Piece of Mind: Rest In Peace, Charlie Watts
I am entering a state of mourning over the news I have just received.
Charlie Watts, a serious rock ‘n roll legend, has died at the age of 80.
Those of us of a certain age grew up with Charlie and his band mates. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Rolling Stones. Even though The Beatles were my favorite band while I was growing up, I also grew to love the Stones.
Charlie and his pals – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, the late Brian Jones and Bill Wyman – set the table nicely for a lot of us as they rocked out hard. Jones died tragically; he was replaced for a time by Mick Taylor, who then was succeeded by Ronnie Wood. Wyman, the bassist, retired and the Stones never have officially “replaced” Wyman with a fifth band member.
But Charlie kept the beat. He did so without a lot of flash. Nor with what I would call a lot of “rock ‘n roll faces.”
He just played them drums, man.
Charlie was thought to be a reluctant rock star. He didn’t make a lot of headlines the way, oh, Jagger and Richards have done over many decades. Charlie was married to the same woman for more than 50 years. As near as I can tell, he didn’t partake in a lot of the hot-blooded nonsense normally associated with the Rolling Stones.
He just played the drums.
I have attended one Rolling Stones concert. That was in 1994 at the Cotton Bowl at the Dallas Fairgrounds. My son procured two tickets. We had seats on the floor of the stadium about 30 rows back from the stage. I want to relate a brief tale about the setup of that show that tells you a bit about what Charlie Watts meant to those of us who enjoyed watching and listening to the Rolling Stones.
Bryan Adams was one of the opening acts. Adams performed all of his hits. He rocked the stadium hard. His drummer sat behind this monstrous set containing all kinds of percussion instruments: various drums, chimes, cymbals … all that stuff. When the Adams set finished, the stage crew rolled the drummer’s set off the stage.
Then they brought out Charlie’s drum set. If memory serves, it had a snare, a tom and a base, along with two cymbals and a “high-hat.” That’s it, man! The crowd wanted to see Charlie play the drums. We didn’t want to just hear him as he sat behind some monstrous percussion assembly … right?
After a few minutes, the stage went dark, it filled with smoke and then we could hear the drums starting to pound.
The lights came back on and there was Charlie – along with the rest of the Stones – launching into “Not Fade Away,” the Buddy Holly classic, and one of the Stones’ earliest hits.
Charlie could play them drums. I will miss him terribly.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis’s blog for KETR, “Piece of Mind,” presents his views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff or its members. Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.