The Rolling Stones were formed in April of 1962 by twenty year-old Brian Jones, some say a musical genius way ahead of his time. Jones moved to London where he befriended fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and others mingling around the London R&B and Jazz scene of the time.
Jones, wanting to form his own band, placed an advertisement in the Jazz News calling for musician tryouts. Pianist Ian “Stu” Stewart was the first to sign up, followed quickly by singer Mick Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards as guitarist. Over the next several months drummers and bassists would come and go before finally settling on Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
Deciding a six-piece band was too big to market to the mainstream, Stewart would be released from his spot in 1963. He would stay on for several years as road manager. When talking about Stu Stewart later, Keith Richards said, “Stu might have realised that in the way it was going to have to be marketed, he would be out of sync, but that he could still be a vital part. I’d probably have said, ‘Well, fuck you’, but he said ‘OK, I’ll just drive you around.’ That takes a big heart, but Stu had one of the largest hearts around.” (In December of 1985, Stu Stewart died of a heart attack in the waiting room of a London clinic.)
The Stones built their popularity in the U.K. music scene playing R&B covers in and out of pubs and nightclubs all around the city.
In June the Stones traveled to the U.S. for their first appearance outside Europe. Bill Wyman dubbed it a disaster. “When we arrived, we didn’t have a hit record [there] or anything going for us.” When the band appeared on Dean Martin’s variety show The Hollywood Palace, Martin mocked both their hair and their performance. The highlight of the tour was a two day recording session at Chess Studios in Chicago, where the band met many of their most important influences, including Muddy Waters. These sessions included what would become the Rolling Stones’ first number #1 hit in the UK: their cover of Bobby and Shirley Womack‘s “It’s All Over Now“.
International recognition for Stones would arrive in the summer of ’65 with the colossal smash hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The stage was set for a pop phenomenon that has endured.
Brian Jones would mark his place in history by also being one of the earliest members of Club 27. He left the Rolling Stones in June 1969 to be replaced by guitarist Mick Taylor; Jones died less than a month later in his own swimming pool. The coroner’s report stated “death by misadventure”, and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
Taylor was a key member of the band between 1969 and ’74. He contributed as composer, guitarist and song writer. He collaborated with Mick Jagger as co-writer and pianist on “Angie.”
By ’74, working with Richards had become unbearable and Taylor decided to move on and work on his solo career. The Stones used their next studio session to audition some pretty good guitarist to replace Taylor. A group of stylistically diverse guitarists such as Humble Pie lead Peter Frampton, ex-Yardbirds virtuoso Jeff Beck and Irish blues rock guitarist Rory Gallagher sat in on the recording sessions. Reportedly Richards and Jagger wanted the Rolling Stones to remain purely a British band. So when Small Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood auditioned, everyone agreed that he was the right choice. The core of Rolling Stones has been consistent every since. (For a timeline of the Rolling Stones lineup click here.)
Where other rock stars have hung up their microphones and moved to the sidelines letting younger musicians fill their void, the Rolling Stones continue to make music. Jagger and Richards have written new material for an album, which they hope to release sometime in 2011.
The Stones taking a bow at the 2006 Super Bowl
In August of 2005 the Stones set out on A Bigger Bang Tour, visiting North America, South America and East Asia. In February 2006, they played the half-time show of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan.
By the end of 2005, the Bigger Bang tour set a record of $162 million in gross receipts, breaking the North American mark also set by the Rolling Stones 1994. On 18 February 2006 the Stones played a free concert with a claimed 1.5 million attendance at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Mick Jagger was 62 years-old.
Speaking of which — Mick celebrated his 68th birthday on July 26. He still gets his Ya-Yas out.
Happy birthday Mick Jagger. May your next decade be as fruitful as the last.