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Remembering the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts on the 82nd anniversary of his birth

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Remembering the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts on the 82nd anniversary of his birth
*By Marcelo Sonaglioni

First things come first, then for a start Charlie never saw himself as a rock’n’roller. In fact he used to think it was Mick and Keith who should be doing that. He didn’t fit in with the way of life of his friends and was mostly a jazz man to his perfectly polished, custom-made shoes. Charlie, by all accounts, was a devoted father and grandfather. He maintained horses and a collection of vintage cars in Devon, where he lived quietly and comfortably. Surprisingly, he never learned to drive, so he just would sit in the cars and admire them. And then although he famously disliked touring and preferred to stay at home, he adored playing. Not your typical rock’n’roll drummer, right?

remembering rolling stones charlie watts anniversary

In addition to his day job as the drummer for the Stones, Charlie was known for his style and love of jazz. As evidenced by an event held at a well-known music venue in London’s Soho a number of years ago, he was also the quintessential English gentleman.

The Stones were aware of their luck when having him from the very beginning and realized that without him, they wouldn’t have been even half the band they were. A lifetime of adoration for Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington gave Watts a jump and swing that was unmatched by his contemporaries (although he would later claim that Gerry Mulligan’s “Walkin’ Shoes” was the song that first inspired him to play the drums)
Additionally Charlie didn’t have to spend money on a second bass drum and more toms than would fit in a normal-sized van. Watts didn’t have to play twenty-minute drum solos that made everyone go to the bar. He just performed the song, any song, and he did so in a way that nobody else ever could. And he never liked solos: “I don’t like drum solos; I never take them”, he said. I admire some people that do them but generally I don’t like them. It’s not something I sit and listen to. I prefer drummers in a band, you know, playing with the band”
(Ref. remembering charlie watts)

In fact Charlie could contribute himself to all of them, whether they were disco, reggae, soul, blues, or country. He actually elevated The Stones to legendary status. The Rolling Stones have always been a dance band from their earliest days to the present, from the Richmond Hotel and the Crawdaddy Club up to Croke Park, and that is thanks to Charlie Watts. Many bands have “rock,” but they lack the “roll”. But the Stones always had it because they also had Charlie.

remembering rolling stones charlie watts

Charlie Boy was not only a highly skilled rock drummer, but he also had a jazzy side. In his playing, you could hear that. He had the ability to create tension in songs by either speeding up the pulse of a song or swinging and dragging a plodding 4-4 beat. As one might anticipate, his idols were renowned jazz drummers, but not the flamboyant likes of Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa.
(Ref. remembering charlie watts)

The Stones hired Watts in 1963 when they could finally afford him, and Watts likely believed he would only work with them for a year, or even less. Keith Richards and Brian Jones then directed Watts to Earl Phillips, the drummer who had worked with John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Eddie Taylor, Billy Boy Arnold, and, most importantly for the Stones’ developing sound, Jimmy Reed. Charlie transformed “The Stones” into The Rolling Stones by combining his prior knowledge with the new information.

It should be noted as well that Charlie Watts was conceivably the only person to ever enter their sphere of influence who never coped with even a little shit from either Mick or Keith. Which take sus, once again, to an allegedly inebriated Jagger once waking up Watts in an Amsterdam hotel room in the 1980s by shouting, “Where’s my drummer?” Charlie reportedly got out of bed, dressed impeccably, probably in one of the stunning suits he was known for, polished those shoes, combed his hair, shaved (!), and went downstairs where he delivered a right hook to Jagger before telling him, “Don’t ever call me your drummer’ again. You’re my fucking singer!”
As well as Charlie Watts will always be our favourite drummer…
(Ref. remembering charlie watts)

remembering rolling stones charlie watts jazz cool

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