The quiet Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts influenced millions of musicians over the decades. He unfortunately died at the age of 80 in 2021 after playing with the group for more than 58 years (From 1963 to 2021).
In an interview with Bill Beuttler for Down Beat magazine back in 1987, Watts recalled how he learned to play the drums.
The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts explained how he learned to play the drums
When asked by the interviewer if it was true that he started out drumming on a banjo whith the neck of the instrument twisted off, Charlie Watts said: “Yeah, I bought a banjo, and I saw all these dots in a book-did you ever see a banjo book or a guitar book ? I couldn’t have done that. Oh dear, all these little dot things. So I took the neck off, and about the same time I heard a drummer called Chico Hamilton. It was a record called Walking Shoes by Gerry Mulligan. I fell in love with the sound of the brushes.”
“So I bought a pair of wire brushes and used the banjo, the skin of it. Now it’s probably worth more than a snare drum – as a drum. Luckily it wasn’t double-backed. You know some banjos have got backs on, wooden backs or metal backs. This was just an open one. So I made a sort of wire stand-I was 12 or 13, I think.”
He only got real drums years later
In the same interview the late musician revealed that his father bought him a real drum kit only years later from a friend of his. It was only after that that the musician said that the “noise started in proper”. He also said that is the worst thing you can get to a kid because: ‘They’re an awful lot of fun, but they’re the worst instrument to actually learn to play, noisewise. They’ve got all these practice pad-type things.”
“But there’s no point in playing them. Because half the fun when you first start is the sound of the drums. And the noise is unbelievable, it just shakes an apartment. That’s part of the horror of playing them-controlling the volume.”
Watts also said that he never had any drum lessons and used to learn to play the instrument only by trying to play with the records, something that he hated doing. He also revealed that he read music very badly.
Charlie Watts’ death
Drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80 peacefully in a London Hospital in August 24, 2021. The news was shared by his spokeperson, who said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation. We kindly request the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”
Few weeks before his death the band announced that Watts would not perform with them during their “No Filter” 2021 American tour due to a medical procedure. He was Stones’ drummer since 1963 (for 58 years). The band decided to continue the tour as scheduled to pay tribute to their late bandmate. Steve Jordan is now the band’s touring drummer. He was Watts friend and worked with Keith Richards in his solo work.