It was in October 1961, at Dartford railway station on the outskirts of London, when Mick Jagger met Keith Richards for the very first time. They were both 18 and on their way to their places of higher education. Jagger was at the prestigious London School of Economics while Richards would be attending the Sidcup Art College.
They were both born in the same hospital in the same year, 1943, and they lived only a street apart until the Richards’ family moved when Keith was 11. Like many British teenagers Keith was only going to the state-subsidided art school while he improved his skills on guitar. He was surprised to see that his childhood playmate was clutching long playing albums by Chuck Berry, Little Walter and Muddy Waters.
As they got into conversation, Jagger not only confirmed that he shared Richards’ passion for rhythm and blues but revealed he sang with an amateur RnB group called Little Boy Blue and The Blues Boys – which Richards promptly joined. They couldn’t have known at the time that joining up would ultimately allow them to form the song-writing axis of one of the most celebrated and successful rock ensembles of all time, The Rolling Stones.
The following year Brian Jones, with a passion for jazz and blues, was trying to form a band of his own and recruited Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Shortly after Bill Wyman was drafted in, reportedly because he had his own amplifier. Jazz aficionado Charlie Watts was recruited from the blues band Alexis Korner and by late 1962 The Rolling Stones line-up was complete.
The band started an eight-week residency at The Crawdaddy Club in Richmond as a six-piece band with Ian Stewart (later to be their road manager) on piano. Through their manger Andrew Loog Oldham they got a recording contract. The first Rolling Stones record, recorded in the Olympic Studios, London, was a cover of the Chuck Berry song ‘Come On’, which did not make the top 20 in the United Kingdom.
When Oldham met Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who were recording with The Beatles not far away at the Abbey Road studios, he mentioned his search for a follow up song and they duly provided ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, which would be The Rolling Stones first top 10 hit. The common denominator was Mick Jagger’s impassioned singing and Keith Richards brilliant guitar licks along with their long-haired rebellious image, which brought growing popularity among the British teenagers.
While their stage act still included original blues numbers their recordings were directed at the record buying public underlined by their choice of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not fade Away’ as their next single. In July 1964, they had their first number one with Bobby Womack’s soul song ‘It’s All Over Now’. This was followed by a further seven number ones, ‘Little Red Rooster’; ‘The Last Time’; ‘Satisfaction’; ‘Get Off My Cloud’; ’19th Nervous Breakdown’; and ‘Paint It Black’. The last five were all written by Jagger and Richards.
A watershed year for The Rolling Stones was 1967. A series of police raids culminated with jail sentences for Jagger, Jones and Richards (which were quashed on appeal) while the group perfected the rock/blues/country mélange that would form the basis of the group’s sound for the next four decades.