Even though he was part of one of the most renowned rock ‘n’ roll bands in history, the late Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, led a relatively private life away from the limelight. However, that doesn’t mean his life was devoid of intriguing details. Discover some lesser-known facts about Charlie Watts with these 10 revelations:
Watts was a graphic designer
Before joining the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts had a career as a graphic designer in Denmark and later at the British advertising agency Charles, Hobson and Grey. He applied his design expertise to contribute to the creation of stage sets for numerous Rolling Stones tours and also had a hand in designing album covers for some of their early releases.
Prior to joining the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts was a member of the band Blues Incorporated.
which included notable musicians who would go on to become rock legends. Led by influential musician Alexis Korner, Blues Incorporated also featured Jack Bruce, who would later become the bassist for Cream. After Watts left the group to join the Rolling Stones, he was replaced by Ginger Baker, who would later become the drummer for Cream.
Watts entered into matrimony with Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964, and they have been together ever since.
They share a daughter named Serafina. Despite the wild partying of his bandmates during tours, Watts remained devoted to his wife. However, he often experienced difficulty sleeping in hotel rooms without her comforting presence by his side.
As a regular practice, Watts would make sketches of every hotel room he occupied while on tour.
In an interview, he mentioned this peculiar habit without offering an explanation for it. Evidently, he preserved all of these drawings, possibly with the idea of compiling them into a coffee-table book in the future.
Although he is widely recognized as a prominent figure in the rock music world, Watts’s genuine devotion lies in jazz and big band music.
He consistently expressed his adoration for jazz, going as far as creating an illustrated homage to Charlie Parker. Throughout his career, he established various jazz, boogie-woogie, and big band ensembles, such as Rocket 88, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and the Charlie Watts Tentet.
Watts experienced a challenging phase in the 1980s involving substance abuse, which he attributed to a midlife crisis.
Although he had generally maintained a clean lifestyle, he found himself grappling with drugs and alcohol during this period. Watts associated this struggle with a sense of panic that often accompanies a midlife crisis. However, after fracturing his ankle while intoxicated, he decided to abruptly stop his destructive habits.
Following the departure of Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones in 1993, the band found themselves in need of a new bass player.
During this transitional period, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards entrusted Charlie Watts with the responsibility of selecting a suitable candidate. After careful consideration, Watts made the decision to choose Darryl Jones as Wyman’s replacement. Jones brought with him an impressive musical background, having previously collaborated with notable artists such as Miles Davis and Sting.
Watts and his wife, Shirley, were the proud owners of a horse-breeding farm located in Devonshire, England.
Their farm specialized in breeding Arabian horses, showcasing their passion for these majestic animals. One aspect that made touring challenging for Watts was his reluctance to leave the farm for extended periods. The couple’s love for animals extended beyond horses, as they also provided a home for several rescued greyhound dogs throughout the years.
In 2004, Watts faced a challenging battle with throat cancer.
Despite having quit smoking during his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in the 1980s, he was diagnosed with the illness and underwent a series of radiotherapy treatments. Fortunately, the cancer eventually went into remission, marking a positive outcome in his health journey.
According to a statement made by Richards in an interview with Esquire magazine, Jagger managed to push Watts to his limit during an incident.
In a hotel, after consuming a few alcoholic beverages, Jagger made a phone call to Watts and referred to him as “my drummer.” This remark crossed a line for Watts, who, wearing a complete suit, approached Jagger’s door, delivered a stern message, stating, “Never address me as your drummer,” and swiftly landed a punch on his face.