"Stoned" The Birth of the Stones
Michael Phillip Jagger was born on July 26, 1943 in Dartford, Kent. His father, Joe, was a physical training instructor and had hoped Mick would became a sportsman. But Joe never discouraged his son when the younger Jagger interested in pop music and started playing in groups.
Mick went to Wentworth Primary School, where he first meet Keith Richard (originally
Richards the s’ dropped at Stones manager Andrew Oldham’s insistence to cash in
on the popularity of clean-cut star Cliff Richard), a Dartford kid born December
18. 1943.The pair became friends from the age of seven, but lost touch for a
while during their teenage years when their went to different schools. Keith
still remembered seeing Mick selling ice-cream from a old tricycle in the
street, earning pocket money during the school holydays.
Mick and his younger brother Chris led perfectly normal lives – beating each other up and listening to music on the radio!
“We didn’t have a record player at home and my family wasn’t really musical” explained Mick
“It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I became interested in music”.
Lovely but loud
Jagger began singing with friends in his back garden and, when there were complaints about the noise, he went to his friend Dick Taylor’s house where they formed a band called Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys with other members Bob Beckwith and Allan Etherington. Mick was the lead singer and Dick Taylor himself would later go on to form seminal British R&B group The Pretty Things. His mother remembered listening to the boys rehearsing in the next room, and even then there was an inkling of controversy to come: “ It was lovely – but so loud! I always heard more of Mick than I saw of him. I didn’t dream they were serious. I thought it was all just for fun”.
Mick did well at school and got grades which enabled him to join the London School of Economics (L.S.E). In the meantime Keith Richard had begun attending classes at Sidcup Art School, and by chance one morning in 1960, the pair met up again on a train heading for town.
Both had by, now discovered the blues and R&B, which was very much an underground musical form, known only to serious jazz fans. The BBC, which controlled British radio, rarely aired any of this exciting American sound and the only way to get hold of the records was to order them directly from America.
Keith had collected a few blues records but was astounded to find that Mick had an armful with him on the train.
Young blues men
Both of them had started out as rock'n'roll fans, moving on to trawl through a wealth of recordings by classic blues-folk men like Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson, and contemporary R&B artists Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. It helped create an instant bond between Jagger and Richard when they discovered, on that historic train journey, that not only did they like the same music, but Jagger was now a singer in a band and that Richard had learned to play guitar. The inevitable followed. After getting together for a few sessions, Mick invited Keith to join The Blue Boys. There were rehearsals at Jagger's and Richard's home before the two ended up sharing a Bexleyheath apartment.
R&B was starting to emerge from the underground and they had begun to take of as an alternative to traditional jazz at the Ealing Jazz Club in West London, under the aegis of enthusiastic guitarist and singer Alexis Korner. It was a time when like-minded musicians were beginning to get together to play the music they loved. Korner’s band Blues Incorporated was hailed as the first R&B band in the UK and Alexis, a sophisticated and cultured man, was to become a father figure to many of the aspiring young players of the time.
While not a great performer himself, he had a vast knowledge of the subject and as a band leader he was encourage those musicians he recognized had a sincere feeling for the American sound.
Another of the young English players who had to fallen in love with the blues was Brian Jones, who so identified with the work of slide guitar expert Elmore James, he called himself Elmo Lewis.
Brian, blond, beautiful and attractive to men and women alike, was born Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones on February 28, 1942 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Brian was a keen jazz and blues fan and first met Alexis Korner at a concert in Cheltenham. Later Brian travelled to Scandinavia where he played guitar and harmonica for a while before returning to Cheltenham to play sax with local band The Ramrods.
He moved to London where he shared an apartment in trendy Kensington with his girlfriend, and got of job working
in a department store. Determined to form his own band he advertised for musicians and met up with pianist Ian Stewart and guitarist Geoff Bradford. Eventually a band evolved featuring Brian, Ian, Geoff and singer Paul Jones( who later came to fame with Manfred Mann)
Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated played every Saturday night at the Ealing Club and in the steamy, exciting atmosphere, the pounding beat of "I Got My Mojo Workin” drove the beer-crazed youths who flocked to the club into a frenzy. This melting pot of musicians was where Mick Jagger and Keith Richard met Brian Jones for first time on April 7, 1962. Keith in particular was blown away by Jones skilful playing style on “Dust my blues”.
They approached Brian after the gig, who was amazed to discover that Jagger
and Richard had a band playing the same sort of material. “He’d been doing the
same thing as we’d been doing” laughed Richard,” thinking he was the only cat in
the world who was doing it”
Brian invited Keith to see his band again at different London clubs, where the guitarist met piano player Ian Stewart, who had developed a highly impressive boogie style based on at work of Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. The pieces were slowly beginning to fall into place.
Back at the Ealing Club, a jam session held in late April included Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Dick Taylor and two of Alexis Korner’s men, Charlie Watts and harmonica player Cyril Davis.
The future Stones stickman was born June 2, 1941 and had been drawn to drumming as a kid when he played on pots and pans before getting himself a proper drum kit. He was trained as an artist and worked in an advertising agency during the day, playing weekend gigs for fun rather than profit - his biggest claim to fame had been playing a stint with American tenor sax star Don Byas during a trip to Denmark-in 1961. Watts was a fan of jazz players like Charlie Parker, but he got his rocks off playing the driving back beat that was needed for Blues lncorporated.
During these fluid, formative days Mick, Keith and Brian found themselves an apartment in London's Chelsea, where they virtually starved, until one of their parents came with some food and money. Their band now included Mick (vocals), Brian (guitar and harmonica), Keith. (guitar), Dick Taylor (bass), Geoff Bradford (guitar), and various drummers who came and went. Geoff Bradford was one member who departed, and even Mick filled in time singing with Blues Incorporated on their Tuesday night residency at London’s Marquee Club. Mick kept up his studies at the LSE, but Brian and Keith were free to sit around all day, playing their guitars.
In June 1962 Brian Jones suggested that the group itself The Rollin’ Stones, after a Muddy Waters tune. Dropping the apostrophe, they officially became The Rolling Stones and set out to get some serious work. On July 12. 1962 the new band their first ever gig at the Marquee Club, replacing Blues lncorporated who had to do a radio broadcast.
The Group included Mick, Brian, Keith, Dick Taylor, lan Stewart and Mick Avory on drums.
Among the numbers they played were “Kansas City"," Dust My Blues”, “ I’m A Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Back In The USA”. The Stones were paid $40, and were booked back to play regularly at the Marquee Club and Ealing Jazz Club. It was a Start.
Drummer Mick Avory left to join The Kinks and was replaced by Tony Chapman, but the boys wanted Charlie Watts. This wasn’t so easy - Watts need some persuading as he didn’t want to give up his job at the advertising agency.
Dick Taylor meanwhile quit the band to go to the Royal College of Art, just in time to miss on the band’s first recording session.
Cutting the blues
The Stones cut three tracks, Muddy Waters “Soon Forgotten”, Bo Didley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book”, and Jimmy Reed’s “Close Together, using Tony Chapman on drums. The tape was sent of to several record companies without attracting any interest, but Tony came up with a useful contact.
One of his old friend was bass player Bill Wyman (born William Perks, Lewisham, London, October 24, 1936). At Tony’s suggestion, Bill answered an advertisement placed by The Stones in British music weekly, Melody Maker, during November 1962. He had been playing in a band with Chapman called The Cliftons and went along to a Chelsea bar where The Stones were rehearsing. It wasn’t love at first sight.
“They didn’t like me but I had a good amplifier”, summarized Bill neatly. There was an age gap and a difference in attitude (Bill thought the name Rolling Stones was « silly »but despite the unpromising start, Wyman must have had something in common with the others – he ended up staying with the band for the next 30 years !
“It was snowing and cold and I went to this horrible bar where was a rehearsal hall and nobody spoke to me for two hours” shuddered Bill later. “Mick said “hello” when I arrived but Brian and Keith never spoke to me until found out I had some cigarettes”.
Bill realized the band was broke and shrewdly bought them each a drink. “Then we were all mates and they ask me to join”.
Tony Chapman remained their drummer but only lasted another three weeks. He just couldn’t keep time and, in desperation, The Stones ask Charlie Watts to join.
By this time Charlie was out of his daytime job and was spending a lot of time hanging out with Brian and Keith listening to their record collection. He had also been replaced by Ginger Baker in Blues Incorporated and agreed to become a fully-fledged Rolling Stone in January 1963.
“ I liked their sprit and I was getting very involved with rhythm & blues, so I said I'd join. Lots of my friends thought I'd gone raving mad”!
Now the band were complete, with Wyman and Watts a sturdy, experienced rhythm section an Ian Stewart adding his pounding piano to the front-line guitars.
They played various London clubs like Flamingo, the Marquee Club and Ealing Jazz Club.
On January 28, 1963 they cut five songs at IBC studios with engineer Glyn Jones, which included “Roadrunner” and “I Wanna be loved”, but- frustratingly- there was no reaction from any of the record companies.
Rebellions & Blues
The same month the band began playing a residency at the Crawdaddy Club, held in the station hotel, Richmond, a suburb of south- west London.
The venue was run by a Russian, Giorgio Gomelsky, who later managed The Yardbirds. The Stones caused a sensation and fans flocked from all over southern England to see them play.
Although, as early photographs show, Jagger and Jones much maligned long hair barely reached their eyebrows, their appearance shocked conservative society in a era of short back-and-side military haircuts. The excitement of a rebellious young band playing the vibrant new music of R&B proved hard to resist.
The word began to spread- one of the first pressmen to see them in action was
reporter Barry May from the Richmond & Twickenham Times. He wrote a rave review
and, although the was just a local one, it backed up the word on the grapevine.
It was obvious they were really getting hip when the mighty Beatles came to see
them play at Richmond, and visited Jagger, Jones and Richard at their apartment.
On April 28, 1963, 19 year-old publicist Andrew Loog Oldham, alerted by Peter Jones, editor of music weekly Record Mirror, went to see them, accompanied by agent Eric Eaton. They were blow away by the energy, the atmosphere, the audience reaction and the band’s charisma. The next day they signed The Stones to a management contract, promising to make them stars.
One of Andrew’s first act was to ask lan Stewart to drop out of the band and become their road manager. There was nothing wrong with his playing, and in fact he carried on backing the band on tour, but he was destined to be hidden from view at the back, simply because he didn’t look as glamorous as the rest. Nevertheless, he remained a trusted friend and part of the Stones’ entourage right up until his death in 1985
Events accelerated. On May 10, The Stones cut a steaming version of Chuck Berry s 'Come On' at
Olympic studios in Barnes, near Richmond. The same month, Record Mirror ran a feature on the band. After seeing them pack out the Crawdaddy, writer Norman Joplin predicted that they would soon be” the biggest group on the R&B scene”.
In fact the band rapidly became the biggest pop sensation of the year as 'Come On” hit the charts and thousands of screaming girls trampled earnest R&B fans underfoot in their rush to mob the new stars. The Rolling Stones madness had begun, and it wouldn’t stop for another three decades.