Rolling Stones Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
The Rolling Stones are still going strong — in fact, they’ve spent much of the past two years on the road, celebrating their 50th anniversary. But as any fan could tell you, the band has gained and lost a few members along the way.
Given how long they’ve been together, the Stones have actually weathered a surprisingly small number of lineup changes, and we’ve covered all the major ones here — from all the turnover of their earliest days through the tragic passing of Brian Jones and everything that followed, with a few of the band’s greatest hits thrown in for good measure. What’s your favorite Stones lineup? Once you take a look at this list, it might be harder than you think to decide.
The Stones made their public debut on July 12, 1962, with a lineup that was still very much in a state of flux. Anchored by childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards alongside multi-instrumental wiz Brian Jones, this early version of the group also included keyboard player Ian Stewart, bassist Dick Taylor, and drummer Tony Chapman, all of whom would soon be ex-Stones (or, in Stewart’s case, relegated to road manager/sideman status by new manager Andrew Loog Oldham). Also passing informally through the ranks at various points during 1962-’63 were a pair of drummers (Mick Avory and Carlo Little) and two more bassists (Ricky Fenson and Colin Golding).
After all the turnover that took place during ’62 and ’63, it’s somewhat surprising how tightly the Stones lineup soon solidified. Bill Wyman joined on bass in December of ’62, with drummer Charlie Watts making his debut the following month; by the summer of ’63, they’d released their first single, and by the summer of ’65, they’d topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.’
As the ’60s wore on, Brian Jones grew progressively more disenchanted with his role in the Stones, and his growing distance from his bandmates — as well as his substance struggles — led to his ouster from the group in June of 1969. Stepping into Jones’ shoes would have been difficult even under ordinary circumstances, but his death less than a month later cast a heavy shadow over the band just as new guitarist Mick Taylor joined the lineup. Although his five-year tenure ultimately proved to be relatively short-lived in Stones time, it coincided with some of the most successful records in their catalog, including ‘Let It Bleed,’ ‘Sticky Fingers,’ and ‘Exile on Main St.’
Frustrated by his lack of creative input, as well as the difficulties imposed by band members’ drug use and physical distance, Taylor quit in 1974, prompting an extended search for a replacement that ended with the arrival of Faces guitarist Ron Wood — although Wood wouldn’t technically become a full-fledged band member until the Stones’ next lineup change.
The years following Wood’s arrival were often marked by flashes of creative turbulence, particularly between Jagger and Richards, whose differing opinions regarding the future of the Stones led to some of the less cohesive entries in the band’s catalog. But even as the quarreling bandmates took periodic breaks for solo efforts, the Stones’ lineup stayed steady — until Dec. 1992, when Wyman decided he was quitting the group. Calling his time with the Stones “wonderful” and admitting he had “many special memories,” he pointed to the group’s ’89 and ’90 tours as their best and said he was happy to walk away on a high note. Wyman’s replacement, Darryl Jones, remains a salaried employee rather than a full-fledged member, but as Wood eventually learned, that can change if a Stone sticks around long enough.