Australian Guitar - - Cover Story -

It’s easy to for­get that Keef – the man hailed as the chem­i­cal heart of the Stones – was tech­ni­cally the band’s rhythm gui­tarist, not their lead player. That’s at least par­tially be­cause the un­der­pin­ning riffs of the band are ab­so­lutely key to their sound, and Richards has a near-psy­chic lock with drum­mer Char­lie Watts. But it was Jones that was the es­tab­lished star on the Lon­don blues scene, Jones that formed the band (with the band’s oft-over­looked pi­anist Ian Ste­wart), and Jones that named it after a Muddy Wa­ters song.

At first, this was all fine: they were a blues band with a killer gui­tarist who had an im­pec­ca­ble pedi­gree, a rock-solid rhythm sec­tion, and a charis­matic front­man in Mick Jagger. Their cov­ers of “It’s All Over Now” and “Lit­tle Red Rooster” went to num­ber one, the lat­ter show­cas­ing Jones’ ef­fort­less slide play­ing. Over time, the two gui­tarists per­fected what Richards called “gui­tar weav­ing”, where they’d swap roles within a song to give the im­pres­sion of more than two parts.

How­ever, the bal­ance of power was start­ing to switch from the blonde blues head to the emerg­ing Jagger-Richards song­writ­ing axis, par­tic­u­larly once “The Last Time” went to num­ber one in 1965. The ex­ist­ing ten­sions were ex­ac­er­bated by drug use and the grow­ing con­fi­dence of Jagger and Richards, and Jones was fi­nally dis­missed in June 1969. Less than month later, he drowned in his pool at Cotch­ford Farm.

Richards went on to play with some ex­cel­lent lead gui­tarists in Mick Tay­lor and Ron­nie Wood, and there was some amaz­ing mu­sic to come. But that gui­tar weav­ing in­ter­play would never quite re­turn. It’s with­out doubt that some­thing in­tan­gi­ble within the Stones died with Jones.

Stones Rolling The

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