Charlie Watts

Was sitting in an oral surgeon’s chair this morning, waiting for the anesthesia to take hold, when Mrs. Bmaz texted me that Charlie Watts had died. I managed some kind of “RIP” tweet before being totally out of it. But it seriously hurt.

For those that have been here a long time, you know my affinity for the Stones. It is only my opinion, but to my eye, they really are the Greatest Rock And Roll Band In The World. Certainly the most durable, and nobody can dispute that, irrespective of any other discussion.

The last Stone to die was Brian Jones, and that was 1969. Bill Wyman left the band in 1993, but is still alive and kicking. But Charlie is now gone. The Glimmer Twins, Mick and Keef, have always been the faces of the Stones, but Charlie Watts was the constant backbone. Charlie never missed a gig. Ever. Over effectively sixty years. That is something. Watts was not a loud and noisy drummer, he was understated and perfect until the end.

I first saw the Stones on a 15 inch or so black and white TV when they pissed off Ed Sullivan on American national CBS TV. I was hooked and never looked back. Saw them, and Charlie, live nine times, all of them spectacular. The last was two years ago tomorrow, and, yeah, they were still all that. Seriously great. Not going to post any video, but here is a link. The audio and video leaves very much to be desired, sorry about that, I did not take it, but was not far from where it was taken from.

But that video, while not horrible, still is kind of lousy. So I am attaching a high quality video that, while Charlie and the boys are already old, displays exactly how good they still were. Embiggen it by clicking on the You Tube option, because this is really good. Charlie is perfect. Cheers, and RIP Charlie Watts.

88 replies
  1. Mister_Sterling says:

    I have a rule in my mind. Maybe some music lovers do too. When a key member of a band dies or leaves the band, the band is finished for me. Dusty Hill and ZZ Top (this year). Simon Gallup and The Cure (this year). Kim Deal and Pixies. Peter Hook and New Order. John Entwistle and The Who. John Bonham and Led Zeppelin. You get the idea. Some bands can survive great losses of key members. Genesis briefly lost Phil Collins, but by 1995, the band was pretty much owned by Banks and Rutherford. And the Stones withstood the loses of Jones and Wyman. But they cannot be the Stones without Charlie. Nope. He was as key as Keith or Mick.

    The Rolling Stones, 1962-2021. What an amazing run.

    • Lulymay says:

      Freddy Mercury and Queen! Can’t let that one go by either. The first time I ever saw the Beatles on TV, it was on Canadian television and it went with the story of how the kids in Britain were going wild over them. Shortly after, another group was featured: The Rolling Stones! I was hooked and still crank them up every chance I get (usually when the ‘old boy’ is outside cutting the lawn).

  2. Wm. Boyce says:

    I have had a great deal of respect for Mr. Watts; he was a fan of jazz, America’s most unpopular art form. He had a big band that he performed and recorded with. He is to be admired, IMO.

    • EAR says:

      Charlie did a lot of hanging and playing with the true swing jazz legend drummer Jake Hanna. I got much second hand tails of their abiding mutual respect from Jake’s nephew with whom I play with in the Bay Area. To age out and still bring it straight and true, that’s Charlie and Jake. The only way to go. RIP Charlie Watts

    • Leoghann says:

      Watts and Dave Green were neighbors and close friends from early childhood. They started playing jazz together in their early teens. What a wonderful example of synchronicity. Both their careers and lives were bound to have been enhanced by the influence of the other.

    • Soundranger says:

      “America’s most unpopular art form”
      ….only to squares bro. only to squares. Actually America’s greatest cultural gift to the world.

  3. dimmsdale says:

    thanks for the Gimme Shelter clip, bmaz, otherwise I would’ve missed it. Can’t imagine it would have sounded nearly that good with any other drummer on the kit. RIP, Charlie.

  4. Dissent says:

    Ah… I was mentally debating with myself whether you’d link to the live concert version with Lisa Fischer or the album version with Merry Clayton’s life-shattering scream. He really was a phenomenal drummer.

    • bmaz says:

      I generally trend to live. Merry Clayton was spectacular. Anybody who has never seen Twenty Feet From Stardom, go watch it. Clayton and Fischer are featured, but there are others too, and it is an insanely good and fascinating film.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I spent many late night hours sitting on the floor listening to Gimme Shelter (album) with headphones so as not to wake up neighbors because I had to, had to, HAD TO crank it up so loud it would shove everything else out of my head and replace it with its glorious self. Charlie Watts taught me to lag the beat without falling behind. If that makes sense.

  5. Almcq says:

    Any worthwhile rock and roll band is unseriously over rated in my humble opinion. Richards played as good. RIP

  6. pablo says:

    Best compliment I ever received back in my old drumming days was that I was the “bastard son of Charlie Watts”. RIP Mr. Watts.

  7. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    Charlie, Charlie, Charlie….

    The sane, quiet one…

    Someone smarter than me once wrote that one of the secrets to the Stones’ sound was the way Richards and Watts worked together…

    Most of the time, the drummer and bass set the tempo and carry the beat, and the other instruments float along on top of the rhythm section…

    In the Stones, Richards’ rhythm guitar always set the tempo and carried the beat with Watts following Keith’s lead… that always put Watts’ drumming an infinitesimal fraction of a second behind Keith’s beat and helped give their music that irresistible pulsing feel.

    You will be missed, Charlie…

    • Another dude from G-ville says:

      There is a video out their from Keith saying how he and Charlie would try to mess each other up. Changing riffs to the back beat, stuff like that. Keith said he never got him, and Charlie would always come back with a better trick.

      Good stuff :)

    • posaune says:

      Without a good drummer, you got nothin. nothin.
      A good drummer, great drummer is worth a ton– indispensable:
      good hands, fast hands, uncanny rhythmic sense, the drive that shapes the form and allows improv to sail along. RIP Charlie.

      • Richard Kohal says:

        levon helm was another drummer who held things together.
        can’t imagine the band without levon.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          Why, yes!

          Yes, Levon was good!

          And he could both play drums and be an effective singer at the same time… no mean feat…

  8. CroFandango says:

    Yeah, Charlie is sorely missed.

    He seemed to effortlessly hold down his end a of a ferocious machine, with taste and aplomb. Keef is also a wonder of economy, producing giant sound with little seeming effort.

    Considering his bandmates, Charlie must have been a man of significant patience.

  9. Leoghann says:

    I got to see the Stones play at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in 1975. It was wild (not in an insurrection way), they were loud, the Dallas PD ignored the thick pot smoke, and of course the performance was great. Mick wore a Cowboys jersey for about half the concert. When they played there again in 1981, a couple of friends and I drove the 350 miles from Midland to Dallas for another dose of the Rolling Stones in the Cotton Bowl. They played there again in 1989, and, living in Dallas again, I got to see them again. It’s easy to overdose on an extremely popular group on commercial radio, but seeing them in person showed just how good they were–every time. I’m a live music addict, and up until moving to Arizona, I’ve always lived in spots that had a strong live music scene. Of the hundreds of shows I’ve attended, those three Rolling Stones concerts are all in the top ten.

    Someone else mentioned that with Charlie gone, the Rolling Stones will be no more. When Charlie and the group announced early this month that he wouldn’t be able to go on with the No Filter tour, Watts also announced that he had personally picked Steve Jordan as his replacement on the tour. So the Stones become the second major group to lose an absolutely integral, founding member, and to have that member personally pick and endorse his replacement. Jordan has been with the Stones for several years; Elwood Francis has been with ZZ Top for twenty. Mick and Keith wouldn’t have allowed the replacement if they’d had any doubts. They don’t and they’ve endorsed Jordan as heartily as Billy and Frank have endorsed Francis. Those two bands will be just fine.

    • bmaz says:

      The Stones will roll on, it is simply what they do. At one point, it was hard to fathom them without the stoic Bill Wyman on bass, but the almost equally stoic Darryl Jones seamlessly took over. They have lost keyboardists Ian Stewart and Chuck Leavell, as well as sax master Bobby Keys over the years. While those three were not formally “Stones”, if you saw them live, you know exactly how big a part of the band they really were.

      So, yeah, Steve Jordan (of XPensive Winos) had already been anointed, by no less than Watts himself, will man the drum kit from here on out. Jordan is very good. And, if they roll through here again, I will go see them for a tenth time. Let it be so. Actually, a couple of friends of mine and I did go over to LA to see The New Barbarians in 1979, so I guess may already be at 9.5 Stones live shows.

      By the way Leoghann, I don’t think I knew you were in AZ. Obviously not in the pandemic, but there are a lot of worse places than Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson for live music. Maybe someday we can both get back to that.

      • Leoghann says:

        I’ve mentioned in a couple comments that I live in Gosarland. The Prescott area seems to specialize in retired musicians and drunk cover bands.

        • bmaz says:

          Ah yes, sorry, I do remember the Gosarland thing!

          If you get a chance, go see Llory McDonald and Combo Deluxe, they often play in Cave Creek, Prescott and Flag. Occasionally Kingman. They are pretty good. And Llory can rip your heart out with a couple of Janis Joplin covers.

          At one time, there was a pretty cool weekend live music scene in Jerome, but not heard of any of that in a long time.

          • Leoghann says:

            Thanks for the recommend. I’m a big blues guy, so that’s right down my alley. My first year here, 2015, Jerome was really cool. These days, it’s always packed, usually with people intent on being seen. But there are some venues that are great for live music.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          “The Drunk Cover Band”

          Great name for an… uh… cover band…

          ***face palm***

          Like Murph and the Magic Tones, from the Blues Brother Movie… which was actually a band for the ages…

          And bonus points for anyone who can identify Happy Kyne and the Mirth Makers…

          • bmaz says:

            But in Prescott, they are sometimes pretty good, and you will likely see them on Whiskey Row, which is pretty awesome all by itself.

            • Leoghann says:

              I really need to do a Whiskey Row crawl–it’s been a couple of years. I’ll be the first to admit I’m spoiled, from growing up in West Texas contemporary with the guys who created the Lubbock sound, then living in Houston 1968-72, when ZZ Top, Big Mama Thornton, and Roky Erikson were local talent, and then spending 25 years in Denton, which has a live music scene second only to Austin, plus the wonderful jazz department at the UNT music school.

              • bmaz says:

                Heh, let me know, I may come join you, have not done that for a very long time. And, as old as it is, I always have a soft spot for the Hotel St. Michaels on the corner.

              • posaune says:

                I Love UNT jazz and the brass is superb. Trivia bit: best euphonium school in the US — no kidding.

                • Leoghann says:

                  Their school of music has been considered one of the three best in the US for decades, and their jazz department is unsurpassed. As the musicians develop confidence and a musical personality, they begin to show up at the several bars that have live music every night, to perform and/or try out sounds they’re working on. Over the years, I’ve gotten to watch a number of folks–“kids” in my eyes–develop from shy performers to confident musicians. Some of them, like Norah Jones, wind up with big, public careers.

      • Re entry says:

        Charlie you will be missed, but that was one hell of a run, the best.

        And Steve Jordan is the closest sounding drummer to Charlie, i think it’s partly due to the way Charlie’s right hand (hi hat)rested on the snare backbeat, but there’s more to it surely.

        • elcajon64 says:

          I have a habit of doing that on the first measure after a fill. I think of Watts every time I do it.

          • Re entry says:

            There is an article at the guardian uk now. It’s Stewart Copeland and Max Weinberg discussing Charlie and his technique.

      • Solo says:

        Ahh, Tucson. Lived there from 1970 – 75. Booked and played music for a little coffee house called The Cup, in a UCC church I believe, just across the street from U of A’s west side. Big Jim Griffith with banjo was a regular. And Linda Ronstadt a couple times. Thinking of a move back to AZ or NM. But more elevation.

      • Solo says:

        Ahh, Tucson. Lived there from 1970 – 75. Booked and played music for a little coffee house called The Cup, in a UCC church I believe, just across the street from U of A’s west side. Big Jim Griffith with banjo was a regular. And Linda Ronstadt a couple times. Thinking of a move back to AZ or NM. But more elevation. And any town with a live music scene is like having an extra water bottle.

        • bmaz says:

          Linda was often around Tucson because of her family. She did a guest spot with the Stones at their TCC show in either 1977 or 1978, and I was there for that! Friend and I drove down kind of at the last minute and bought a couple of tickets from some guy on the sidewalk outside the TCC for like $15. Which was fine, because it was general admission. What a hell of a show.

          And I bet the place you are describing is just due west from the west main entry gate. Later in life had a client that had a clothing store right about there (Franklin’s Men’s Wear).

      • vvv says:

        What happened that they lost Leavell?

        And does no one remember Brian Jones (RIP)?

        Nicky Hopkins (RIP)?

        And Mick Taylor left, of course.

  10. M. Smith says:

    I remember crossing the border to see the Stones at Rich Stadium on Independence Day in 1976. I fear Keith will be the only one left to play at your Tricentennial.

    • bmaz says:

      There is an old joke that humans need to start worrying about what kind of world they will leave to Keith Richards.

      • Spencer Dawkins says:

        Yeah, I think the cockroaches are already concerned about that … post nuclear winter, of course …

      • Leoghann says:

        I understand that a Celebrity Death Match has already been scheduled between Keith and Dick Cheney, on 15 March 2401.

      • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

        Some smart ass commented when Keith had to do an anti-drug PSA in the 80s as a part of parole for some drug infraction: When Keith Richards dies, we’ll have to smoke him.

  11. Kelly K says:

    Marcy, you are my absolute favorite Twitter follow, and I come here to read every day, sometimes more than once a day, but until now I’ve just been a quiet observer. Knowing you’re a Stones fan just endears me that much more to you and bmaz. You encapsulated every thought I had re: Charlie Watts. I feel a little better today, but yesterday I was just so sad. Thank you for this post. #RIPCharlie

  12. Epicurus says:

    Saw the Stones April 1965 at the Worcester Memorial Auditorium in Worcester, MA. – Jagger, Jones, Wyman, Richards, Watts. As one result Little Red Rooster, Time Is On My Side, and It’s All Over Now still come first to mind whenever their name is mentioned.

    • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

      My brother went to college briefly at Simon’s Rock, not far from Worchester. He told me about the time (before he got there) when the Stones did a warm up concert for a world tour playing under a fake name at some little bar in Worschester.

  13. Mosey says:

    This is a nice writeup on Charlie…

    “And one thing you’ve got to know about the Stones is it’s just them. They’re really no different today from how they were in the clubs in the early sixties. There are no hard drives, no hidden players, sometimes it takes them a while to get up to speed. But when they’re going, you can feel the humanity, they never sacrificed it, and that’s what drew us to them.”

  14. wrhack says:

    I’m going to offer a small dissent to bmaz on a couple of points. First, in my mind, the Stones were basically Charlie, Keith, and Mick. I put Mick last on purpose. The Stones sound depended on Charlie and Keith. Bill Wyman was less essential, even in the sixties. Just look at the album credits to see how often Keith actually played bass while Bill played tambourine or some such. Second, I loved them live in the sixties and early seventies, but I so hated the 1975 concert I saw at the Forum in L.A. that I never saw them live again. It was all about over-the-top production values, and, as far as I was concerned, the biggest problem was Mick. They were basically playing at being the Rolling Stones. The image had overtaken the band. It became theater more than music. They still made a few decent albums after that, but the idea of seeing them live became a non-starter for me. I was tempted now and then, wondering if the thrill could be recaptured, but I thought better of it, deciding to avoid the inevitable disappointment. And most videos I have seen have convinced me I made the right decision. I’ll just hold onto the memory of the times I saw what really and truly was the world’s greatest rock-‘n’-roll band.

    • pablo says:

      Agree about the live Stones since early 70s. Saw them at MSG in 69. Mick Taylor’s time was my fav. He added depth and virtuosity to the raw power. Keith’s jealousy ended that. Ron Wood was his buddy…meh.

      • wrhack says:

        It’s true that their best years coincided with Mick Taylor’s tenure. But I don’t know how much difference that made. The sound was never about lead guitars. Although Moonlight Mile was apparently developed by the two Micks, which is notable. I agree with you about Ronnie Wood. I was never a big fan.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Not trying to be rude, but did you just get old?

      Music, books, games and shows are always linked to a time and place for me. If you change one of those the magic can disappear.

      • wrhack says:

        True enough. But it’s also true that artist’s peak (sometimes more than once). A handful get better with age, but most fall into a rut or at least fade a bit. I don’t see how the Stones could have sustained that kind of greatness for much longer than they did.

        • bmaz says:

          And, yet, sustain it is exactly what thy have done. I saw an early show in the No Filter tour exactly two years ago tonight and, trust me, they were fantastic. And because of the pandemic, they had to cut the tour off, but are now going out on the road to finish it, starting is either September or October. Steve Jordan is very good, and will be just fine as Charlie’s replacement.

  15. The Old Redneck says:

    I have been to many concerts. The best one I ever saw, hands down, was the Stones in 1989. Charlie didn’t get a lot of attention, but he was always tasteful and smooth. He drove everything the rest of the band did but didn’t show off.

    The Stones would not have been the Stones without him. RIP Charlie.

  16. Stephen Calhoun says:

    The Rolling Stones are one of the greatest rock bands. It is possible to not like the Stones, but I have rarely encountered such a person. They aren’t my ‘second-to-none’ favorite yet here experience and sentiment win my grizzled estimation.

    That said, last year a fellow muso friend and me sat around a fire pit in his backyard and tried to come up with a band that had a more superior run on vinyl than:


    Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
    Got Live If You Want It!
    Between the Buttons
    Their Satanic Majesties Request
    Beggars Banquet
    Get Yer Ya-ya’s Out
    Let It Bleed
    Sticky Fingers
    Exile on Main St.
    Goat’s Head Soup

    (We tried.)

  17. Savage Librarian says:

    For me, music is part of the time/space continuum. My first up close and personal encounter with drums was when I was 10 and joined the school band. The teacher asked the drummers how they would play a whole note. A couple of them gave it a guess but were wrong. So, by process of elimination, and because I wanted to show the band teacher that kids could know stuff, I gave it a shot, even though I played clarinet. And, luckily, it was right.

    Then, shortly after I became a teen, we moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland where one of my new friends used to invite me to listen to her practice on her drum set. She also introduced me to the Motown sound. When she was 16 she got a car (Chevelle ?) and somehow one night we finagled our way into a nightclub. On the ride home we witnessed a “shooting star,” quite memorable.

    Maybe that’s why I was aware that Irma Thomas sang “Time Is On My Side” before the Stones laid claim to it.
    The Stones were better than the Beatles, IMO, because they intuitively recognized the genius of authentic emotion in one of America’s most inherent and original art forms. And, being white boys, they were well positioned to take advantage of that. ( Isn’t that what Elvis did, too?)

    Those were intensely emotional times. The Beatles were first meant to be discussed on American TV news right before JFK was assassinated. That, of course, set the timeline back about a month.

    The Stones appeared on all the standard American entertainment shows in 1964: Red Skelton, Mike Douglas, Ed Sullivan, etc. What more could disillusioned and antsy teenagers want?! But the Stones really grew into themselves after they stopped doing covers and created their own stuff.

    I don’t have any Beatles LPs. I have one of the Stones. But I have quite a variety of R&B and jazz. I have a feeling Charlie Watts might have listened to some of these same musicians at one time or another.

    “Irma Thomas – Time is on my side | The Story Behind The Song | Top 2000 a gogo”

  18. Ern says:

    I’m so glad to see that so many of you also like Gimme Shelter. That’s the song that really blew my mind about Charlie’s drumming.

    • wrhack says:

      For whatever such judgments are worth (admittedly not much), it’s the greatest song in the history of rock music. Just an amazing achievement. Breathtaking, terrifying, luminous.

  19. Eureka says:

    Flacco is low key playing the best football of his lyfe (so what if it’s pre-season 2nd team @ Jets, it’s still puzzling and strange). Like RPOs and extending plays like a mobile qb and shit (ok well that part’s not going 100%). I need that ??!!??!?!?-cloud gif.

    LOL not going so great *now*; sacked due to bad snap right after I posted this— and then he runs and extends for a gain but it’s not enough. Interesting while it lasted tho.

  20. Eureka says:

    Oh Lord don’t you fly me to Mercedes Benz:

    bmaz: “Somewhere near Waco, we let it slip away. The Saints were looking for a home game, and I hope they find it.”

    Darren Urban: “Well that was interesting.
    The @AZCardinals are back in Phoenix after taking off for New Orleans and having the game cancelled while in flight”

    • P J Evans says:

      Don’t know why they even tried to go – NOLA’s mayor was telling people to get out, on Thursday. They’re predicting Ida to be *at least* Cat4 when it hits the coast.

  21. Bay State Librul says:

    Went to the following concert in 1966 in Lynn, Lynn the city of sin.

    After a morning press conference aboard a yacht in New York City and a visit with Bob Dylan at a recording studio, the Stones headed to Boston to start their tour with a performance at the Manning Bowl in Lynn, Massachusetts. Tickets were $3 to $5 and a local promoter had staged a Battle of the Bands for and opening act. The Mods, a local band that played CYO dances and high school mixers throughout the South Shore won an opening spot before the McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) and the Standells (“Muddy Water”) prepped the crowd for the appearance of the Stones.

    A warm rain started to fall, but the 8,000 fans were ready for an historic night. Finally Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg introduced the feature act, and with an adrenaline rush Mick, Keith, Bill, Charlie, and Brian hit the stage and launched into “Not Fade Away.” After ten songs, including “Mother’s Little Helper”. “Get Off of My Cloud”, and “19th Nervous Breakdown”, they launched into “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

    The rain started to come down hard, and the fans surged towards the flimsy stage and the police got nervous and fired off tear gas. The Stones jumped into limos and were gone. The crowd was left to fight off the tear gas and throw wooden chairs around the field.

    ”It was a bit of an outdoor crazy,” Mick Jagger said of that Lynn show. ”It wasn’t well secured. A few people got a bit drunk. There were a few cops and that was the end of it.” Added Keith Richards recently: ”Things got a little blurry in the ’60s. Tear gas, yeah, that was the other continuous smell of the ’60s. I can’t say I miss it.”

  22. e.a.f. says:

    It was shocking to hear Charlie Watts had died. The Rolling Stones have been part of my life since high school, hearing their song, Lets spend the night together in the art teacher’s room. The song was banned on the radio stations in Vancouver, B.C. at the time.

    Saw them live in Vancouver in the 1990s on Keith Richard’s 50th birthday.

    Watching Watts over the years, you knew a true professional was working. He did his job as one of the world’s greatest band’s drummer. He was always not just amazing to watch but amusing and different from the rest of the band. The Stones just kept rolling along. We all got older but they kept touring and working. It was like they would go on for ever.

    Always thought Watts be the last one standing.

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