by Shannon MacDonald




Celebrating the life of Charles Robert Watts is an easy party, although

a brutally tearful goodbye to give. The Rolling Stones became a

household name in the UK when “It’s All Over Now”, written by Bobby

Womack and Shirley Womack, grabbed the number one slot on the UK Charts

in 1964. 1965’s, original Stones’ song,  “Satisfaction” broke them

worldwide with their first US number-one hit. Since then, the band has

outlived what seems like… everyone and every band.




As we push aside the members of The Stones to reveal “the guy in the

back” we see a wide smirked expression on a very humble, classy

gentleman that seemed to always be “chin up” looking “up and over” his

simple jazz-kit. There was no flash – no pizzazz – no crazy drum solo…

there was just “Charlie”. He was always a “member of the band” – always

in the pocket – always chopping wood. His steady drumbeat gave The

Stones the solid sound they needed. Charlie “got the job done” nothing

more than fantastically. He WAS a drum machine way before it was

invented. He was exactly what Ringo was to The Beatles… a human

metronome that wasn’t looking to replace the Neil Ellwood Pearts’ of the





A strange brew, indeed, for a Jazzman to be stirred into the red hot and

lip burning sauce of The Stones. And let’s make no Rolling Stones’ bones

about it… Charlie was a Jazzman! He grew up on Jazz and credited it to

his “reason for playing” that unmistakable Watts-Style. His allegiance

to Jazz was always knocking on his mind’s backdoor even while garbed in

Satanic Majesties attire toppled with love beads, patchouli, incense and

flower power. His ear was tuned to musicians like Jimmy Reed, Howlin’

Wolf, and Muddy Waters while the importance lied in pulling bits of

influence from master Chicago blues drummers… Earl Phillips, Fred Below,

and Elgin Evans. Discipline was earned and learned in Charlie’s personal

Jazz World, which was a positive addition to the “bad-boy” attitude from

the Richards/Jagger fueled band… perhaps the Yin and Yang of The Stones.





As we jump back into the backseat of The Stones, Watt’s approach was

fascinating to hear, if studied within the structure of songs like

“Street Fighting Man”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Satisfaction”, “Paint

it Black” and of course the multi-style drum-perfection behind the

ultimate Stones-Jam… “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?”. His Tour-De-Force may

be arguably, highly present in the early pages of The Stones with the

bouncy, “Get off My Cloud” and cowbell clanking “Honky Tonk Woman”. Yet,

when we fast forward into the video world of the 80s, the return of the

Force-de-Nature rivets and pounds us back to life with the amazing

drumming on “Undercover Of The Night”. It made us think… “Good God, The

Stones are back! … AGAIN.






For half a century, Charlie was the glue that held the music of The

Stones together. “I was always brought up with the theory that the

drummer is an accompanist,” Watts once explained. His drum set has

never changed and stayed a basic and simple kit, extending into his Jazz

roots, of about seven pieces including cymbals. If you look up “Less is

More” in the dictionary… more than likely you will find a picture of


What wasn’t “less” were his interviews over the years. Although quite

“the quiet one”… Charlie was precise and serious in his words, comments,

and the way he laid down the truth. He never swayed from what his solid

position was in The Stones nor the self-highly-ranked position he gave

his bandmates. He called Mick “the greatest frontman in the world”… and

he was dead-serious in his statement and said so. In retrospect, around

the time Mick decided to go behind The Stones’ back to rise to the top on

his own with a cut-deal that truly cut the throats of the other Stones

members… Mick received a lethal dose of Charlie’s right-handed

“drummer’s punch”. A punch that was talked about as if it was a gunslinger’s

Colt that was put away for “special moments only”.  It will be a forever

mind-bender of remembrance for Mick, as he slid silently down a silver

platter of smoked salmon and onto the floor. Mick had made the mistake

of calling Charlie “his drummer”.




While Charlie is laid to rest and we simultaneously rest the needle down

on the crackling vinyl of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” and Mick asks the

audience, “Charlie’s good tonight. Ain’ee?”, we could all say, with

absolute conviction, “Yes!”(and quite quickly). But the truth is…

Charlie was not only good that night… Charlie was good every night.