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Charlie Watts’ collection of literature and jazz memorabilia gets auctioned
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Not enough with collecting Civil War, assorted jazz memorabilia and cars (he’d accumulated a stunning collection of vintage cars while he was in the Stones but ironically, he was unable to drive them… In fact he was never tempted to obtain a driver’s license despite owning some of the most sought-after automobiles in the world), Charlie was also an avid reader and collector of modern literature.
Charlie Watts’s book collection includes The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle and poet Dylan Thomas’s own copy of his first collection, 18 Poems. Some of the titles among the numerous rare first editions in his library that were signed. Those precious stones will now be auctioned two years after his passing. Jazz artifacts from the drummer’s collection are also up for sale. Prior to the sale on September 28–29, Christie’s, the auctioneer, will showcase the highlights in New York, Los Angeles, and London. The signed copy of Gatsby is the most expensive item up for bid, with a range of £200,000 to $300,000.
Fitzgerald wrote A Yank in Oxford, a 1938 comedy starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh, with MGM screenwriter Harold Goldman, whom he dedicated his book to. The inscription on Charlie’s book reads: “For Harold Goldman, the original ‘Gatsby’ of this story, with thanks for letting me reveal these secrets of his past”. Some of those items are now being sold by the late musician’s estate, with a particular focus on his favourite saxophonist, Charlie Parker. Among the lots are Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952. A draft of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited that the author sent to friends in 1944 for feedback is also available for purchase. The novel was later revised by Waugh, who also changed some names and the ending.
In reference to the book’s setting, the author of the Sherlock Holmes adventure Hound Of The Baskervilles wrote in the first edition, “I perambulated Dartmoor before I wrote this book.”. James Joyce, PG Wodehouse, and Agatha Christie first editions and rare copies of their works are among the other highlights. The celebrity had other interests as well. He also gathered artifacts from the American Civil War, antique silverware, classic cars, drum sets, and even a collection of Savile Row suits worn by Edward VIII. However, jazz was his main source of obsession.
He and his lifelong friend Dave Green used their savings as children in Wembley to purchase 78 rpm records by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Johnny Dodds, and Jelly Roll Morton. One of his favorite songs was Walkin’ Shoes by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which featured the drumming of Chico Hamilton. Watts attempted to imitate Hamilton’s style by removing the banjo’s neck and playing the body with wire brushes. He began amassing jazz records and associated memorabilia in his teens, and this only intensified once the Rolling Stones began to amass wealth. The deceased musician’s estate is currently selling some of those items, with a focus on Charlie Parker, his favorite saxophonist. The lots include Parker’s membership card from the Associated Musicians, his contracts from the Alto Break sessions, and two 1952 Down Beat awards.
(Ref. charlie watts’ collection)
The Porgy and Bess annotated score by George Gershwin, which is expected to sell for between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds, will also be on display. Additional jazz lots include two inscribed piano scores by the renowned cornetist Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke as well as two scores by Irving Berlin inscribed to Ginger Rogers, Songs from Top Hat and Songs from Follow the Fleet. Watts was a devoted collector of music memorabilia, but he had a hard time understanding why people would want to buy items related to the Rolling Stones.
The auction will be held in two stages: a live auction at the Christie’s headquarters in London on September 28 and an online auction that runs from September 15 to September 29. Highlights will be displayed in Los Angeles from July 25 to July 29, New York from September 5 to 8, and London from September 20 to September.
Books and manuscripts specialist at Christie’s Mark Wiltshire said that Charlie had “an incredibly sensitive curiosity about the very best of literature”
As announced on the Christie’s page:
Christie’s is delighted to announce Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone, a two-part auction comprising an extraordinary library of modern first editions together with landmarks from the world of jazz, collected by renowned musician and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (1941–2021). The flagship auction, Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz Part I, will take place live in London on 28 September, with a Part II online sale open for bidding from 15 to 29 September. Leading the live sale is a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, inscribed by the author to the ‘original “Gatsby” of this story, with thanks for letting me reveal these secrets of his past’.
Charlie’s outstanding literary collection features iconic works of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle alongside the very best English and American literature of the 20th century. Other notable highlights include a George Gershwin signed printed score of the legendary opera Porgy and Bess and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952 presented to Charlie Parker, as well as signed photographs and rare acetate recordings from the jazz and musical hall of fame.
(Ref. charlie watts’ collection)