Childhood & Early Life
He was born on June 2, 1941, at the ‘University College Hospital’, London, to Charles Richard Watts and Lillian Charlotte (née Eaves). His father served the ‘London Midland & Scottish Railway’ as a lorry driver.
He and his sister Linda were brought up in Kingsbury.
At the age of ten years he came across jazz and blues music and his early influences include John Coltrane and Miles Davis. By thirteen years of age, he became more interested in drumming and would emulate his jazz drumming heroes by playing a banjo that he had converted into a snare drum.
Watts and one of his childhood neighbours cum friend Dave Green, who became a jazz bass player and remains his friend till date, would listen to music together that included 78 RPM records of American jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and Jelly Roll Morton.
In 1952 he joined the ‘Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School’, where he studied till 1956. During his school days he remained a sports enthusiast including football and cricket and also displayed his flair for art.
He got his first drum kit from his parents in 1955.
After leaving his secondary school at si16 he joined ‘Harrow Art School’ (at present ‘University of Westminster’) and studied there till 1960.
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He started his musical career along with his friend Dave Green in around 1958-59 and played in ‘Jo Jones All Stars’, a jazz band, in Middlesex.
In 1960 he joined ‘Charlie Daniels Studios’, an advertising company, as a graphic designer. During this time he became associated with a few local bands that saw him occasionally perform as drummer in various clubs and coffee shops in London.
In 1961, he penned down a children’s book, ‘Ode to a High-Flying Bird’, a tribute to the jazz legend Charlie Parker, which was later published in 1965. His illustrations and writings in the book reflect his love for art, literature and jazz.
While working as a graphic designer, he accepted the proposal of Alexis Korner and joined the latter’s band ‘Blues Incorporated’ in early 1962. Later he worked with advertising firm of Charles, Hobson and Grey while playing regularly as a drummer with ‘Blues Incorporated’.
Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ian "Stu" Stewart would often visit the rhythm and blues clubs in London and during one such occasion in mid-1962 they met Watts. They were all members of the newly established English rock band, ‘Rolling Stones’.
Though he turned down the proposal of the ‘Rolling Stones’ earlier, in January 1963 he finally gave his nod and officially joined the band. On January 12, 1963 he played for the first time for the band at the ‘Eagles Blue Club’.
Till date he remains a part of the ‘Rolling Stones’, a band that emerged as the most enduring and popular classic rock ‘n’ roll band of all times. Its cover of Bobby Womack's ‘It's All Over Now’ zoomed up at the number 3 position on the British pop charts in 1964. The following year they scored ‘(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction’ that became the number one hit in US.
Over the years the ‘Rolling Stones’ has released several hit albums that include ‘Beggars Banquet’ (1968), ‘Sticky Fingers’ (1971), ‘Exile on Main St.’ (1972), ‘It's Only Rock 'n Roll’ (1974), ‘Tattoo You’ (1981) and ‘A Bigger Bang’ (2005).
The album liner of ‘Between the Buttons’ (1967) and some of the early records of the band were designed by him.
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He was responsible behind creative entry of the ‘Rolling Stones’ during 1975 press conference held at New York City that saw the band playing their hit song ‘Brown Sugar’ while driving on the back of a flatbed truck. This act not only awestruck the reporters but was later emulated by other rock bands across the globe like AC/DC and U2.
He and Mick Jagger also contributed as designer in many of the group’s tour stages like the ‘Tour of the Americas’ (1975), ‘Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour’ (1989-90), ‘Bridges to Babylon Tour’ (1997), ‘Licks Tour’ (2002-03), and ‘A Bigger Bang Tour’ (2005-07).
He always had a leaning towards jazz, and by late 1970s he became associated with Ian Stewart in ‘Rocket 88’, a retro boogie-woogie party band. Many noted English rock, jazz and R&B musicians performed for the band.
His ‘Charlie Watts Orchestra’, a 32-piece band, performed live at the ‘Fulham Town Hall’ in 1986.
His own jazz group, ‘Charlie Watts Quintet’ released several albums like ‘From One Charlie’ (1991), ‘A Tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings’ (1992), ‘Warm and Tender’ (1993), ‘Long Ago and Far Away’ (1996).
In 2000 he collaborated with American drummer and percussionist Jim Keltner and released the album ‘Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project’.
His group ‘The Charlie Watts Tentet’ released an album in 2004 titled ‘Watts at Scott's’.
Recently he has gained popularity for performing with ‘ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’, a swing band that includes his childhood friend and bassist Dave Green along with pianists Ben Waters and Axel Zwingenberger. He started performing for the band since April 2009.
On March 25, 2016, the ‘Rolling Stones’ created history when the group performed a free concert in front of a crowd of around 500,000 in Havana, Cuba, where music of the band was earlier banned by the Communist regime of the country.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Shirley Ann Shepherd on October 14, 1964. He has always remained a doting husband.
Their only daughter Serafina was born in 1968.
Sometime in the 1980s, he and his wife set up Haldson Arabians, a stud farm in Dolton village in west Devon where the couple breed and raise horses.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in June 2004 and underwent radiotherapy treatment and upon recovery he resumed his musical career.
He has one granddaughter named Charlotte.