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Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts (born 2 June, 1941) is an English drummer best known as a member (from January 1963 through the present) of The Rolling Stones. He is a jazz bandleader, record producer, commercial artist and horse breeder. Mick Jagger sometimes refers to Watts as "The Wembleymarker Whammer" when introducing him during concerts.

Early life

Charlie Watts was born to a lorry driver for a precursor of British Rail and his wife at University College Hospitalmarker, London, and raised (along with his sister Linda) in Islingtonmarker and then Wembleymarker. He attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956; as a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football.

Watts's parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955; he was interested in jazz, and would practice drumming along with jazz records he collected. After completing secondary school, he enrolled at Harrow Art School, which he attended until 1960. After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated. 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.

Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated as well as working at the advertising firm of Charles, Hobson, and Grey. It was in mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs; but it wasn't until January 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join the Rolling Stones.

Musical career

Watts has been involved in many activities outside his high-profile life as a member of the Rolling Stones. In 1964, he published a cartoon tribute to Charlie Parker entitled Ode to a High Flying Bird. Although he has made his name in rock, his personal tastes focus on jazz; in the late 70s, he joined Ian "Stu" 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. In the 1980s, he toured worldwide with a big band that included such names as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine, and Jack Bruce, who was also a member of Rocket 88. In 1991, he organized a jazz quintet as another tribute to Charlie Parker. 1993 saw the release of Warm And Tender, by the Charlie Watts Quintet, which included vocalist Bernard Fowler. This same group then released Long Ago And Far Away in 1996. Both records included a collection of Great American Songbook standards. After a successful collaboration with Jim Keltner on The Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon, Charlie and Jim released a techno/instrumental album called simply Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project. Featuring the names of his favourite jazz drummers, Charlie stated that even though the tracks bore such names as the "Elvin Suite" in honor 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's latest solo outing has been released in 2004. Watts At Scott's was recorded with his group, The Charlie Watts Tentet, at the famous jazz club in London, Ronnie Scott'smarker.

With The Rolling Stones

Watts with drum kit, 1995
Besides his musical creativity, he contributed graphic art to early records such as the Between the Buttons record sleeve and was responsible for the famous 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; a gimmick AC/DC copied later the same year, Status Quo repeated the trick for the 1984 video to "The Wanderer" and U2 would later emulate it in the 2004 video for "All Because of You". 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 that 1975 Tour of the Americas, as well as the 1989–1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour.

There are many instances where Jagger and Richards have lauded Watts as the key member of The Rolling Stones. Richards went so far as to say in a 2005 Guitar Player magazine interview that the Rolling Stones would not be, or could not continue as, the Rolling Stones without Watts. An example of Watts's importance was demonstrated in 1993, after Bill Wyman had left the band. After auditioning several bassists, Jagger and Richards asked Watts to choose the new bass player; he selected the respected session musician Darryl Jones, who had previously been a sideman for both Miles Davis and Sting.

In 1989, the Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker. In the July 2006 issue of Modern Drummer, Watts was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame along with Steve Gadd, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich and other highly esteemed drummers.

Private life and public image

On 14 October 1964, Watts married Shirley Ann Shepherd, whom he had met before the band became successful; they are still together. They have one daughter, Seraphina Watts, born on 18 March 1968. He also has a granddaughter.

Watts has expressed a love-hate attitude toward touring. In Canada's Macleans magazine, he told interviewer Brian Johnson that he has had a compulsive habit for decades of actually sketching every new hotel room he occupies – and its furnishings – immediately upon entering it. He stated he keeps every sketch, but still doesn't know why he feels the compulsion to do this.

Watts's personal life has outwardly appeared to be substantially quieter than those of his bandmates and many of his rock and roll colleagues. Ever faithful to his wife Shirley, Watts consistently refused sexual favors from groupies on the road; in Robert Greenfield's STP: A Journey through America with The Rolling Stones, a document of the 1972 American Tour, it is noted that when the group was invited to the Playboy Mansionmarker during that tour, Watts took advantage of Hugh Hefner's game room rather than frolic with the women.

Watts has spoken openly about a period in the mid-1980s when his previously-moderate use of alcohol and drugs became problematic: "[My drug and alcohol problems were] my way of dealing with [family problems] ... Looking back on it, 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." A famous anecdote relates that during the mid-1980s, an intoxicated Jagger phoned Watts's hotel room in the middle of the night asking where "my drummer" was. 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: "Don't ever call me your drummer again. You're my fucking singer!"

Watts is noted for his tasteful personal wardrobe: the British newspaper The Telegraph has named him one of the World's Best Dressed Men. In 2006 Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, joining his style icon, Fred Astaire.

In June 2004, Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer, and underwent a course of radiotherapy. The cancer has since gone into remission and he is once again recording and touring with the Stones.

He now lives in Doltonmarker, a rural village in Devon, and owns an Arabian horse stud farm. He also owns a percentage of The Rolling Stones' various corporate entities.


Charlie Watts plays Gretsch drums and a variety of brands of cymbals, mostly UFIP. His drums are 1956-7 Gretsch Round Badge: a 22" (56 cm) bass drum, a 16" (41 cm) floor tom, a 12" (30 cm) tom and a snare drum. Cymbals he is known to use include: an 18" UFIP Natural Series Fast China, a UFIP Rough Series China with rivets, a very old UFIP Flat Ride, an Avedis Zildjianmarker Swish, and a very old set of hi-hats, brand unknown.


Solo recordings

  • February 1987: Live at Fulham Town Hall (Charlie Watts Orchestra)
US #14 [6 wks] (Billboard Top Jazz Albums)
  • February 1991: From One Charlie (Charlie Watts Quintet)
  • August 1992: Tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings (Charlie Watts Quintet)
US #19 [10 wks] (Billboard Top Jazz Albums)
  • December 1993: Warm & Tender (Charlie Watts)
US #6 [15 wks] (Billboard Top Jazz Albums)
  • June 1996: Long Ago & Far Away (Charlie Watts)
UK #86 [2 wks]; US #10 [13 wks] (Billboard Top Jazz Albums)
  • May 2000: Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project (Charlie Watts and Jim Keltner)
  • August 2004: Watts at Scott's (Charlie Watts)
  • 1991 : Vol pour Sidney(two tracks) (Charlie Watts with Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Brian Lemon, Dave Green)


  1. Allmusic credits - Jazz
  2. Wyman 2002. p. 19.
  3. Wyman 2002. pp. 29-30 and 34.
  4. Wyman 2002. pp. 32 and 44.
  5. "The Cult of Charlie" Rasputin Manifesto

External links

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