Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts passed away in August at the age of 80. Earlier in the month, the band had announced that he would sit out their upcoming tour due to an undisclosed illness, but when fans learned of his passing, many assumed that the band would call it quits. However, they announced that they would finish the tour as planned, and what happens after that is anybody’s guess.
Watts joined the group in 1963 and while he was never the flashiest drummer in rock music, his simple, no-frills approach was the perfect fit for them. Thousands of tour dates and millions of record sales later, it’s probably safe to say that was the right approach.
In honor of the late Rolling Stones drummer, we’ve compiled some facts about the group that you may not know, even if you consider yourself a well-versed fan. So read ahead and raise a glass to Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones’ master timekeeper.
1. They didn’t think much of their best-known song
The Rolling Stones released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965 and it turned them into superstars, but when they first came up with it, they believed it to be a throwaway track. Initially, it was thought that it would be best used as a B-side, or as a filler track on an album.
2. They didn’t ask bassist Bill Wyman to join because of his talent
When the Rolling Stones asked bassist Bill Wyman to join the group, it wasn’t because he had dazzled them with his musical prowess. It was because he actually owned an amplifier.
3. One of them was almost an accountant
With all their famous tales of hedonism, it’s hard to imagine the members of the Rolling Stones doing anything else for a living. However, singer Mick Jagger had attended the London School of Economics before dedicating himself to a music career.
4. Charlie Watts had to keep his marital status a secret
Charlie Watts married his wife Shirley in 1964 and they stayed together until his passing. But originally the group wanted him to keep the marriage quiet and pass himself off as a bachelor, presumably to keep their bad-boy image intact.
5. Keith Richards was a literal Boy Scout
It’s hard to imagine today but Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, the poster child for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, spent two years in the Boy Scouts. Those of you who are concerned that this might tarnish his debauched image shouldn’t worry – he was kicked out for fighting.
6. Chuck Berry once punched out Keith Richards.
Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry did not take kindly to people touching his guitar, even if the person touching it was a world-class guitarist. Richards was once left alone backstage with Berry’s guitar for a moment and as a fan, he couldn’t resist picking it up and giving it a strum. Berry suddenly reappeared, yelled “Nobody touches my guitar,” and punched Richards in the face. Duly noted.
7. Original guitarist Brian Jones drank one and a half liters of whiskey a day.
The Rolling Stones was founded by original guitarist Brian Jones, who did not shy away from drugs or alcohol. He ravenously consumed all manner of controlled substances, from pills to hallucinogens, and when the band was on tour, he would put away one and a half liters of whiskey on a daily basis.
8. Keith Richards was almost electrocuted onstage
At a 1965 concert in Sacramento, Keith Richards was rendered unconscious when his guitar touched his microphone stand. He later said that he recalled a doctor at the hospital saying of him, “Well, they either wake up or they don’t.” Richards woke up and was back onstage the next night.
9. Mick Jagger enjoys changing diapers
As long as we’re happily destroying the Rolling Stones’ reputations as scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, we might as well take this opportunity to reveal that Mick Jagger said he enjoys changing babies’ diapers or, as the Brits say, nappies. “I’ve always changed nappies, for other people’s children as well as my own,” he said. “I’m relatively experienced and I quite enjoy it.”
10. Keith Richards briefly cared for someone else’s baby in Australia
The Rolling Stones stayed in Australia for a week in 1973, where Keith Richards met a woman who was a single mother with a pharmaceutical cocaine connection. He more or less moved in for the duration of the stay and even cared for her baby while she was away at work, saying. “There’s somebody in a suburb in Melbourne who doesn’t even know I wiped his a**.”
11. Mick Jagger almost led his own gang of “Droogs”
It’s hard to imagine the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange with anyone besides Malcolm McDowell in the lead, but before that version of the movie got made, novelist and screenwriter Terry Southern wanted to make an adaptation of the book and cast Jagger as the lead. That version never got made, but it’s fun to imagine what could have been.
12. Keith Richards invented the most enduring urban legend about himself
13. The iconic Rolling Stones logo is based on another icon
The lips-and-tongue logo that’s served as the Rolling Stones’ symbol for decades wasn’t invented from whole cloth. It was inspired by Kali the Destroyer, a Hindu goddess.
14. Charlie Watts designed sets for some of the band’s tours
Before dedicating himself to music full-time, Charlie Watts worked as a graphic designer in Denmark and England. He put those skills to work designing some of the band’s sets and even some of the early album covers.
15. The Mars bar story is also an urban legend
In the annals of Rolling Stones urban legends, few are as scandalous as the one positing that when police came to Keith Richards’ house in 1966 for a drug bust, they found Mick Jagger in a compromising position with singer Marianne Faithfull, eating a Mars chocolate bar. We can’t get too specific, but according to the legend, the candy bar was located in a part of her anatomy, and it wasn’t her hand. The story turned out to be completely false, and Richards himself said he had no idea how it had come to be. “How the Mars bar got into the story, I don’t know,” he said.
16. Mick Jagger thought he would die young
For a long time, Mick Jagger didn’t think he’d still be onstage as an older gentleman. In fact, in 1969, he said he didn’t expect to become an older gentleman at all. “I don’t think I shall live to a very old age,” he said. “I’ve always had that feeling.”
17. The band was turned away by 14 hotels in 1966
While the band was on tour in the United States in 1966, they were turned away by 14 different New York City hotels. While their reputation as a bunch of bad boys no doubt preceded them, one of the reasons the hotels turned them away was that they didn’t want to deal with throngs of hysterical fans.
18. Keith Richards had someone else take his driver’s test for him.
Keith Richards failed his driving test not once, not twice, but a staggering three times. Rather than go for four, he sent his personal minder to take the test for him. He passed!
19. Charlie Watts never had a tour rider
Rock musicians’ tour riders have been the stuff of legend for decades – look no further than Van Halen’s demand that all brown M&M’s be prohibited from the backstage area – but Charlie Watts is an exception to the rule. “I don’t have a rider,” he said. “I think they’re silly. I hate having people around me, except my wife and daughter.”
20. Charlie Watts only played on some of ‘Tumbling Dice’
“Tumbling Dice” is a classic track from the Rolling Stones’ seminal Exile on Main St. album, but Charlie Watts only played drums on some of it. In the final section of the song, the drums are played by producer Jimmy Miller.
21. Keith Richards once stayed awake for nine days straight
Keith Richards said that it wasn’t unusual for him to stay awake for days on end if he was in the studio, but his all-time record for doing it was nine days. He said the binge ended when he suddenly fell asleep while still standing up.
22. Charlie Watts was a cancer survivor
As sad as it was to lose Charlie Watts this year, it could have happened even sooner. Despite quitting smoking in the 1980s he developed throat cancer in 2004, necessitating a course of radiation therapy. The cancer went into remission and stayed that way.
23. Charlie Watts was a jazzer, not a rocker
Despite making his living as the drummer for the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, Charlie Watts’ true musical passion was always jazz. When his schedule allowed it, he played in his own bands that allowed him to express that side of himself, such as the Charlie Watts Quintet.
24. The urban legend about Keith Richards snorting his father’s ashes is sort of true
A few years after Keith Richards’ father passed away, the guitarist joked that he had snorted his father’s ashes, mixed in with cocaine. It was only half true, as he explained in his memoir, Life. “As I took the lid off of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out on to the table,” he wrote. “I couldn’t just brush him off, so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue.”
25. The band did drugs onstage
Richards also wrote in Life that during the band’s 1975 tour, he and guitarist Ron Wood had hideaways built behind the speakers so they could snort cocaine between songs without the audience seeing. But lest you think it was a total free-for-all, he said that there were some ground rules, such as only one line of cocaine per song. “One song, one bump was the rule between Ronnie and me,” he said.
27. Charlie Watts used to sketch all the hotel rooms he stayed in
Touring can be a real grind, with long hours of traveling and not a lot to do during that time to stave off the boredom. Rather than succumb to the ennui, Charlie Watts would just make sketches of the hotel rooms that he stayed in. Apparently, he kept them all – book publishers, are you listening?
This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.