When The Rolling Stones Were England's Newest Hitmakers


Left: Mick Jagger in the canteen at a TV studio, 1964. Roght: Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman on the cover of the Stones' debut album, 1964. Sources: Terry O'Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images; Amazon.

The Rolling Stones are the longest performing and lasting band of all time, propelled from the early '60s to the present day by Mick Jagger's vocals and Keith Richards' guitar work. Brian Jones was a crucial member until his death in 1969, his replacement Ronnie Wood became one of the family, and the rhythm section of Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts kept it all together through three decades of madness (Wyman left the group in 1993). The Rolling Stones -- or just "The Stones" -- have the most legitimate claim to the nebulous title of the "greatest rock 'n roll band of all time."

But how did it all start? How did these five blokes become the Rolling Stones?

Mick, Keith, Brian, Charlie, And -- Dick?

Bill Wyman, Mich Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones -- The Stones in the '60s. Source: IMDB / The Mark Carol Company

It all happened over 50 years ago in London, when five ordinary guys came together to form a rock n’ roll band. Funny enough, two of the band members, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had met ten years earlier in primary school. It was 1961 when Jagger and Richards became reacquainted and bonded over the love of American R&B and Blues as well as having a mutual friend in guitarist Dick Taylor. Soon enough Richards had joined the band Jagger and Taylor were in called the Blues Boys. During this time a blues band, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, had made it onto the blues scene and gave experience to future band member Brian Jones. Eventually Jones started his own Blues Inc. band with drummer Charlie Watts. As a side project Jagger and Richards began to jam with Jones which lead to Jagger being featured as the singer of Blues Inc.

The Group Picks A Name

A 1965 promotional pamphlet for the Rolling Stones from London Records. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Now in a side project we had Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards along with drummer Tony Chapman jammin’ so hard that they decided to make a demo tape and send it to EMI Records; unfortunately for EMI they rejected the demo. Things get a little confusing and Taylor leaves to go to the Royal College of Art and the guys officially form a band and call themselves the Rolling Stones in honor of a Muddy Waters song. 

The Rolling Stones Were The Anti-Beatles

Mick and Keith in 'The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus' from 1968. Source: IMDB

The Rolling Stones played their first show at the Marquee on July 12, 1962. In case you were wondering, this version of the Rolling Stones included Jagger, Jones, Richards, Taylor (he came back), and Mick Avory who was on drums. Once again things got confusing when both Avory and Taylor were replaced by Tony Chapman and Bill Wyman, and then Chapman himself was replaced by Charlie Watts. (Dick Taylor went on to form a group that was fairly successful in the UK, The Pretty Things.) Soon after the Rolling Stones had an eight month residency at the Crawdaddy Club where they saw much success. New manager Andrew Loog Oldham took advantage of the Beatles sensation and marketed the Rolling Stones as the Beatles complete opposite. If the Beatles were peppy and pretty, the Stones would be bluesy and rough around the edges. It apparently worked, because their first single, titled "Come On," reached #21 on the British music chart. Their second single, "I Wanna Be Your Man," was actually written by their “nemeses’” Paul McCartney and John Lennon -- and it happened to make it to the Top 15 on the charts.

Their First Number-One Single

The Rolling Stones. Source: Rock Hall Library / IMDB

The Rolling Stones’ third single, a remake of Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away," was released a month after their second, in January of 1964. This one saw even more success, reaching #3 on the British Charts and crossing over to the U.S. at #48. At this point, it was safe to say that the Rolling Stones were officially a British sensation. A few months later, in April 1964, they released their first album. Shortly after that they went on their first American tour -- unsurprisingly, a huge success. Though still overshadowed by the Beatles, there was no doubt that the Stones were a band on the rise and everything was breaking their way. 

They had their first #1 hit with their cover of "It’s All Over Now." The Stones continued to release music with the Five by Five EP that they recorded in Chicago. Hit after hit was produced and the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band was in full swing.