The Rolling Stones – The Living Legends of Blues Rock and Classic Rock


If you think about the endurance in the world of rock and roll, no one has done it better than the Rolling Stones.  Since the 1960s, they’ve been still on a roll!

The Rolling Stones were formed as a group in April 1962 some fifty years ago. The early 1962 departure of Tony Chapman (drums) & Dick Taylor (bass) left the Stones consisting of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals), & KeithRichards (guitars). Bill Wyman (bass) & Charlie Watts (drums) soon joined and the band was complete. Ian Stewart Was the first to leave the band in 1963 but remained as road mangager & pianist. Brian Jones was dismissed in 1969 due to health & drug problems and was replaced by Mick Taylor (guitar). Taylor left the band in 1975 & was replaced by Ronnie Wood (guitar). Bill Wyman left the Stones in 1992 & was never officially replaced. They started as a rhythm and blues band, moving to blues rock, rock and roll & psychedelic rock and back again. In 1989 the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They also were ranked #10 on “The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Artists” & #2 as the most successful group in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Their biggest hits include:

  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  • Get Off of My Cloud
  • Paint It, Black
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Angie
  • Miss You
  • Beast of Burdon
  • Time Is on My Side
  • The Last Time
  • As Tears Go By
  • 19th Nervous Breakdown
  • Mother’s Little Helper
  • Have You Seen Your Mother
  • Brown Sugar
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Fool to Cry
  • Emotional Rescue
  • Start Me Up
  • Undercover of the Night
  • Harlem Shuffle
  • Mixed Emotions
  • She’s So Cold

 More details The Rolling Stones at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands, in 1964. From left to right: Wyman, Richards, Jones, Watts and Jagger

Band Members Over Time

The Rolling Stones have had several members throughout their history. Here’s an overview of the key members:

Mick Jagger (1962–present): As the lead vocalist and a co-founder of the band, Jagger is known for his charismatic stage presence and distinctive voice. He is also a primary songwriter for the band, often collaborating with Keith Richards.

Keith Richards (1962–present): The guitarist, secondary vocalist, and co-founder of the Rolling Stones, Richards is renowned for his innovative guitar riffs and is also a key songwriter. His partnership with Jagger has been central to the band’s success.

Charlie Watts (1963–2021): The drummer joined the Stones in 1963 and was a mainstay until his passing in 2021. Watts was known for his jazz-influenced drumming style and his steady, unobtrusive playing, which was a backbone of the band’s music.

Ronnie Wood (1975–present): Joining in 1975, Wood plays guitar, bass, and occasionally provides backing vocals. His integration into the band rejuvenated their sound and stage performances. Find out more about who he is and his contributions not just to the Rolling Stones but to classic rock as a whole by reading our post, Who is Ronnie Wood and What are His Contributions to Classic Rock?

Brian Jones (1962–1969): A co-founder of the band, Jones played multiple instruments and was instrumental in the early sound of the Rolling Stones. His versatility on instruments like the guitar, harmonica, and keyboard was crucial in their early days. He left the band shortly before his death in 1969.

Bill Wyman (1962–1993): The bassist for the Stones from their formation until 1993, Wyman was known for his solid and steady bass playing. He also occasionally contributed vocals and songwriting.

Mick Taylor (1969–1974): Taylor, a guitarist, joined the Stones following Brian Jones’s departure and before Ronnie Wood’s arrival. He was known for his blues-influenced guitar playing and contributed significantly to the albums of his era.

Over the years, there have been additional, less permanent members and contributors, but these are the key figures who defined the sound and history of the Rolling Stones. Their impact on rock music is immense, with a career spanning over six decades and numerous hit songs and albums.

The formation of the Rolling Stones

Since their rough beginnings in the early 60s even before the British Invasion, the English rock and blues band has been going strong despite the advanced age of their band members (aka the Rolling Bones). Their music still sounds current even in this generation. In 2012, they celebrated their 50th anniversary in the music business.

The band’s founding members, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, were childhood friends while both attending Dartford Maypole County Primary School. Ten years later, the two reacquainted and formed a mutual interest through listening to rhythm and blues music that led to their musical partnership. Earlier members who joined included Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Dick Taylor and Charlie Watts which formed the first version of the Rollin’ Stones (named after a Muddy Waters song).

Rolling Stone’s first manager was Andrew Loog Oldham, a publicist who also handled previous clients such as the Beatles. He was 19 (a minor by UK standards), younger than any of the band members, and therefore had to sign any contracts with the permission of a parent. Oldham moulded the band to his own liking. He removed keyboardist Stewart from the lineup and changed the name into the Rolling Stones.

Decca Records, the label who had turned down the Beatles and made the historically infamous comment “Guitar groups are on the way out”, was regretting to now see the Beatles taking the UK by storm. The Beatles’ George Harrison suggested to Decca that they should sign another good group, the Rolling Stones. And so Decca did sign up the Stones, with contract terms that were agreeable to the band, including absolute artistic control and ownership of their material, as well freedom to record at any studios not managed by Decca (as opposed to the Beatles’ obligatory recording sessions at only EMI’s studios).

Becoming the “bad boys,” and developing their own songwriting talents

The Stones were also groomed to be the bad boys in contrast to the Beatles’ squeaky-clean image. They eventually threw away their identical suits as otherwise earlier planned and the “bad boy” image had become the band’s trademark.

The Stones’ earliest singles were mostly covers of other artists. In 1963 the Stones released their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On”. Despite Decca’s lack of promotional support, it peaked at #21 on the UK charts. More and bigger gigs came their way outside their home city, London. Their second single was a Lennon-McCartney composition “I Wanna Be Your Man” (which was also recorded by the Beatles); their third single was a Buddy Holly cover, “Not Fade Away”. They were placed at #12 and #3 on the national charts, respectively.

Because of the band doing covers, Oldham saw this as an disadvantage because they were losing songwriting royalties. At his insistence, Jagger and Richards, and the whole group as well, began to write their own material. Some of the Stones’ songs are credited to “Nanker Phelge”, a pen name of the whole group. They were slowly developing their own songwriting abilities. The first Jagger/Richards single released was “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” which peaked at #24 on the US Hot 100 chart in 1964.

Rising to become international stars

The group’s first US sojourn in 1964 included a performance on Dean Martin’s TV variety program The Hollywood Palace, first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and a meeting with one of their idols, Muddy Waters. The group and Waters jammed in their sessions at Chess Studios in Chicago, resulting in a single “It’s All Over Now”, a cover of the Valentinos original. It became the Stones’ first #1 UK single.

The first Jagger/Richards composition to hit #1 on the UK charts was “The Last Time”; by then the group grew more confident in their own songwriting abilities than ever before. This was culminated by the release of the single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965. It rules both the UK and US charts, thus cementing the Rolling Stones’ status as international stars. This was followed by “Get Off Of My Cloud”, which also reached #1 both in their homeland and in the US.

A period of experimentation

1966 saw the group in full artistic control and experimentation. Their fourth studio LP,Aftermath, was the first album to exclusively feature Jagger/Richards original compositions, and to use a variety of instruments including sitar, marimbas, Appalachian dulcimer, and saxophone. Jones, the most musically-talented among the Stones members, played all of those instruments mentioned aside from the usual guitars.

Aftermath was released in 1966, to critical and commercial success; it topped the UK album charts while it peaked at #5 on the Billboard album rankings. It spawned big hits including “Mother’s Little Helper” (#8, US charts), “Lady Jane” (#24, US), “19th Nervous Breakdown (#2 in both US and UK) and the #1 single (both in US and UK) “Paint It Black”.

When success and fame came, so did the problems for the band. The recreational drug use became more prevalent among rock bands, and the Rolling Stones were one of them, not unsurprisingly. They were hounded by the authorities over their activities, resulting in police raids into the band members’ own homes and court cases. Partly because of the legal problems the band were facing at the time, a fed-up Oldham departed as the Stones’ manager and sold his shares of the management to accountant Allen Klein in the mid-60s. Their sixth LP Their Satanic Majesties’ Request was released in light of the legal problems arising from the drug busts; it was also the last LP where Oldham acted as their manager. The psychedelic rock album, though at first did well on the charts, was criticized (although not unanimously) as a weak attempt to outdo the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely HeartsClub Band.

Going back to their blues-based rock groups, and Brian Jones’ death

Fortunately (as far as their music is concerned) the band returned to their blues roots with their release of the LP Beggars Banquet. However, at this point Jones had acquired more serious problems with drugs and thus his contributions to the band were steadily declining. He became estranged with his bandmates and was finally asked to leave the group. Less than a month later, Jones drowned in the swimming pool at his home, in 1969. His death is still a mystery up to this day. Jones was replaced by Mick Taylor.

Keith Richards

The Stones in the 1970s and the 1980s: more hits and world tours

The Stones continued to have considerable success throughout the 1970s The band established their own record label, Rolling Stones Records, from where they released the LP Sticky Fingers. It spawned one of their famous singles “Brown Sugar”. Their following LPs Exile On Main St., Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll continued to peak high on the UK and US charts. However, the member’s legal battle over drugs and personal problems put a considerable interruption into their recording sessions.

In the 1980s, the Stones experienced some of the greatest highlights in their career. For instance, their 1981 American tour was the band’s biggest and longest (from September to December) string of live concerts; it was also the most successful of all other concert tours in 1981. The following year the Stones also did an almost equally-long and successful European Tour.

During the decade band still went on to release commercially succesful albums such as Some Girls, Undercover, Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You, and Still Life (American Concert 1981) which chronicles the latter part of the Stones’ historic and highly-grossing American tour. Singles such as “Start Me Up”, “Undercover Of The Night”, “Harlem Shuffle” and “Mixed Emotions” jumped onto the US Top 10 charts throughout the decade.

The 1980s also saw the disintegration of the Jagger/Richards partnership as Jagger wanted to move away from the Stones and concentrated towards his solo career.

The Stones in the 1990s and the new millennium

During the 1990s the band took a break, with each of the members either totally departing from the band or engaging in their own solo projects. The band then resumed their studio work, resulting in an album Voodoo Lounge, released in 1994 to strong reviews, double platinum status in the US, and eventually a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.

To mark the Stones’ 40 years in the business, they released a double album Forty Licks in 2002. Aside from the “greatest hits” concept, it also featured four previously unreleased material. It received good reviews and had a successful stint in both the UK and US album charts.

In 2005 the group released their most recent studio album to date, A Bigger Bangwhich was welcomed by generally positive reviews despite the single “Sweet Neo Con” which was Jagger’s jab at American Neoconservatism. It went gold in the UK and platinum in the US.

The Stones celebrating their golden years in the business… and beyond!

In 2012 The Rolling Stones celebrated their golden anniversary in the music biz. A large, hardbound book called “50” was printed to commemorate the event. An HBO documentary film that chronicles the band’s 50 years in their career was released to select worldwide theaters. A brand-new compilation album GRRR! also came out that year; it features their greatest hits as well as two new songs, “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot”, the last which the Stones promoted on their official YouTube account.

Their “50 & Counting Tour” started in late 2012. The tour included key cities such as Paris and New York. It also included guest performers that range from today’s superstars (Lady Gaga, Katy Perry) indie stalwarts (The Black Keys) to music veterans and legends (Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt).

Throughout their entire 50-year career, the Rolling Stones have released 76 albums (that count also includes live and compilation albums) and more than a hundred singles. They’ve sold over 200 million albums worldwide. These overwhelming statistics that could make a rock veteran retire completely from the music scene. But it looks like the venerable Rolling Stones are far from relinquishing the title The World’s Greatest Rock Band. At least, not yet for now.

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