Rolling Stones Formation – The Rolling Stones have just announced the upcoming release of “Hackney Diamonds,” their first new studio album in 18 years. This marks the latest achievement in the illustrious career of a rock band that traces its roots back to a chance encounter between lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards at a train station in Dartford, England, back in October 1961.
Reconnecting Old Friends
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards didn’t need formal introductions when they crossed paths at the Dartford train station. They had grown up together in Dartford and had attended grammar school as classmates, but over time, they had lost touch. At the train station, with Jagger heading off to the London School of Economics and Richards on his way to Sidcup Art College, the old friends struck up a conversation. Their discussion centered on the collection of blues and R&B records tucked under Jagger’s arm.
Both of them had been deeply influenced by the thrilling sounds pouring in from across the Atlantic through their radios. Jagger, known for his mimicry skills, had already developed a unique singing style. Meanwhile, Richards, born into a musical family and once a church choir member, was rapidly gaining mastery over his guitar.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that they shared a mutual friend in guitarist Dick Taylor, who had played alongside Jagger in a band and had jam sessions with Richards at Sidcup. Soon, the trio began meeting regularly to listen to records and nurture their emerging talents, eventually teaming up with two others to establish “Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.”
The Birth of The Rolling Stones
The genesis of The Rolling Stones owes its inspiration to a Muddy Waters track. In April 1962, Jagger and Richards attended a performance at the Ealing Club in London by Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. While the band’s jazz-influenced drummer, Charlie Watts, was undoubtedly skilled, the 19-year-olds were particularly captivated by the slide guitar wizardry of Brian Jones—performing at the time under the pseudonym “Elmo Lewis,” paying homage to his blues idol, Elmore James.
Jagger and Richards soon began performing with Blues Incorporated. However, Jones was determined to carve his path in the blues genre and swiftly lured them away for his nascent band. Taylor joined them, and an advertisement placed in Jazz News led them to a keyboardist named Ian Stewart.
The Rolling Stones Take the Stage
During the summer, Alexis Korner withdrew Blues Incorporated from their regular spot at London’s Marquee Club due to scheduling conflicts. He recommended Jones, Jagger, and the others as replacements. With no official name for their group yet, Jones drew inspiration from a Muddy Waters track titled “Rollin’ Stone.” And thus, The Rolling Stones were born.
On July 12, 1962, the band made its debut as the Rolling Stones, featuring Jagger as the lead singer, Richards and Jones on guitars, Taylor on bass, Stewart on keyboards, and Mick Avory—later of The Kinks—on drums.
The Road to Success
While the Marquee owner invited the Rolling Stones back for regular gigs, the months ahead were a test of endurance for the band’s members. Jagger, Richards, and Jones found shared lodgings in London’s Chelsea district, living in less-than-ideal conditions as they stretched the remnants of Jagger’s scholarship funds between the three of them.
In December, with Taylor opting out and returning to art school, The Stones held auditions for a bassist. Bill Wyman from The Cliftons, a few years older than the others and less acquainted with their R&B influences, stepped up and played well enough to earn his spot. His contribution extended further as he generously donated his amplifiers to the under-equipped band.
The new year brought another crucial addition when Charlie Watts took on the role of a reliable drummer. On January 14, 1963, the now-recognizable early lineup of the Rolling Stones—Jagger, Richards, Jones, Watts, Wyman, and Stewart—made their public debut at the Flamingo Club in Soho.
Residency at the Crawdaddy Club Opens Doors
The band received a significant boost from Soviet-born promoter Giorgio Gomelsky, who secured a residency for The Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, London, beginning in February 1963. It was at this venue that the group began cultivating its first substantial following, with local students flocking to witness the energetic R&B band and its magnetic frontman. Even local newspapers started taking notice, and iconic rivals-to-be, The Beatles, dropped in to see what all the commotion was about.
By late April, 19-year-old promoter Andrew Loog Oldham had caught wind of the sensation. Convinced that the band’s blend of sound and sex appeal was a winning formula, he swiftly entered the scene with his partner, Eric Easton, and signed The Stones to a management contract. By mid-May, a deal with Decca Records had also been inked.
The Rolling Stones Take Flight
Despite these opportunities, Ian Stewart found himself on the losing end of negotiations, being removed from live performances (although he remained as a session musician and road manager). This was all part of Oldham’s assertive management style, which encouraged the band to dream big and bid farewell to their day jobs.
On June 7, 1963, The Stones released their debut single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On.” Soon, they would be celebrated for their original compositions and lineup changes that would see the tragic departure of Brian Jones but never the enduring partnership of Jagger and Richards. The Rolling Stones were well on their way to defining the rock ‘n’ roll standard with a string of unforgettable hits and astonishing longevity.
A Legacy Six Decades Strong
Sixty years later, the Rolling Stones have released dozens of hit songs, with eight reaching the pinnacle of the charts. They hold the distinction of being the highest-grossing touring band or artist globally, amassing a staggering $2.2 billion in concert revenue and selling 22.1 million tickets over their career. Their upcoming album, “Hackney Diamonds,” scheduled for release on October 20, will mark the band’s 31st studio album.