They were instrumental in making blues a major part of rock and roll and of changing the international focus of blues culture to the less sophisticated blues typified by Chess Records artists such as Muddy Waters — writer of “Rollin’ Stone”, after which the band is named.
After a short period of musical experimentation that culminated with the polarising and largely psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967), the group returned to its bluesy roots with Beggars’ Banquet (1968) which—along with its follow-ups, Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main St. (1972)—is generally considered to be the band’s best work and are considered the Rolling Stones’ “Golden Age”.
It was during this period the band were first introduced on stage as “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”. Musicologist Robert Palmer attributed the “remarkable endurance” of the Rolling Stones to being “rooted in traditional verities, in rhythm-and-blues and soul music”, while “more ephemeral pop fashions have come and gone”.
The band continued to release commercially successful records in the 1970s and sold many albums, with Some Girls (1978) and Tattoo You (1981) being their two most sold albums worldwide. In the 1980s, a feud between Jagger and Richards about the band’s musical direction almost caused the band to split but they managed to patch their relationship up and had a big comeback with Steel Wheels (1989), which was followed by a big stadium and arena tour.
Since the 1990s, new recorded material from the group has been increasingly less well-received and less frequent. Despite this, the Rolling Stones have continued to be a huge attraction on the live circuit, with big stadium tours in the 1990s and 2000s. By 2007, the band had made what were then four of the top five highest-grossing concert tours of all time (Voodoo Lounge Tour (1994–95), Bridges to Babylon Tour (1997–99), Licks Tour (2002–03) and A Bigger Bang Tour (2005–07).
The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them fourth on the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list, and their estimated sales are above 200 million.
They have released twenty-nine studio albums, eighteen live albums and numerous compilations. Let It Bleed (1969) was their first of five consecutive number one studio and live albums in the UK. Sticky Fingers (1971) was the first of eight consecutive number one studio albums in the US. In 2013, the band ranked 10th on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists chart. In 2012, the band celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were childhood friends and classmates in Dartford, Kent, until the Jaggers moved to Wilmington. Jagger had formed a garage band with Dick Taylor, mainly playing Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley material.
Jagger was reacquainted with Keith Richards in 1960 at Dartford railway station. The Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records that Jagger carried revealed a common interest that prompted their musical partnership. Richards joined Jagger and Taylor at frequent meetings at Jagger’s house. The meetings switched to Taylor’s house in late 1961, where the three were joined by Alan Etherington and Bob Beckwith. They called themselves The Blue Boys.
In March 1962, the Blue Boys read about the Ealing Jazz Club in newspaper Jazz News and visited the place on 7 April 1962. The band members met Brian Jones there, as he sat in playing slide guitar with Alexis Korner’s seminal London rhythm and blues band, Blues Incorporated, the band that also had future Rolling Stones members Ian Stewart and Charlie Watts.
Before visiting the Ealing Jazz Club, the Blue Boys had sent a tape of their best recordings to Alexis Korner, who was impressed. After a meeting with Korner, Jagger and Richards started jamming with Blues Incorporated.
Brian Jones advertised for band mates in the Jazz News and Ian Stewart found a practice space and joined with Jones to start a rhythm and blues band playing Chicago blues. Shortly thereafter, Jagger, Taylor and Richards left Blues Incorporated to join Jones and Stewart in their effort.
Also at the first rehearsal were guitarist Geoff Bradford and vocalist Brian Knight, both of whom declined to join the band citing objections to playing the Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley songs preferred by Jagger and Richards. In June 1962 the line-up was: Jagger, Jones, Richards, Stewart, Taylor, and drummer Tony Chapman.
According to Richards, Jones christened the band during a phone call to Jazz News. When asked for a band name Jones saw a Muddy Waters LP lying on the floor. One of the LP’s tracks was “Rollin’ Stone”.
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