“He only really liked playing the piano”Charlie Watts

Exclusive to Stu, the following are excerpts taken from private interviews with Charlie Watts in Paris, during the pre–production of four tracks for the Forty Licks Tour, 2002.

When I became friends with Stu the connection was jazz. We used to like the same people really, except I used to like Tubby Hayes and Stu thought he was diabolical. But the great thing about Stu musically was that he had wonderful taste. Even now, I play records he found and they’re the best.

At the time I met Stu I was twenty and I bought my records from Ray Smith, who’s only just retired. Back then Ray ran the jazz department at Collett’s when it was in New Oxford Street. It had the folk records upstairs and they bunged the ashen-faced Ray downstairs. He used to live in the basement where he would sit at one end playing the drums to these records, which were always the latest ones. Stu would sneer at them if he was down there. Stu was a Dobell’s man. And Dobell’s is a much more mainstream, traditional place.

When I first went to America, going to New York to me meant going to Birdland. Stu was with me as we’d always go out together everywhere. Stu would always choose. In fact he used to drag me along to some of the weirdest gigs, but they were great. Thank God he did, because I saw three great musicians who were his favourites: Joe Jones, Ram Ramirez and the great Paul Quinichette on tenor sax. Another one that he took me to see, later in life, featured the great Gus Johnson on drums, one of Stu’s favourite drummers. I also remember the Sonny Rollins Trio playing once at Birdland. The other one which sticks, not least because I thought Stu was going to go mad at it, was Charlie Mingus’s band, but it was fabulous.

One night we got stranded in New York. I got a record the other day of the band that played there, The Al Cohn-Zoot Sims band. The address is on the record, because I never knew where it was; it was called the Half Note, and the trumpet player Clark Terry was playing. Well, he brought us home, and me and Stu were travelling up Fifth Avenue going, ‘Bloody hell, we’re in Clark Terry’s car.’ It was fantastic.

We used to go to a place called Frank’s Drum Shop a lot in Chicago and another place there, The London House. We used to both love Chicago.

Charlie Watts