Born on October 24, 1936, in Lewisham, London, England, Bill Wyman taught himself bass and auditioned for the Rolling Stones in 1962, following his service in the Royal Air Force. The band became successful throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s with albums like Out of Our Heads, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Tattoo You. Wyman used the band's success to launch a solo career and later left the Stones in the '90s, opting to lead the group the Rhythm Kings.
Bill Wyman was born William George Perks Jr. on October 24, 1936, in London, England, in the neighborhood of Lewisham. As a child, Wyman played organ with his father, taking up piano lessons at age 10. In 1955, he began serving in the armed forces in the British Royal Air Force at a base in Germany. It was during his military stint that Wyman first heard and became inspired by rock and roll music while listening to the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino on American Armed Forces Radio. While in the service, he also became fast friends with Lee Whyman, from whom he would later take a new surname.
After his discharge, Wyman returned to England, married and took on various jobs to pay the bills. But music was Wyman's dream, and by 1960 he was playing in a band and earning a few pounds from gigs around town. Soon he chose the bass guitar as his instrument of choice and taught himself how to play.
The Rolling Stones
In 1962, Wyman auditioned and earned a spot with the Rolling Stones, who then included Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Charlie Watts (drums) and Brian Jones (guitar). The group released its debut album, The Rolling Stones, in 1964. Known for a blues-based sound that would eventually incorporate other sonic motifs, the Stones were part of the 1960s British Invasion in America. Positioned as an alternative to the Beatles, the Stones were overtly edgier than their Liverpool counterparts as often epitomized by strutting bandleader Jagger. The urban rocker aesthetic the group cultivated would be adopted by countless other bands.
Subsequent albums throughout the ensuing decades, including Beggars Banquet (1968), Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970), Exile on Main St. (1972) and Tattoo You (1981), made the Stones a worldwide phenomenon. The group had an array of hit songs like "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968), "Brown Sugar" (1971), "Tumbling Dice" (1972), "Emotional Rescue" (1980) and "Start Me Up" (1981).
During the Stones' run of success, Wyman managed to launch a solo career. He released his debut album, Monkey Grip, in 1974, followed by his second solo release, Stone Alone (1976), which received critical acclaim but poor sales. Wyman stayed with the Stones until 1993, then going on to play with his own band, the Rhythm Kings. The group has released several albums, including 2001's Double Bill, which featured a guest appearance by ex-Beatle George Harrison, and 2004's Just a Thrill.
Other Endeavors: Books & Photography
Exploring other creative outlets, Wyman has written several books. He explored his time with the Rolling Stones in Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock 'n' Roll Band (1990), Rolling With the Stones (2002) and The Stones: A History in Cartoons (2006) as well as providing a foreword for The Rolling Stones: In the Beginning (2006). A true devotee of the blues, he also wrote Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music's Heart and Soul (2001). Wyman is a gifted photographer as well whose portraits of artist Marc Chagall were published in 1998's Wyman Shoots Chagall.
An amateur archaeologist and metal detector hobbyist, the musician also penned Bill Wyman's Treasure Island: Britain's History Uncovered (2005). He became the spokesman for the Bill Wyman Signature Metal Detector in 2007.
Wyman has been married three times. He wed Suzanne Accosta in 1993, and the couple has three daughters: Katharine, Jessica and Matilda. He also has a son, Stephen, from his first marriage to Diane Cory. Wyman was married to Mandy Smith from 1989 to 1993, with the union invoking much controversy when it was revealed that Smith was in her teens when the two started dating.
In March 2016, Wyman announced via a spokesperson that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is expected to make a full recovery as the disease was caught early. His family has called for privacy as Wyman receives treatment and care.
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