Charlie Watts

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts performs at the Rose Bowl, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. Watts died in London on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at age 80. AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File

I scrapped all other plans for this week’s column when the news broke on Aug. 24 that Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80.

As a kid, I knew a few Rolling Stones songs from the radio, but one fateful day while at a flea market in North Reading, Massachusetts, next to my hometown of Andover, that changed.

It was there that, for $1, I picked up a beat-up but still playable copy of the album “Let It Bleed.” I was in eighth grade, and it’s still my favorite Rolling Stones album, with songs like “Love in Vain,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and especially “You Got The Silver.” “Exile On Main Street,” “Some Girls” and “Tattoo You” are my other favorite Stones records.

The Rolling Stones released the album “Let It Bleed” in 1969. Blueee77/Shutterstock.com

The Rolling Stones have maintained their status as one of the greatest and most popular rock bands in the history of recorded music since releasing their debut way back in 1964. So it’s no wonder that the passing of Watts, who has been part of the band since Day 1, reverberated around the globe, including here in Maine, as his loss was mourned and his significance celebrated.

Ginger Cote of South Portland, who has been drumming since childhood, became a fan of the Rolling Stones when she was 5 years old because her mother and uncle were huge fans. Within a year, she was playing along with Watts on her first drum kit.

Cote said that Watts has “such a nice crack to his snare” and is the “pocket king,” meaning “he lands right in the right spot with just the right feel.” She also praised the personality in his playing.

“He’s unique and nobody sounds like him. When you hear Charlie, if you’re a Stones fan or if you know anything about drums, you know that it’s Charlie.”

Marc Mailhot of Lisbon has been a performing drummer for more than 60 years and he too pointed out how Watts is always “in the pocket.” Watts is one of Mailhot’s drumming heroes, as well as a “real gentleman and the heartbeat of the Stones.”

Longtime drummer/percussionist Marc Kaplan in Kennebunkport piled on the praise: “For 58 years, Charlie’s rock solid drumming was the pulse of The Rolling Stones.” Kaplan said that “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Woman” were the first songs he learned to play on drums when he was 12 years old.

“I’m now 61 and still love to play those ‘in the pocket’ grooves,” he said.

Portland singer and guitarist Lynda Mandolyn (Tiger Bomb, Crystal Canyon) said she loved Watts’ style – “more of a jazz dude than your typical rocker.”

When she was 10 years old, Mandolyn became aware of the “Tattoo You” album. “The songs are loose, loud, and dirty, now part of my DNA,” she said. “There’s no Stones without Charlie.”

Rick Johnson, a radio host on 107.5 Frank FM and 106.3 The Bone and a huge vinyl collector, said there are lots of flashier drummers out there, twirling their sticks behind giant kits.

“To be the dependable backbone of arguably one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in history for 50-plus years? That’s legend status,” he said.

“Paint It, Black” is a prime example, Johnson said. “His simple little snare drum intro is masterful, and the song wouldn’t have sounded the same with any other drummer.”

So long, Charlie. You’ll never be forgotten.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.