Charlie Watts Day

June 02, 1941 – August 24, 2021

A tribute to the Rolling Stone member and part-time jazz drummer

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Drummer Charlie Watts passed away on Aug. 24, 2021, at the age of 80.

He was born on June 2, 1941, in London, England, and was a jazz fan from an early age, collecting 78s. He started playing drums when he was 13, citing Chico Hamilton as an early inspiration.

After high school, Watts enrolled at the Harrow Art School, worked as a graphic designer, and played drums on the side. He worked with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962.

In early 1963, Watts became an original member of the Rolling Stones, and he worked with the group until his death 58 years later, appearing on all of the band’s studio albums and tours.

However, Charlie Watts never lost his love for jazz, and whenever he had the time, he would go back to playing jazz.

Most notably in that area was his leadership of the oversized Charlie Watts Orchestra in the early 1980s, which had over 30 British musicians (including a dozen saxophonists like Evan Parker and Courtney Pine) and three drummers, including Watts. He financed the band as they toured the world.

Watts also led a quartet in the 1990s that featured altoist Pete King and often paid tribute to Charlie Parker, recording several albums. He enjoyed being a supportive drummer and putting the spotlight on others.

Here is Charlie Watts playing a relaxed version of “Night Train” with the great swing tenor Scott Hamilton, pianist John Pearce, and bassist Dave Green on Great Britain’s Jazz 625 television series on May 3, 2019.

-Scott Yanow


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