fantastic, and we’re still really close – but when I toured with the Stones it would take a month to practice all these songs we’d been playing for 30 years.”
(Ref. so why bill wyman left)

Initially, Jagger and Richards refused to accept Wyman’s resignation and suggested giving him some time to consider it. Then, in December 1992, someone on MTV questioned Jagger about the circumstance. “We’re looking for a new bass player”, Mick answered.

While confirming that the Rolling Stones’ very foundation had just changed, he still maintained his distance. Jagger continued, “Bill has decided he doesn’t want to carry on for whatever reasons”. He then added. “You’d have to ask him why. I don’t think it will really faze us too much. We’ll miss Bill, but we’ll get someone good.”

Similar discussions were being held in private as some kind of a chill descended.”When I first left the Stones, it took a few months to rebuild that relationship with them,” Wyman told The Telegraph. “It was quite stressful and they didn’t want me to leave, so they became bitchy. Instead of being nice and saying ‘great 30 years; cheers, mate’ Mick would say the most absurd, stupid things, with that spoiled attitude he had. He’d say things like, ‘Oh well, if anybody has to play bass I’ll do it. It can’t be that hard.'”
(Ref. so why bill wyman left)

Back on the MTV channel, Jagger had actually invited viewers at home to submit their own names “if you think you could fit the bill” The Stones eventually made their way back to Wyman with their hats in hand. He later recalled, “They left the door open for me for two years”. The truth is, he hadn’t given it much thought. “Charlie and Mick would phone and say, ‘You’re not really leaving are you. Have you re-thought it?'”

But it wasn’t until the Rolling Stones started planning their next major tour that the pressure started to really build. According to Wyman’s words for the Los Angeles Times, “Mick and Charlie came around in the evening and had a meal with me and said, “Have you left?” “I said, ‘I left two years ago!’ They weren’t very happy about it”

Keith Richards wouldn’t face the facts that easily. “A rhythm-section change in a band is a heavy-duty number,” he told MTV. “It’s totally up to Bill. If he doesn’t want to do it, it’s his decision. I don’t want a reluctant guy on the road.”
(Ref. so why bill wyman left)

After recording the Stones’ upcoming album Voodoo Lounge with the band, Darryl Jones was formally introduced as the band’s new bass player in March 1994, althout not as an official Rolling Stone. As their tours grew in size, Wyman put together a changing band called The Rhythm Kings to perform at smaller venues. “I had a small nest egg and I can live nicely, but I can’t rely on Stones royalties to support me,” he told The Telegraph. “I have to work and I’m not in the same league as the boys who stayed on.”

Still, he felt that this more intimate environment suited him, both personally and musically. Peter Frampton, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, Ringo Starr, and even his former Rolling Stones bandmate Mick Taylor appeared as special guests with the Rhythm Kings. Wyman, however, restricted the main lineup to close friends and who never ventured more than buses, trains or ferry rides. Have I had any regrets about not going back?” Wyman would reflect. “None whatsoever.” Wyman has also used his extensive collection of memorabilia to launch Sticky Fingers, a restaurant with a Rolling Stones theme, and to compile an engaging history of the group. He also dabbled in painting, photography, and archaeology.
(Ref. so why bill wyman left)

The Rolling Stones continued to haunt him, of course. When Wyman’s picture was removed from old pictures on the cover of the the Rarities compilation in 2005, controversy erupted (He told the Telegraph it was “disappointing and petty, but I don’t know whose decision that was. I don’t bring those things up”) They later invited Wyman to perform on stage during the band’s gala 50th anniversary tour.

rolling stones richards wyman 2012

Eventually he agreed to take part, only to be surprised when the Stones declined to extend the reunion for more than two songs a night during the very first two shows of the 50 and Counting tour at London’s 02 Arena. “They wouldn’t let me do any more,” Wyman told the Los Angeles Times. He didn’t follow the tour into America, deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle. Besides, he added, “It’s very difficult to go back and relive something.”

In the end, he claimed that any wounds still present have long since healed.”They didn’t want me to leave, but we get on great now”, he recently told the Telegraph. “I had 30 great years with them, then a really nice divorce – and, corny as it may sound, we are still family.”
(Ref. so why bill wyman left)

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