The Rolling Stones tour stopped Charlie Watts from playing at the Dundee Jazz Festival
How well did Charlie Watts, pillar of the Rolling Stones, come to perform at the Dundee Jazz Festival?
If the cards had fallen differently, an old pal with a worthy Barnhill might very well have seen Watts come back to town for the first time since 1965.
Watts, you see, grew up wanting to play jazz.
His sense of swing gave the Stones songs their boast from 1963 before he began to experience the gig of his dreams when his band was on the brink.
He formed his own 33-piece extra-big band in 1985 with several of Britain’s biggest jazz stars, including Jimmy Deuchar of Dundee.
Deuchar performed in some of the best jazz and performing groups in the world in the 1950s and 1960s alongside Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Jack Parnell and Ronnie Scott.
He returned to Barnhill to live in the 1970s and continued to perform, including regular sessions on Sundays at The Sands nightclub on the Broughty Ferry plaza.
Deuchar went on to write a number of pieces for the Charlie Watts Orchestra which debuted in October 1985 at Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz hall in London.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in the house that evening in Soho to applaud what Watts called the fulfillment of a childhood dream.
The group consisted of three drummers, two bassists, two vibraphonists, seven trumpeters and an 11-man reed section which was staffed with six tenor saxophonists.
Watts initially rented out Ronnie Scott’s iconic seal for a week of performances before responding to invitations to perform at jazz festivals in England and Berlin.
He then brought the ensemble to New York for their American debut in 1986 before touring the United States in 1987 while the Stones took a break from their performances.
He spoke to the Chicago Tribune newspaper on the US tour and described Deuchar as “pretty brilliant” and “probably the best writer of the group”.
Watts, who himself rarely used two words where none would suffice, added that Deuchar was a “very calm man who commands a lot of respect.”
The Rolling Stones of Watts, Jagger and Richards, were once again part of the star-studded audience that saw the group gain new followers in the United States.
“Well Mick and Keith come to see the band a lot and Mick really likes it,” Watts said.
“Keith is very annoyed, however, that we don’t have a guitarist.
“He thinks it’s a sacrilege.
“But I just told him that with 33 guys, it’s hard enough to integrate everyone’s solos as they are.”
Watts for Dundee?
But could Watts and Deuchar’s friendship have brought the Rolling Stones drummer back to Dundee to perform in the early 1990s?
Alan Steadman was the organizer of the Dundee Jazz Festival who tried to persuade Watts to join the poster and he still wonders what could have been.
“Charlie Watts never lost his love for jazz or his ability to play it,” Alan said.
“His jazz drums – the emphasis on the second and fourth beats of the bar – was evident in a lot of the Stones’ material, and his solid, no-frills drums were an integral part of their sound.
“One of the British drummers who influenced him, and who isn’t often mentioned, was a flamboyant character called Lennie Hastings who played in the band led by Alex Welsh from Leith.
“He has led a number of jazz bands, the most ambitious being his big band, consisting of over 30 of Britain’s top performers and culminating in a classic live album recorded at Fulham Town Hall in 1986.
“Charlie held Jimmy Deuchar of Dundee in high regard both as a musician in his band and as a composer and arranger.
“Jimmy made the arrangements for a number of tracks from the big band repertoire.
“Through their friendship, I once had the idea to ask Jimmy to invite Charlie to play with him at a jazz festival in Dundee.
“However, due to Jimmy’s deteriorating health this never materialized, but what an event it would have been – made even more memorable if he had stayed for the Sunday session at The Sands at Broughty Ferry!”
Watts, who died on Tuesday at the age of 80, went on the Steel Wheels world tour with the Stones in 1989, which ended a seven-year hiatus on the tour.
In 1991 Watts formed a small group, called The Charlie Watts Quintet, to pay homage to the music that first drew him in while growing up in London.
Deuchar, meanwhile, who had started to suffer from health issues, continued to perform in the early ’90s, including a spell with Havana Swing.
He also started Jazz Between the Generations in 1993, a series of master classes at the Bell Street Music Center.
It aimed to encourage young jazzmen to form a large orchestra on the model of the Strathclyde Youth Orchestra.
Just before his death in 1993, at the age of 62, Deuchar was about to record a major work, Concerto for Joe, which he wrote for Joe Temperley.
Watts would mourn the death of his friend.
The Stones tour put the brakes on the offer
He then formed The A, B, C & D of Boogie Woogie in 2009.
The group got its name from the first initials of the four members, as the group also included Axel Zwingenberger, Ben Waters and Dave Green.
It was then that Alan made another approach for Watts’ new group to perform in Dundee, but his hopes were dashed when the Stones got back together.
The band returned to the studio in secret to perform together for the first time since 2007 before going on a world tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Alan said: “I revisited the notion a few years later, this time thinking of his boogie-woogie band.
“The interim approach remained the same, however, as he toured the world with the Stones at the time.
“So the Stones fan gain was the Dundee Jazz Festival loss! “
Watts played Dundee twice with the Stones in 1964 and 1965.
The Stones performed in Dundee twice on May 20, 1964 in a month where they crammed into 45 incredible shows, before leaving for their first tour of the United States.
Additional police and stewards were brought in following two concerts in Aberdeen where the band were taken to safety to escape their screaming fans.
The Stones struck a backstage deal with Freddie and the Dreamers to prevent a riot during the concert, which marked the changing of the guard for ’60s music.
The two acts decided to swap roles to save Caird Hall.
Fans lined up on the sidewalks outside the Royal Hotel after the concert, chanting, “We want the Stones! We want the Stones!
They watched and waited for the slightest trace of their idols at the windows of the hotel.
The Stones first rose to the top of the charts in July 1964 with It’s All Over Now, which also became a big hit in Europe.
The Stones would return to Caird Hall in 1965 in front of thousands of hysterical, sobbing girls.
Paramedics later described the scenes as “worse than the Tommy Steele riots” in April 1958.
Watts took it all in his stride, of course.
After all, it was the cool, calm presence that kept the Stones rolling.
“Watts was the epitome of cool,” said Alan.
“Imagine if he stayed with Jimmy at Barnhill and then went to Broughty Ferry for a Sunday jazz session?”
“It would have been unforgettable!
“But he left so many special memories.”