Even though the Rolling Stones publicly celebrated a 50th anniversary in 2012, guitarist Keith Richards says the band members themselves count January 1963 as the real beginning. That's the month Charlie Watts officially joined.

A mainstay up until his death in 2021, Watts became one of the best-known drummers in rock music history. Ironically, though, his background was primarily in jazz before a chance meeting with British blues pioneer Alexis Korner. Watts was working as a graphic designer for an ad company when he accepted Korner's offer to play with Blues Incorporated, a London-based group that had also featured occasional appearances from an aspiring young singer named Mick Jagger. Watts met Jagger and the other members of the fledgling Rolling Stones in mid-1962, and completed their lineup by joining on Jan. 9, 1963.

Watts played his first gig with the Stones a few days later on Jan. 12, 1963, at the Ealing Blues Club in a six-piece lineup that included pianist Ian Stewart. By that June, the group released their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On." With the release of their second album, they shot to international superstardom, beginning a winning streak that would see the band become one of the most important musical forces of the rock era. The Rolling Stones are widely regarded as "the greatest rock and roll band in the world" for their contributions, and Watts' approach was a vital part of the loose-but-rock-solid swagger that became the group's sound.

“He was a very reliable person, wasn’t a diva — that’s the last thing you want in a drummer,” Jagger noted after the Watts' passing. “Charlie was a very subtle drummer. ... He did love jazz, and that gave him the subtlety that perhaps he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t been such a student of [jazz] and played [it] a lot. But he was a rock drummer as well. He was a steady rock drummer — he wasn’t just a jazz drummer showing off or trying to be too technical.”


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