Charlie Watts Age: Charles Robert Watts was an English drummer who rose to international prominence as the drummer for the Rolling Stones, a band that he co-founded with Keith Richards. He was a founding member of the band in January 1963 and remained a member until his death in 2021, making him one of the group’s longest-serving members. Watts has stated that jazz has had a significant effect on his drumming approach.
Watts was originally trained as a graphic artist, but he acquired a passion for jazz at an early age and eventually joined the band Blues Incorporated. In addition, he began playing drums in London’s rhythm and blues clubs, where he encountered musicians such as Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, among others.
When he departed Blues Incorporated in January 1963, he joined the Rolling Stones as a drummer, while also serving as the band’s album covers and tour staging designer. A permanent member since February 1963, Watts stayed with the group until his death, 58 years after his initial public appearance with the group in February 1963. Among the band’s original members, Watts, Jagger, and Richards are the only ones to have appeared on all of the group’s studio albums.
Aside from his work with the Rolling Stones, Watts has performed with his own band, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and with the Charlie Watts Tentet, which performed at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London on several occasions.
Watts was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2006, and Vanity Fair named him to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame the following year. Accord to music critic Robert Christgau, Watts was “rock’s finest drummer” during his lifetime. The “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time” list published by Rolling Stone magazine in 2016 rated him 12th.
Charlton Robert Watts was born at University College Hospital (now known as St Thomas’ Hospital) in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London to Charles Richard Watts (a lorry driver for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway) and his wife Lillian Charlotte (née Eaves). He was the youngest of three children. Linda, his sister, was also a musician.
Watts grew up in Wembley, at 23 Pilgrims Way, where he spent his childhood. A large number of Wembley’s houses had been demolished by Luftwaffe bombers during World War II; Watts and his family, like many others in the neighborhood, resided in a prefabricated building.
Watts’ next-door neighbor, Dave Green, who lived directly across the street at 22 Pilgrims Way, was a boyhood buddy of Watts’, and the two stayed close until Watts’ death. Green went on to become a jazz bass player. Green recounts that when they were boys, “We came upon some 78rpm recordings. Charlie possessed a greater number of albums than I did. We used to sneak into Charlie’s room and just get these records out of the closet.”
Music recordings by Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker were among of Watts’ very first albums, which he remembers having on 78 RPM discs. Watts was also mentioned by Green “I went to the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio and really enjoyed it. Charlie was one step ahead of me in terms of listening and acquiring information.”