Charlie Watts biography
Born on June 2, 1941, in London, England, drummer Charlie Watts went on to join the rock band the Rolling Stones. The group debuted in 1962 and became one of the biggest musical acts in the world, with hits like "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," "As Tears Go By" and "Start Me Up." In recent years, Watts has gained fame as part of the swing group the A, B, C & D of Boogie Woogie.
Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2, 1941, in London, England. For more than four decades, Charlie Watts has been a prominent figure in the world of rock 'n' roll, most notably as the longtime drummer of the Rolling Stones. The son of a truck driver, he grew up in Wembley, near London.
Around the age of 10, Watts discovered jazz and blues music; Miles Davis and John Coltrane were two of his early influences. He started playing music on his own a few years later, converting a banjo into a snare drum. But music was just a side interest for Watts at the time. He left school at 16, and then studied at the Harrow School of Art.
In 1960, Charlie Watts got a job with a London advertising agency. He showed his literary and artistic talents though his children's book about jazz legend Charlie Parker, Ode to a High-Flying Bird, which was published in 1961. Watts also played drums with a variety of groups, including Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Blues Incorporated was an important part of London's burgeoning blues scene, and featured appearances by such performers as Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and others.
Watts, however, quit the band as it became more popular because he did not want to leave his day job. Guitarist Brian Jones went to form the Rollin' Stones (later renamed the Rolling Stones) with singer Mick Jagger, pianist Ian Stewart, and guitarists Keith Richards and Dick Taylor in 1962. After previously turning down the Rolling Stones, Watts finally agreed to join the group and played his first gig with the band in January 1963.
The Rolling Stones
"For me it was just another job offer," Watts later explained. He couldn't have anticipated then that the group would soon be the next big rock sensation, nor could he have predicted that the Stones would remain one of the most revered rock 'n' roll bands in music history for decades to come. In 1964, the Rolling Stones hit the No. 3 spot on the British pop charts with their cover of Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now."
While the rest of the band was cultivating their image as rock music's bad boys, Watts was settling down. He married Shirley Ann Shephard in 1964, and the couple welcomed a daughter named Seraphina four years later.
The Rolling Stones scored their first No. 1 hit in the United States in 1965 with "Satisfaction." A string of other successful songs quickly followed, including "Paint It Black" and "Ruby Tuesday." The self-described "World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" continued to enjoy enormous popularity for the next two decades.
Projects Beyond the Stones
By the 1980s, Watts had found time to pursue projects outside of the Rolling Stones.
He returned to his first love, jazz, by forming a number of different groups, including a 32-piece band called the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Around that same time, Watts performed with early Rolling Stones member Ian Stewart in the band Rocket 88.
In the early 1990s, Watts released several albums with another group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, including a tribute to Charlie Parker. He later joined forces with drummer Jim Keltner for 2000's Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, which covered a broad spectrum of musical styles. In 2004, he put out an album with Charlie Watts and the Tentet, another jazz ensemble. Also in 2004, Watts, a longtime smoker, was also diagnosed with throat cancer. After receiving treatment, the musician made a full recovery.
In recent years, Watts has gained fame for his work with the swing band the A, B, C & D of Boogie Woogie. Today, the musician continues to record and play with the Rolling Stones, and has said he plans to stay with the band until Mick Jagger or Keith Richards decides to retire. "We couldn't go on without them. Maybe as the Keith Richards All Stars, but it would be a different band—which I wouldn't mind playing for," Watts said.