Stone the stones!

Charlie Watts’ modest funeral held in place the fuss-hating Rolling Stone loved best

Ex-Rolling Stones tour manager and author Sam Cutler remembers his friend Charlie Watts, a laid-back, home-loving Rolling Stone whose funeral was fittingly modest and private.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards lead tributes to Charlie Watts

By Sam Cutler, ex-Rolling Stones tour manager and author

  • 20:04, 14 Sep 2021
  • UPDATED23:31, 14 Sep 2021

It’s fitting to learn that Charlie Watts’ funeral – held last week in Devon, the place that he loved best – was modest and private.

It perfectly reflects the man he was, and I completely understand the choice that was made. He would have hated a fuss and the commotion that involving the public would have meant.

For me, it’s a privilege to remember and pay tribute to Charlie.

But not just to Charlie, to Charlie and his wife Shirley who married as childhood sweethearts and enjoyed more than 50 happy years together.

Theirs was a dreamily harmonious and loving relationship of mutual respect based upon the undeniably deep bonds of one another’s hearts.

What are your best memories of Charlie Watts? Have your say in the comment section

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Charlie was laid-back for a global star

Charlie was laid-back for a global star ( Image: Getty Images)

Well suited Watts and Shirley at a 1992 event

Well suited Watts and Shirley at a 1992 event ( Image: Getty Images)

They showed us all how to commit to the dream of love.

Charlie loved Shirley with an abiding sincerity and passion his whole life.

I first met Charlie Watts through Alexis Korner, sometimes known as the father of the British Blues. I was involved in a free music scene in a church hall in Notting Hill and Charlie would sometimes come down to play.

Watts at gig in Quebec, 2015

Watts at gig in Quebec, 2015 ( Image: Getty Images North America)DON’T MISS

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People, if they had any money, paid what they wanted at the door to enter and the cream of the London music scene came and played for free

People from Pink Floyd, Arthur Brown, Third Ear Band and the like, jammed together, and Charlie invariably sat in on drums; a model of quiet and unassuming competence.

He was known in musical circles as a “sweet cat” in those heady days when people played for free and simply for their love of music.

Jagger, Watts, Richards and Wood in 2015

Jagger, Watts, Richards and Wood in 2015 

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Later I was to meet him after the Rolling Stones free concert in 1969 in London’s Hyde Park.

I had been offered the job of tour manager on the forthcoming tour of America. Charlie, I suspect, wanted to check me out. I joined him for dinner in an Italian restaurant in the King’s Road and we talked about the tour.

As the meal progressed, I noticed a fan hovering nervously nearby with an autograph book and as he neared our table I rose to intercept him, asking him to come back after the meal was finished.https://4dadaa7e4400ef6d31693f2ae3ed15b6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html138212091369

( Image: Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Charlie intervened and happily signed the man’s book, and we regained our seats. He looked me kindly and said in that softly civilised voice of his, “Sam, never forget, it’s the fans who pay for dinner”.

It was a deeply meaningful insight into the centrality of those who support musicians through their love of music and I never forgot the lesson: The fans are everything.

Charlie, as far as the music business was concerned, was something of an anomaly. Firstly, as is well known, he didn’t like touring. As he couldn’t very well play shows in his own home, he was forced to leave the house.

Sam Cutler's book - You Can't Always Get What You Want

Sam Cutler’s book – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Writer Sam Cutler

Writer Sam Cutler was a friend of Charlie Watts

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So, he frequently bemoaned the fact that he had to “walk out the front door” in order to play.

He loved being at home, and almost uniquely in the pop world, was devoted to his wife Shirley since they were married.

They adored one another and were inseparable through a long and happy relationship.

When he went on the road, they both pined and in the early years of the band Charlie would spend all of his money on long telephone calls to home. On the 1969 tour of America, Shirley had recently had a baby and was left at home.Charlie Watts’ devastated Rolling Stones bandmates miss his funeral due to Covid

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Charlie pined so hard for his wife that she was brought to the USA with the baby and they were happily reunited in Los Angeles. Quite simply, he couldn’t bear to live without her.

Charlie, was in some senses, an anomaly. In the entertainment industry where bluster, fluster and muster are all, Charlie remained quietly confident, almost serene in his laid-back attitude, and possessed of an evergreen sense of humour.

The madness of a giant tour went on around him and he sat at the centre of the circle of mayhem letting it all revolve whilst remaining relatively unaffected.

Mind you, when he saw something of which he disapproved, he spoke his mind in a forceful and direct way that brooked no argument.

At the Oakland California gig on the ’69 tour, Charlie and I were waiting backstage, watching the crew assembling amps and the equipment for the next show. A young girl was trying to get on stage and a man was pushing her roughly down into the audience with excessive force.

Charlie, seeing this, was outraged and demanded I intervene

“He can’t treat our fans like that,” Charlie protested. I went to stop the man (who was the promoter Bill Graham) and a fist-fight ensued.

Two separate groups of “heavies” were involved and eventually we were all separated. Charlie, bless him, had a quiet word with Mick, explaining what had happened. Bill Graham insisted I was at fault. Mick would have none of it and the show (after some to-ing and fro-ing) went ahead.

Charlie was a joy to work for, never demanding and always grateful. One of the highlights of my professional life was his thanking me for making sure that his wife and baby were okay on tour, when before she had frequently been overlooked in the melee that was the Rolling Stones circus.

An era has passed but the show will go on. Charlie had already approved of his temporary replacement when he was ill. He would have wanted his band mates to continue. I feel certain that they will, and that every show will become a tribute to a remarkable and well-loved man, for there is no way that they will not continue being the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world

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Published by technofiend1

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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