R.I.P. Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are a rock 'n' roll band — well, for many, they are the rock 'n' roll band — but the secret sauce to their sound was jazz. Charlie Watts, born in the fashionable heart of London, was raised on Charlie Parker records. After he received his first drum set in 1955, as a young teenager, Watts learned to play along with his jazz LPs.
Watts was not the first drummer to sit behind Mick and Keith. Early iterations of the Stones featured Carlo Little and Tony Chapman on the stool. In 1963, Watts joined the fold, just in time to record the group's debut single, "Come On." Watts' swing gave the R&B group a distinct shuffle, and his stylish stoicism certainly lent its fair share of cool to the band. Watts was a couple of years older than the other fellers, which at the time, at that age, made him feel like an elder statesman in the scene. Vanity Fair voted him to its International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
Watts would, of course, continue to drum for the legends until the present day. On August 24, the iconic beat-keeper died at the age of 80. It had previously been announced that Steve Jordan would drum for the Stones on their upcoming U.S. No Filer Tour. Watts' passing leaves Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Bill Wyman (who has not played with the Stones for decades) as the lone surviving members from the Sixties era.
Throughout the group's long history, Watts stood out as the calming presence in the band. While Mick and Keith might have trashed hotel rooms, Watts would instead sketch the interiors of his hotel rooms, collecting the drawings. He always seemed more reluctant to tour, which is odd, given the Stones' reputation as the premier live rock act of the last 50-some years.
On television, Watts could be seen several times on The Ed Sullivan Show. After the band's first appearance, Sullivan famously declared, "I promise you they'll never be back on our show. It took me 17 years to build this show and I'm not going to have it destroyed in a matter of weeks." Nevertheless, the band appeared again a few months later. And again, and again. In 1969, Sullivan flew to tape a Stones set at CBS Television City for a special performance. The Stones won over Ed Sullivan in the end. We bet Charlie Watts had something to do with that.