Sunday Sounds: The Inimitable Cool Of Rolling Stones’ Drummer Charlie Watts

On this day in 1964, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was secretly married to Shirley Ann Shepherd, a Royal College Of Art sculpture student.

As Wayne Blanchard detailed in our 2017 feature on Watts:

“In contrast to Charlie’s mild personality, Shirley was strong-willed and outspoken. Said Jagger’s then-girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton in Philip Norman’s 2012 book, Mick Jagger: ‘The rule was “no girls,” but Shirley would nearly always go. We weren’t to go into the studio while the band was recording, but she decided she was going and took me. Mick was furious and ordered us out, but Shirley hissed at me, “Don’t move!” So we sat there with Mick pulling faces at us through the control room glass.’”

“She is an incredible woman,” Watts added. “The one regret I have of this life is that I was never home enough. But she always says when I come off tour that I am a nightmare and tells me to go back out.”

Celebrate Watts (who was the first Stone to marry) by watching some of his memorable contributions and authentically swung vintage-style drumming.

Then be sure to check out 19 Reasons To Love Charlie Watts, to learn other trivia — he breeds Arabian horses, for instance! — and a 2012 In His Own Words piece about the Stones’ 50th anniversary.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (Live)

As Blachard put it, “The slamming 2 and 4 grooves on ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ may not have been as creative as what Ringo played on The Beatles’ ‘Ticket To Ride’ or ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (Jagger and Richards tunes seldom call for fancy drum parts) but they were just as inspirational.”

“19th Nervous Breakdown”

“Listen to ‘19th Nervous Breakdown,’” urges former Zildjian AR director John DeChristopher. “He swings like Elvin Jones. I like to think that at a point drummers ‘get’ the ‘less is more’ approach of Charlie — and Ringo — and understand that good, solid time and a great feel are first and foremost to being a great drummer.”

“Honky Tonk Woman”

“I was brought up on the theory that the drummer is an accompanist,” Watts noted in a 2008 video interview titled If It Ain’t Got That Swing. “I don’t like drum solos. I admire some people that do them, but generally I prefer drummers playing with the band. The challenge with rock and roll is the regularity of it. My thing is to make it a dance sound; it should swing and bounce.”

“Brown Sugar” (Live)

“Take simple grooves like ‘Start Me Up’ or ‘Brown Sugar,’” Rob Wallis of Hudson Music says, “and play them like Charlie does, with traditional grip and not hitting the hi-hat on the and 4 when the snare is played. Then you get an idea of where his feel comes from. It’s challenging. Try it.”

Keep your weekend going smooth with more Sunday Sounds.

19 Reasons To Love Charlie Watts