Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts
Watts in June 1965
Watts in June 1965
Background information
Birth nameCharles Robert Watts
Also known asThe Wembley Whammer
Born(1941-06-02)2 June 1941
London, England
OriginWembley, Middlesex, England
Died24 August 2021(2021-08-24) (aged 80)
London, England
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, producer
Years active1959–2021
LabelsDecca, Rolling Stones, Virgin
Associated actsBlues Incorporated, the Rolling Stones, the Charlie Watts Tentet

Charles Robert Watts (2 June 1941 – 24 August 2021) was an English musician who achieved international fame as the drummer of the Rolling Stones from 1963 until his death in 2021.

Originally trained as a graphic artist, Watts developed an interest in jazz at a young age and joined the band Blues Incorporated. He also started playing drums in London's rhythm and blues clubs, where he met future bandmates Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones. In January 1963, he left Blues Incorporated and joined the Rolling Stones as drummer, while doubling as designer of their record sleeves and tour stages. Watts's first public appearance as a permanent member was in February 1963, and he remained with the group for 58 years. Nicknamed "The Wembley Whammer" by Jagger, Watts cited jazz as a major influence on his drumming style. At the time of Watts's death, Watts, Jagger, and Richards were the only members of the band to have performed on every one of the band's studio albums.[1] Aside from his career with the Rolling Stones, Watts toured with his own group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and appeared in London at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club with the Charlie Watts Tentet.

In 1989, Watts was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame with the Rolling Stones. He is often regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Early life

Charles Robert Watts was born at University College Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, to Charles Richard Watts, a lorry driver for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and wife Lillian Charlotte (née Eaves), who had been a factory worker.[2] He had a sister, Linda.[3]

As a child, Watts lived in Wembley, at 23 Pilgrims Way.[4] Many of Wembley's houses had been destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs during World War II; Watts and his family lived in a prefab, as did many in the community.[4] Watts's neighbour Dave Green, who lived opposite at 22 Pilgrims Way,[4] was a childhood friend, and they remained friends until Watts's death. Green became a jazz bass player, and 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."[5] Watts's earliest records were jazz recordings; he remembered owning 78 RPM records of Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker.[5] Green recalls that Watts also "had the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio. Charlie was ahead of me in listening and acquisitions."[5]

Watts and his family subsequently moved to Kingsbury, where he attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956; as a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, music, cricket and football.[6] When he and Green were both about thirteen, Watts became interested in drumming:[5]

I bought a banjo, and I didn't like the dots on the neck. So I took the neck off, and at the same time I heard a drummer called Chico Hamilton, who played with Gerry Mulligan, and I wanted to play like that, with brushes. I didn't have a snare drum, so I put the banjo head on a stand.[5]

Watts's parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955, and he practised drumming along to jazz records he collected.[7] After completing secondary school, Watts enrolled at Harrow Art School (now the Harrow campus of the University of Westminster), which he attended until 1960.[8]


Jazz bands and Blues Incorporated

After leaving art school, he worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company called Charlie Daniels Studios,[9] and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. He and Green began their musical careers together from 1958 to 1959, playing in a jazz band in Middlesex called the Jo Jones All Stars.[5] Watts initially found his transition to rhythm and blues puzzling: "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."[5]

In 1961, Watts met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band Blues Incorporated.[10] 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.[11][12] Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated and maintained a job with the advertising firm Charles, Hobson and Gray.[13]

Career with the Rolling Stones

Watts (centre) with the Rolling Stones in Amsterdam, 1964

In mid-1962, 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.[14][15] Initially, the band could not afford to pay Watts, who had been earning a regular salary from his gigs.[16] His first public appearance as a permanent member was at the Ealing Jazz Club on 2 February 1963.[17] Watts was often introduced as "The Wembley Whammer" by Jagger during live concerts.[18]

Besides his work as a musician, Watts contributed graphic art and comic strips to early Rolling Stones records such as the Between the Buttons record sleeve[9] 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.[19] 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 the 1975 Tour of the Americas, as well as the 1989–1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour, the 1997–1998 Bridges to Babylon Tour, the 2002–2003 Licks Tour, and the 2005–2007 A Bigger Bang Tour.[20]

His last live concert with the band was 30 August 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. He never missed a single concert throughout his career with the band. Besides Jagger and Richards, he is the only member to have appeared on every album in the Rolling Stones discography.[21]

Activities outside the Stones

Watts was involved in many activities outside his life as a member of the Rolling Stones. In December 1964, he published a cartoon tribute to Charlie Parker titled Ode to a High Flying Bird.[22] Although he made his name in rock, his personal tastes lay principally in jazz.

In the late 1970s, he joined Ian Stewart in the back-to-the-roots boogie-woogie band Rocket 88, which featured many of the UK's top jazz, rock and R&B musicians.[23] In the 1980s, he toured worldwide with a big band – the Charlie Watts Orchestra[24] – that included such names as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine[25] and Jack Bruce, who was also a member of Rocket 88.[23]

In 1991, he organised a jazz quintet as another tribute to Charlie Parker. The year 1993 saw the release of Warm and Tender by the Charlie Watts Quintet,[26] which included vocalist Bernard Fowler. This same group released Long Ago and Far Away in 1996. Both records included a collection of Great American Songbook standards. Following their collaboration on the Rolling Stones' 1997 album Bridges to Babylon, he and drummer Jim Keltner released a techno/instrumental album titled Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project. Watts stated that even though the tracks bore such names as the "Elvin Suite" in honour of the late Elvin Jones, Max Roach and Roy Haynes, they were not copying their style of drumming, but rather capturing a feeling by those artists. Watts at Scott's was recorded with his group, "the Charlie Watts Tentet",[26] at the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.

In April 2009, he started to perform concerts with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie (including pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters plus childhood friend Dave Green on bass).[27]

Personal life and public image

On 14 October 1964, Watts married Shirley Ann Shepherd (born 11 September 1938), whom he had met before the band became successful. The couple had one daughter, Seraphina, born in March 1968, who in turn gave birth to Watts's only grandchild, a girl named Charlotte.[28] They remained married until his death.[29]

Watts lived near Dolton, a rural village in west Devon, where he owned an Arabian horse stud farm.[30] He also owned a percentage of the Rolling Stones' various corporate entities.[31]

While all the Rolling Stones collected cars, Watts never had a driving licence, preferring to view his cars as beautiful objects.[32] Watts was also a fan of cricket, and had a collection of cricket memorabilia.[33]

Touring and band relationships

Watts performing with the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, London in 2013

Watts expressed a love–hate attitude towards touring,[34] stating in 2003 that he "loved playing with Keith [Richards] and the band" but "wasn't interested in being a pop idol sitting there with girls screaming".[16] In 1989, the Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Watts did not attend the ceremony.[16]

Watts's personal life appeared to be substantially quieter than those of his bandmates and many of his rock-and-roll colleagues; onstage, he seemed to furnish a calm and amused counterpoint to his flamboyant bandmates. Ever faithful to his wife Shirley, Watts consistently refused sexual offers 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. "I've never filled the stereotype of the rock star", he remarked. "Back in the '70s, Bill Wyman and I decided to grow beards, and the effort left us exhausted."[35] In a 1996 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said that he had sketched every bed he had slept on while on tour since 1967.[36] By 2001, he'd filled 12 to 15 diaries.[37]

One anecdote relates that in the mid-1980s, an intoxicated Jagger phoned Watts's 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: "Never call me your drummer again."[38] He expressed regret for the incident in 2003, attributing his behaviour to alcohol.[16]


In the mid-1980s, Watts's previously moderate use of alcohol and drugs became problematic. "[They were] my way of dealing with [family problems] ..." he said. "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."[39]

Despite having quit smoking in the late 1980s, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer in June 2004. He underwent a course of radiotherapy and the cancer went into remission.[40] "I went into hospital," Watts recalled, "and eight months later Mick said, 'We're going to do a record. But we'll only do it when you're ready.' They were buggering about, writing songs, and when I was ready I went down and that was it, A Bigger Bang. Then I did a two-year tour. It seems that whenever we stop, I get ill. So maybe I should carry on!"[41]

On 5 August 2021, it was reported that Watts had elected to sit out the resumption of the US No Filter Tour due to a medical procedure involving his heart, and that Steve Jordan would temporarily replace him on drums.[42]

Death and tributes

Watts died at a London hospital on 24 August 2021, at the age of 80, with his family around him.[43][44] Watts's bandmates Jagger, Richards and Wood paid tribute to him, along with former bandmate Wyman.[45][1][46] Several other classic rock celebrities, as well as other musicians, also paid tribute to Watts following his death, including Paul McCartney,[47] Ringo Starr, Elton John,[48] Brian Wilson, Pete Townshend,[49][50] the members of U2,[51] Bryan Adams, Liam Gallagher, Brian May,[52] Roger Taylor,[53] Kenney Jones, Chad Smith,[54] Questlove[55] and Max Weinberg.[56] On the day of his death and the following ten days, the Rolling Stones' official website contents were replaced with a single picture of Watts in his memory.[57] Two days after his death, Jason Isbell and Brittney Spencer dedicated a cover performance of "Gimme Shelter" to Watts.[58] On 27 August, the band's social media accounts shared a montage of pictures and videos of Watts.[18]



Watts drumming with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie in 2010

In 1991 The Guardian described Watts as a "heroic yet quaint archetype ... of the 'Rock Drummer', and we are unlikely to hear their like again".[59] The Guardian attributed his professional survival to not ever aspiring for stardom nor forcing himself into songwriting.[59] 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.[60] In the estimation of music critic Robert Christgau, Watts was "rock's greatest drummer".[61] Unlike in most bands where the other musicians follow the lead of the drummer, Watts followed Richards; according to New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani, that is what "makes the Stones impossible to copy."[37]

He is often regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time.[62][63][64] In 2016, he was ranked 12th on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time" list.[65] Variety stated on the day of his death that Watts is "universally recognized as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time".[12] Music critic Rob Sheffield wrote for Rolling Stone that Watts was "rock's ultimate drum god" who "made the Stones great by conceding nothing to them".[29]


The Daily Telegraph named him one of the World's Best Dressed Men.[66] In 2006, Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame List.[67]


In addition to his work with the Rolling Stones, Watts released the following albums:[68]

  • The Charlie Watts Orchestra – Live at Fulham Town Hall (1986, Columbia Records)
  • The Charlie Watts Quintet – From One Charlie (1991, Continuum Records)
  • The Charlie Watts Quintet – A Tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings (1992, Continuum Records)
  • The Charlie Watts Quintet – Warm and Tender (1993, Continuum Records)
  • The Charlie Watts Quintet – Long Ago and Far Away (1996, Virgin Records)
  • The Charlie Watts-Jim Keltner Project (2000, Cyber Octave Records)
  • The Charlie Watts Tentet – Watts at Scott's (2004, Sanctuary Records)
  • The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie – The Magic of Boogie Woogie (2010, Vagabond Records)
  • The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie – Live in Paris (2012, Eagle Records)
  • Charlie Watts meets the Danish Radio Big Band (Live at the Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen 2010) (2017, Impulse! Records)


  1. ^ a b Skinner, Tom (25 August 2021). "Ronnie Wood pays tribute to Charlie Watts: 'I will dearly miss you'". NME. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  2. ^ Wyman, Bill; Coleman, Ray (1997). Bill Wyman, Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock 'n' Roll Band. Da Capo Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-306-80783-1. Archived from the original on 18 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Salewicz, Chris (24 August 2021). "Charlie Watts: Legendary drummer of the Rolling Stones". The Independent. Retrieved 24 August 2021. He had a sister, Linda.
  4. ^ a b c "The Musical Life: Tag Team". The New Yorker. 23 July 2012 (p. 20).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "The Musical Life: Tag Team". The New Yorker. 23 July 2012 (p. 21).
  6. ^ Wyman, Bill (2002). Rolling with the Stones. DK Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 0-7894-9998-3.
  7. ^ Wyman 2002. p. 19.
  8. ^ "Charlie Watts obituary | Charlie Watts". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Charlie Watts". Lambiek Comiclopedia. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  10. ^ Pidgeon, John (2 October 2009). "More British R&B: The Stones Start, Blues Inc Stumble". Archived from the original on 9 November 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  11. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 29–30 and 34.
  12. ^ a b Morris, Chris; Aswad, Jem (24 August 2021). "Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones Drummer, Dies at 80". Variety. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  13. ^ Greenfield, Robert (2002). S.T.P. : a journey through America with the Rolling Stones (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7867-3080-3. OCLC 812915250.
  14. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 32 and 44.
  15. ^ "Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones drummer dies at 80". BBC News. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d Edwards, Gavin (24 August 2021). "Charlie Watts, Bedrock Drummer for the Rolling Stones, Dies at 80". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  17. ^ Richards, Keith; Fox, James (2010). Life. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-297-85439-5.
  18. ^ a b Thorpe, Vanessa (28 August 2021). "Rolling Stones share video tribute to Charlie Watts". the Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  19. ^ Epting, Chris (1 May 2015). "The History of the Rolling Stones' Outrageous Tour Announcements". Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  20. ^ Sweeting, Adam (24 August 2021). "Charlie Watts obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  21. ^ Greene, Andy (24 August 2021). "Flashback: Charlie Watts' Final Performance With the Rolling Stones". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  22. ^ Graff, Gary (24 August 2021). "Charlie Watts Dead: Rolling Stones Drummer Was 80". Billboard. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  23. ^ a b First Name. "Charlie Watts: The Stones' Rock-Solid Survivor | Modern Drummer Magazine". Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Charlie Watts marching to beat of a different drum". The Newark Advocate. The Associated Press. 10 July 1987. p. 14. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  25. ^ "Watts on high voltage". The Guardian. 20 November 1985. p. 22. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  26. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Charlie Watts". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  27. ^ Goldmine staff. "Calm, cool and collected Charlie Watts lets loose with ABC&D of Boogie Woogie". Goldmine.
  28. ^ Filcman, Debra (14 May 2018). "The Rolling Stones Children: Where Are They Now?". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  29. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (24 August 2021). "No One Impressed Charlie Watts, Not Even the Stones". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  30. ^ Oldfield, Edward (24 August 2021). "Rolling Stones star Charlie Watts has died". DevonLive. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  31. ^ Serwer, Andy (21 July 2013). "Inside Rolling Stones Inc. (Fortune, 2002)". Fortune.
  32. ^ Adam Hay-Nicholls, "The Rolling Stones did get satisfaction from collecting cars", GQ, 29 August 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2021
  33. ^ "Has anyone top-scored for their side in more consecutive innings than Joe Root?". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  34. ^ "A Charlie Watts-Centric View of the Rolling Stones: Watch Martin Scorsese's Footage of Charlie & the Band Performing 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' and 'All Down the Line'". Open Culture. 9 August 2021.
  35. ^ Cohen, Rich (3 November 1994). "Tour de Force". Rolling Stone. p. 110.
  36. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (30 May 1996). "Q&A: Charlie Watts on His New Jazz Album, Sketching Hotel Beds, and the 40-Year-Old Sex Pistols". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  37. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (30 August 2021). "When Charlie Watts Finally Made It to New York City". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  38. ^ Richards, Keith; Fox, James (2010). Life. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85439-5.
  39. ^ McPherson, Ian. "Portrait of Charlie". Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  40. ^ "Stones drummer fighting cancer". the Guardian. 15 August 2004.
  41. ^ Lawrence, Will (May 2008). "King Charles". Q. No. 262. p. 44.
  42. ^ "Drummer Charlie Watts likely to miss Rolling Stones' tour". AP News.
  43. ^ "Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies at 80". BBC News. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  44. ^ Lawless, Jill; Katz, Gregory (24 August 2021). "Drummer Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones backbone, dies at 80". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  45. ^ "Charlie Watts: Jagger and Richards pay tribute to Rolling Stones bandmate". BBC News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  46. ^ "Bill Wyman pays tribute to Charlie Watts: "You were like a brother to me"". NME. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  47. ^ Neale, Matthew (24 August 2021). "Paul McCartney pays moving tribute to Charlie Watts: 'I've always loved you'". NME. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  48. ^ Ryu, Jenna. "'One of the greatest': Paul McCartney, Elton John, more mourn Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts". USA Today. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  49. ^ Pearis, Bill (24 August 2021). "Read Charlie Watts tributes from Elton John, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, and more". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  50. ^ Skinner, Tom (25 August 2021). "The Who's Pete Townshend shares tribute to Charlie Watts: 'Such a lovely man'". NME. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  51. ^ Donohoe, Amy (25 August 2021). "Dublin rock legends U2 pay tribute to Charlie Watts following Rolling Stones drummer's death". DublinLive. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  52. ^ "Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones drummer dies at 80". BBC News. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  53. ^ Robinson, Breanna (25 August 2021). "15 of the most moving tributes to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts". indy100. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  54. ^ "'Charlie Watts' drumming will live on forever'". BBC News. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  55. ^ Grow, Kory (25 August 2021). "Questlove on the True Genius of Charlie Watts: 'Only Real Drummers Know'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  56. ^ Hiatt, Brian (24 August 2021). "Max Weinberg: 'There Was Only One Charlie Watts'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  57. ^ "Charlie Watts". The Rolling Stones. 25 August 2021. Archived from the original on 25 August 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  58. ^ Hudak, Joseph (27 August 2021). "Jason Isbell, Brittney Spencer Cover 'Gimme Shelter' for Charlie Watts". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  59. ^ a b "Adventurers in the skins trade". The Guardian. 8 March 1991. p. 37. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  60. ^ "Modern Drummer's Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014". Modern Drummer. Archived from the original on 21 August 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  61. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 2005). "Hard Again". Blender. Archived from the original on 4 August 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  62. ^ Nast, Condé (25 August 2021). "The Elegant, Astounding Drumming of Charlie Watts". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  63. ^ "Charlie Watts: The subtle magnificence of the Rolling Stones' drummer". BBC News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  64. ^ "Why Charlie Watts was 'the secret' and 'the glue' that held the Rolling Stones together for almost 60 years". CBC News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  65. ^ "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone. 31 March 2016. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  66. ^ Holton, Kate (24 August 2021). "Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies after tour pull out". Reuters. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  67. ^ "The International Hall of Fame: Men". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  68. ^ "Charlie Watts: Credits". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 August 2021.

External links


Article Charlie Watts in English Wikipedia took following places in local popularity ranking:

Presented content of the Wikipedia article was extracted in 2021-09-06 based on