Life story

Charlie Watts: The Incredible Life Story of a Silent Rolling Stone and a “True British Eccentric”

The Rolling Stones had been around for a year in January 1963 when drummer Charlie Watts first performed with them. He is held in such high regard by his band mates that they classify that night as the real start.

It was the official birth of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band. Or as he put it, the start of “decades of watching Mick’s butt run in front of me.”

After that night in London’s smoky Ealing Blues Club, when Charlie, on second demand, picked up his wands for the fledgling band, their rise to stratospheric levels of fame began.

Months later, they had their first hit single. Within two years they had conquered America, sparking riots as they landed after their first No.1 there with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

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Mick Jagger drapes himself over Charlie Watts on stage for the 1981 film Let’s Spend the Night Together


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Charlie’s solid drums have been a key part of their success.

But while the Stones were known for their rock ‘n’ roll excess, the group making controversial headlines as much as their music, Charlie performed at a much different pace.

He once said, “I’m not really a rock star. I don’t have all the pitfalls of that. Having said that, I have four vintage cars and I can’t drive these damn things. I have never been interested in being seen.

His bandmate Bill Wyman wrote in his memoir, “Being a Rolling Stone has almost passed him.

“He never courted fame. Within a group of powerful personalities, he remains a true British eccentric.

Charlie Watts as a child



An elegant 2 year old Charles Robert Watts with his mother Lillian and father Charles at Piccadilly Circus in 1943


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Born in 1941, the son of a truck driver, Charles Watts grew up in Kingsbury, north west London, where he attended a modern high school.

He loved football and cricket, and developed a passion for jazz as a teenager, saving up to buy 78s from artists such as Charlie Parker and Jelly Roll Morton.

He started out playing the banjo, then, inspired by a jazz drummer playing for Gerry Mulligan, put his banjo head on a stand and used it as a snare drum.

His parents bought him his first drums at the age of 14 and he started playing with a jazz band called Jo Jones All Stars in cafes while studying at Harrow Art School and then working as a graphic designer for them. Charles Daniels studios.

The Rolling Stones line up for a group portrait in a London park, early 1964. Left to right, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones (1942 – 1969)


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At 20, Charlie’s life might have taken a whole different direction after accepting a graphic designer job in Denmark, but when blues musician Alexis Korner invited him to join his new band Blues Incorporated, he returned to London. .

It was while playing in clubs that he met Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and a year after they started asking him, he agreed to play drums in their new band.

Charlie later admitted that he thought it would just be another drum gig that wouldn’t last.

“I thought it would be a lot of fun and I liked the other band members,” he once said. “I didn’t think it would be a lifelong job at all. How can I?”

Playing saxophone at Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham in 1991



Within months, the group had become megastars. First-stone worries often turned into chaos when female fans took to the stage, and Charlie often found himself trying to keep up with a few girls hanging on his arms.

But as Jagger and his other group mates indulged in their sex symbol status, Charlie rejected the charms of the hordes of groupies, remaining loyal to his wife Shirley, whom he married in 1964.

He later admitted, “Girls chasing you down the street, screaming… horrible! I hated.

“It was pretty flattering, I guess. Playing the drums was all that interested me. The rest made me cringe.

Sticking his tongue out at Television House in 1964. He and the rest of the group were at the studio to appear on the TV show “Ready Steady Go!”


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His stay in the group’s infamously squalid apartment in Edith Grove, Chelsea, was short-lived.

Once the band recorded their first hits – Come On and I Wanna Be Your Man – they moved into an apartment overlooking Regent’s Park.

He married his girlfriend, Shirley Shepherd, a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art whom he met before he rose to fame, in 1964.

However, he never seemed quite comfortable with the accolades of being a rock and roll star and was often self-deprecating and down-to-earth.

Live at the 02 Arena on November 25, 2012


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Richards once said, “He’s modest and shy, and he loathes the idea of ​​fame.

And he’s famous for staying loyal to Shirley despite all the groupie temptations. Even when the Stones visited the Playboy Mansion in 1972, Charlie spent his time there in the rec room.

He once said, “I never filled the rock star stereotype. In the 1970s, Bill Wyman and I decided to grow beards, and the effort wore us out.

Watts’ fashion sense was often at odds with his band mates, preferring finely cut suits to the bohemian chic of Jagger and Richards.

The Rolling Stones hosted the Daily Mirror book launch celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary


The Daily Mirror)

A lasting passion was cricket.

Of the whole group, he would have been the one who struggled the most when they went into tax exile in France while recording their 1972 album Exile on Main St, he missed England so much.

Charlie, who is estimated to be worth £ 80million, was the only member of the group besides Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to feature on every studio record and continued to tour with the Stones until the No.1 tour. Group 2019 filter. His last performance was on August 20, 2019 at Her Rock Stadium in Miami.

The group was believed to be planning a tour for their 60th birthday next year.

Meeting with Princess Diana after a rock concert at Albert Hall, London, September 1983


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In 2018, he said he never thought about retiring.

Between tours of the Stones, he continued to indulge his lifelong love of jazz, writing an illustrated biography of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker and recording a musical tribute, playing and recording with jazz musician friends and big bands.

But Charlie, who used his design skills to help produce album covers for the band like Between the Buttons, wouldn’t let anyone downplay his importance in the band.

Most famous, he answered a drunken phone call from Jagger late at night, asking “Where’s my drummer” while shaving, putting on a suit and tie, going to the singer’s hotel room, knocking on the door and slapping him in the face, saying, “Never call me your drummer again.” You are my fucking singer! “

But while he was most in control of himself during the Stones’ most heady days, later in life – when the rest of the group lived cleanly, Charlie was derailed with drinks and drugs, leading to addiction. to heroin. His daughter, Seraphina, was expelled from prestigious Millfield Public School for smoking cannabis.

He later joked, “It got so bad that even Keith Richards, bless him, told me to pull myself together.”

He solved his problems while leading a quiet life with his wife on a Devon farm where they herded Arabian horses.

He was also president of the North Wales Sheepdog Society and indulged in a passion as an antiques collector of everything from Civil War memorabilia to old classic cars – although he had never learned to drive.

Not really rock’n’roll. But as Charlie, named one of the best dressed men in the world in 2006, once said, “It’s supposed to be sex and drugs and rock and roll. I’m not really like that. I never really saw the Rolling Stones like anything.

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