R&b

Phil Capone looks at the in­flu­en­tial Brit R&B guitar syles of The Rolling Stones.

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Famed for their longevity, in­cred­i­ble back cat­a­logue, and Keith Richards’ abil­ity to con­found med­i­cal science, The Rolling Stones’ roots go back over half a cen­tury, to the birth of Bri­tish R&B. Formed in 1962, the orig­i­nal line-up fea­tured Mick Jag­ger (vo­cals, har­mon­ica), Keith Richards (guitar), Brian Jones (guitar, har­mon­ica), Bill Wy­man (bass), Char­lie Watts (drums), and Ian Ste­wart (piano). Ste­wart was soon ‘sacked’ by man­ager An­drew Loog Old­ham be­cause he didn’t fit the band’s young, bo­hemian image, but he re­mained as the group’s road man­ager and con­tin­ued per­form­ing and record­ing with The Stones un­til his death in 1985.

Un­til Jones’ own un­timely demise in 1969, he and Richards were the guitar dream team; the cut­ting edge of the new and ex­cit­ing R&B sound. Keith has of­ten cited that this was the pe­riod when ‘the an­cient art of weav­ing’ (ie two in­ter­lock­ing rhythm guitar parts) be­gan.

Richards’ pri­mary solo­ing in­flu­ence was Chuck Berry, and that dou­ble-stop style re­mains part of his sound to this day. Keith was also en­am­oured by Chicago blues­men such as Muddy Wa­ters, Howlin’ Wolf, Wil­lie Dixon and Bo Did­dley, and from these he

Un­til Brian Jones’ un­timely demise in 1969, he and Keith were the guitar dream team; the cut­ting edge of the new and ex­cit­ing R&B sound.

learnt the im­por­tance of riffs and groove. Dur­ing the early years, Keith played in stan­dard tun­ing; his ex­per­i­ments with open tun­ings did not be­gin un­til 1967. His raw and bluesy style was piv­otal in defin­ing Bri­tish R&B; in the decades that fol­lowed, he ig­nored chang­ing mu­si­cal fash­ions, re­fin­ing his style into what would ul­ti­mately be­come one of the most in­stantly recog­nis­able in rock ’n’ roll.

Jones was a gifted multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist who could pick up any­thing and play it. This is ev­i­dent by the wealth of in­stru­ments he used on Stones records, in­clud­ing sitar, har­mon­ica, recorder, marimba, harp­si­chord, sax­o­phone, trum­pet, mel­lotron, and au­to­harp. Brian played six- and 12-string elec­tric, acous­tic, and, most im­por­tantly, slide guitar (of­ten in open tun­ings). He is re­puted to have been the first on the Bri­tish scene to play slide. Back in 62, most peo­ple didn’t even have TV. So when Brian first ap­peared in Lon­don clubs wield­ing his bot­tle­neck, au­di­ences must’ve gaped in awe! Brian’s in­flu­ences, too, were drawn from Amer­i­can R&B. His hard-riff­ing style was au­thor­i­ta­tive and groov­ing, al­ways com­ple­ment­ing what­ever Keith played.

Dur­ing their early years, The Stones per­formed and recorded cov­ers of their favourite R&B artists, such as Come On (Chuck Berry), Lit­tle Red Rooster (Wil­lie Dixon), and Route 66 (an R&B stan­dard). In the mid-60s, they ex­per­i­mented with other styles in­clud­ing Mo­town (lis­ten to Keith play­ing back­beat ‘chips’ on Out Of Time) and psy­che­delic rock (2000 Light Years From Home). But only when they re­turned to their R&B roots at the end of the decade, with songs like Honky Tonk Women and Street Fight­ing Man, was the ‘Stones sound’ fully re­alised. By this time, Richards was us­ing open-G tun­ing al­most ex­clu­sively, and the Bri­tish R&B leg­ends’ evo­lu­tion was com­plete.

Brian with his Gretsch Dou­ble An­niver­sary; Keith is play­ing an Epi­phone Casino

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