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Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts
Watts performing in 2010 in Herisau
Background information
Birth name Charles Robert Watts
Born (1941-06-02) 2 June 1941
Kingsbury, London, England
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, producer
Instruments Drums, percussion
Years active 1960–present
Labels Decca, Rolling Stones, Virgin
Associated acts Blues Incorporated, The Rolling Stones, The Charlie Watts Tentet
Notable instruments
Gretsch Drums

Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts (born 2 June 1941) is an English drummer, best known as a member of The Rolling Stones. Originally trained as a graphic artist, he started playing drums in London’s rhythm and blues clubs, where he met Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. In 1963, he joined their group, the Rolling Stones, as drummer, while doubling as designer of their record-sleeves and tour-stages. He has also toured with his own group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and appeared at London’s prestigious jazz-club Ronnie Scott’s with the Charlie Watts Tentet.

In 2006, Watts was elected into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame; in the same year, Vanity Fair elected him into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. In the estimation of noted music critic Robert Christgau, Watts is "rock's greatest drummer."


  • Early life 1
  • Musical career 2
  • Private life and public image 3
  • Discography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Watts, backstage prior to performing with Georgia Southern University on 4 May 1965

Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts was born to Charles Richard Watts, a lorry driver for the London Midland & Scottish Railway, and his wife Lillian Charlotte (née Eaves),[1] at University College Hospital, London, and raised (along with his sister Linda) in Kingsbury. He attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956; as a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football.[2]

As a child, Watts lived in Wembley, at 23 Pilgrims Way.[3] Wembley’s houses had been destroyed by German bombs during World War II; He and his family lived in a prefabricated home, as did many in the community.[3] Watts's neighbor Dave Green lived next door at 22 Pilgrims Way.[3] Green went on to become a jazz bass player. Green was Watts's childhood friend, and they remain friends today. Green recalls that as boys, "we discovered 78rpm records. Charlie had more records than I did... We used to go to Charlie's bedroom and just get these records out."[4] Watts' earliest records were jazz recordings; he remembers owning 78 RPM records of Jelly Roll Morton, and Charlie Parker.[4] Green recalls that Watts also "had the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio. Charlie was ahead of me in listening and acquisitions."[4] When Watts and Green were both about thirteen, Watts became interested in drumming:[4]

Green and Watts began their musical careers together from 1958–1959 playing in a jazz band in Middlesex called the Jo Jones All Stars.[4]

Watts initially found his transition to rhythm and blues puzzling; commenting, "I went into rhythm and blues. When they asked me to play, I didn't know what it was. I thought it meant Charlie Parker, played slow.[4]

Watts' parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955; he was interested in jazz, and would practice drumming along with jazz records he collected.[5] After completing secondary school, he enrolled at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), which he attended until 1960. After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company called Charlie Daniels Studios, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated.[6] At that time Watts was on his way to a sojourn working as a graphic designer in Denmark, but he accepted Korner's offer when he returned to London in February 1962.[7]

Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated and maintained a job with another advertising firm of Charles, Hobson and Grey. It was in mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs, but it was not until January 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join The Rolling Stones.[8]

Musical career

Watts during a performance with The Rolling Stones in 2006

Besides his music, Watts contributed graphic art to early Rolling Stones records such as the Between the Buttons record sleeve and was responsible for the 1975 tour announcement press conference in New York City. The band surprised the throng of waiting reporters by driving and playing "Brown Sugar" on the back of a flatbed truck in the middle of Manhattan traffic, a gimmick AC/DC copied later the same year. (Status Quo repeated the trick for the 1984 video to "The Wanderer" and U2 would later emulate it in the 2004 video for "All Because of You".) Watts remembered this was a common way for New Orleans jazz bands to promote upcoming dates. Moreover, with Jagger, he designed the elaborate stages for tours, first contributing to the lotus-shaped design of that 1975 Tour of the Americas, as well as the 1989–1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour, the 1997 Bridges to Babylon Tour, the 2002-2003 Licks Tour, and the 2005-2007 A Bigger Bang Tour.

Watts has been involved in many activities outside his life as a member of The Rolling Stones. In 1964, he published a cartoon tribute to

  • Allmusic biography and performance credits
  • Gigging Drum Charts: Charlie Watts
  • Charlie Watts and the Tentet
  • Rolling Stones: Charlie Watts
  • Charlie Watts at the Internet Movie Database

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "The Musical Life: Tag Team". the New Yorker. 23 July 2012 (p. 20).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "The Musical Life: Tag Team". the New Yorker. 23 July 2012 (p. 21).
  5. ^ Wyman 2002. p. 19.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 29-30 and 34.
  8. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 32 and 44.
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Richards, Keith. Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.
  15. ^
  16. ^


  • Charlie Watts Live Fulham Town Hall (1989)
  • Tribute to Charlie Parker (1992)
  • From One Charlie (1993)
  • Warm and Tender (1993)
  • Long Ago and Far Away (1996)
  • Charlie Watts & Jim Keltner Project (2000)
  • Watts at Scott's (2004)
  • The Magic of Boogie Woogie (2010)
  • The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie Live in Paris (2012)

In addition to his work with The Rolling Stones, Watts has released the following albums:


Watts now lives in Dolton, a rural village in Devon, where he and wife Shirley own an Arabian horse stud farm.[16] He also owns a percentage of The Rolling Stones' various corporate entities.

In June 2004, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer, despite having quit smoking in the late 1980s, and underwent a course of radiotherapy. The cancer has since gone into remission, and he returned to recording and touring with The Rolling Stones.

Watts is noted for his personal wardrobe: the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has named him one of the World's Best Dressed Men. In 2006, Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.[15]

One anecdote relates that in the mid-1980s, an intoxicated Jagger phoned Watts' hotel room in the middle of the night asking "Where's my drummer?". Watts reportedly got up, shaved, dressed in a suit, put on a tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs, and punched Jagger in the face, saying: "Don't ever call me your drummer again. You're my fucking singer!"[14]

Watts has spoken openly about a period in the mid-1980s when his previously moderate use of alcohol and drugs became problematic: "[My drug and alcohol problems were] my way of dealing with [family problems]... Looking back on it, I think it was a mid-life crisis. All I know is that I became totally another person around 1983 and came out of it about 1986. I nearly lost my wife and everything over my behaviour".[13]

Watts' personal life has outwardly appeared to be substantially quieter than those of his bandmates and many of his rock-and-roll colleagues; onstage, he seems to furnish a calm and amused counterpoint to his flamboyant bandmates. Ever faithful to his wife Shirley, Watts consistently refused sexual favours from groupies on the road; in Robert Greenfield's STP: A Journey Through America with The Rolling Stones, a documentary of the 1972 American Tour, it is noted that when the group was invited to the Playboy Mansion during that tour, Watts took advantage of Hugh Hefner's game room instead of frolicking with the women.

Watts has expressed a love–hate attitude toward touring. When he appeared on the BBC's Radio 4 'Desert Island Discs,[12] in February 2001, he said that he has had a compulsive habit for decades of sketching every new hotel room he occupies – and its furnishings. He stated that he keeps every sketch, but still doesn't know why he feels the compulsion to do this.

On 14 October 1964, Watts married Shirley Ann Shepherd (born 11 September 1938), whom he had met before the band became successful. The couple have one daughter, Serafina, born in 1968, who in turn has given birth to Watts' only grandchild, a girl named Charlotte.

Private life and public image

In 1989, The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the July 2006 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, Watts was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, joining Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Steve Gadd, Buddy Rich and other highly esteemed and influential drummers from the history of rock and jazz.[10] In the estimation of noted music critic Robert Christgau, Watts is "rock's greatest drummer."[11]

and Ben Waters plus his childhood friend Dave Green on bass. Axel Zwingenberger. In April 2009 he started to perform concerts with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie together with pianists Ronnie Scott's at the famous jazz club in London, [9] was recorded with his group, "the Charlie Watts Tentet",Watts at Scott's, they were not copying their style of drumming, but rather capturing a feeling by those artists. Roy Haynes and Max Roach. Watts stated that even though the tracks bore such names as the "Elvin Suite" in honour of the late Elvin Jones, Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, Watts and Keltner released a techno/instrumental album simply titled, Bridges to Babylon on The Rolling Stones' Jim Keltner standards. After a successful collaboration with Great American Songbook in 1996. Both records included a collection of Long Ago And Far Away. This same group then released Bernard Fowler which included vocalist [9]

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