He may have backed the world’s most successful rock band, but the late drummer worshipped his jazz heroes through big bands and other projects

Everyone knew that Charlie Watts’s heart was always in jazz. Even when he grew his hair long and put on hippie garb while the Rolling Stones were going through their Satanic Majesties period, underneath he was still the cool bebopper who could see through the nonsense that surrounded his group and the rampaging egos at its heart.

Wisely, he never let his true musical allegiance show in his playing with the Stones. When they recruited him from Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in January 1963, not long after he’d been serving an apprenticeship with trad jazz bands, he listened to the records of Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in order to absorb the way that master Chicago blues drummers such as Earl Phillips, Fred Below and Elgin Evans kept things simple, soon appreciating that simplicity is often the hardest thing of all to achieve.

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