Charlie Watts - Early Life

Early Life

Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts was born to Charles Watts, a lorry driver for a precursor of British Rail and his wife Lilian (née Eaves) at University College Hospital, London, and raised (along with his sister Linda) in Kingsbury. He attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956; as a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football.

As a child, Watts lived in Wembley, at 23 Pilgrims Way. Wembley’s houses had been decimated by German bombs during World War II; Charlie Watts and his family lived in a prefabricated home, as did many in the community. Watts's neighbor Dave Green lived next door at 22 Pilgrims Way. Green became an accomplished English bass player; he was Watts's childhood friend, and they remain friends today. Green recalls that as boys, "we discovered 78 records. Charlie had more records than I did... We used to go to Charlie's bedroom and just get these records out." Watts’ earliest records were jazz recordings; he remembers owning 78 RPM records of "Jelly Roll Morton, and Charlie Parker.” Green recalls that Watts also "had the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio. Charlie was ahead of me in listening and acquisitions."

Around the time Watts and Green were both thirteen, Watts became interested in drumming:

I bought a banjo, and I didn't like the dots on the neck. So I took the neck off, and at the same time I heard a drummer called Chico Hamilton, who played with Gerry Mulligan, and I wanted to play like that, with brushes. I didn't have a snare drum, so I put the banjo head on a stand.

Green and Watts began their musical careers together: Green recalls, "we played in a jazz band, 1958, '59. In Middlesex. The Jo Jones All Stars."

Watts initially found his transition to rhythm and blues puzzling:

I went into rhythm and blues. When they asked me to play, I didn't know what it was. I thought it meant Charlie Parker, played slow.

Watts' parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955; he was interested in jazz, and would practice drumming along with jazz records he collected. After completing secondary school, he enrolled at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), which he attended until 1960. After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company called Charlie Daniels Studios, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated. At that time Watts was on his way to a sojourn working as a graphic designer in Denmark, but he accepted Korner's offer when he returned to London in February 1962.

Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated as well as working at the advertising firm of Charles, Hobson and Grey. It was in mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs, but it wasn't until January 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join the Rolling Stones.

Read more about this topic:  Charlie Watts

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