Classic Rock Corner

Happy Birthday Charlie Watts!

Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling Stones, turns 68 years young today. The "Wembley Whammer" has been drumming for the Stones since 1962, when he was recruited from his day job at a London advertising firm to play for a group of nicotine-stained, drunken, blues-obsessed teenagers.

Watts doesn't get much credit for how cool he actually is, considering he is in a band with a gaggle of miscreants and drug addicts. One can always count on Watts to be the sober, short-haired one in the background, maintaining some amount of decorum throughout the debauchery. After all, he is the oldest active Stone, since former member Bill Wyman left in the mid-'90s.

Aside from his duties with the Stones, Watts is a much respected jazz drummer, going on numerous tours over the years and recording with scene greats. The vegetarian drummer also has helped Mick Jagger design some of the band's stage shows. You could blame him or praise him for the monstrous "Steel Wheels" set-up in 1989.

Along the way, Watts is said to have been intensely devoted to his wife Shirley. In the midst of the Stones' heyday of sex and drugs, the drummer routinely turned down the sexual advances of various groupies and hangers-on that littered the backstages, planes and hotels the band occupied. He did take his turn at booze and drug-addiction during a mid-life crisis in the '80s, but he soon snapped out of it. Watts and his wife will celebrate their 45th anniversary this year.

There's a hilarious tour story that dates back to the '80s. It is said that a drunken Jagger rung up Watts, who was staying in an adjacent hotel room, asking for "his drummer." Watts proceeded to get out of bed, shave, shine his shoes, put on his best three-piece suit, and make his way to Jagger's room. At the doorway, Watts smashed Jagger in the face with his fist, declaring "Don't ever call me your drummer again. You're my fucking singer!"

Any man who could punch Jagger in the face with impunity is all right in Rocks Off's book.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty