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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts
Dave Hogan, Getty Images
Happy 71st birthday to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts! Despite being in one of the biggest bands in rock 'n' roll history, the stylish stickman has managed to live a relatively quiet life outside of the spotlight. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been filled with its share of interesting tidbits. So, in honor of the dapper drummer's 71st birthday today (June 2), we present you with 10 Things You Didn't Know About Charlie Watts:


10

Watts was a graphic designer prior to joining the Rolling Stones.

 
 

Watts worked as a graphic designer in Denmark and then at the British advertising agency Charles, Hobson and Grey before joining the Rolling Stones. He has used those skills to help design the sets for several of the Stones' tours, as well as a few of their early album sleeves.

 
9

He played in the group Blues Incorporated, which featured a cast of future rock legends.

 
 

Watts played in an outfit called Blues Incorporated, which was led by influential musician Alexis Korner. He played alongside future Cream bassist Jack Bruce in the outfit, and was replaced by future Cream drummer Ginger Baker when he joined the Stones.

 
8

Watts has been married to the same woman since 1964.

 
 

Watts married Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964, and they have one daughter, Serafina. While his bandmates partied on the road, Watts remained faithful to Shirley. However, he had trouble sleeping in hotel rooms without the comfort of her being next to him.

 
7

He has consistently sketched each hotel room he stays in when on tour.

 
 

The drummer once told an interviewer that he has a habit of sketching each hotel room in which he stays. Watts didn't give a reason for the compulsive behavior, but apparently he has held on to all of the renderings. Perhaps, they'll make a good coffee-table book someday.

 
6

Sure, he's rock royalty, but Watts' true passion is jazz and big band music.

 
 

Watts has always professed his love for jazz music, even penning an illustrated tribute to Charlie Parker. He has formed a number of jazz, boogie-woogie and big band outfits, including Rocket 88, the Charlie Watts Quintet and the Charlie Watts Tentet.

 
5

A 'midlife crisis' led Watts to a bout with drugs and alcohol in the '80s.

 
 

Despite living a relatively clean life, Watts did have a period in the '80s when he had a serious drug and alcohol problem. He attributes the spell to a midlife crisis that resulted from a feeling of panic. He went cold turkey after he broke his ankle in a drunken stupor.

 
4

He chose the Rolling Stones' new bass player after Bill Wyman left.


 
 

After Bill Wyman left the group in 1993, the band held auditions for a new bassist. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards left the decision up to Watts, who ultimately chose Darryl Jones to replace Wyman. Jones had played with such acts as Miles Davis and Sting.

 
3

He and his wife own a horse-breeding farm.

 
 

Watts and his wife, Shirley, own a farm on which they breed Arabian horses in Devonshire, England. One reason that Watts isn't always thrilled with touring is that he does not like leaving the farm for long periods of time. The couple also have taken in a number of rescued greyhound dogs.

 
2

He battled throat cancer in 2004.

 
 

In the summer of 2004, it was revealed that Watts was battling throat cancer. The drummer, who quit smoking when he gave up drugs and alcohol in the '80s, underwent a course of radiotherapy and thankfully the cancer has since gone into remission.

 
1

Watts once punched Mick Jagger in the face for calling him 'my drummer.'

 
 

Keith Richards told Esquire magazine that Mick Jagger once pushed the mild-mannered Watts over the edge. Jagger, after a few drinks in a hotel, phoned Watts and asked, "Is my drummer there?" Watts, dressed in a full suit, knocked on Jagger's door, told him "Don't ever call me your drummer," and decked him in the face.

 

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