Freaky Friday Classic: Charlie Watts

Is the great Stones drummer Charlie Watts replaceable? 

Charlie Watts, the timidest member of the Rolling Stones, is known the be very cool — as in calm and collected and doesn’t give a damn about his celebrity, despite his super rockstar status. Watts started playing drums in London’s rhythm and blues clubs, where he met his would-be bandmates Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. Today, as the 12th greatest drummer in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Drummers of all time, he has become one of the most respected musicians in the world. Watts’ may be known as the drummer of the biggest rock band in history but his prowess as a jazz drummer is worth praising more than his rock n’ roll drumming. Over the years, he has developed and perfected his own tight groove filled with his character that equates to a winning combo that the Rolling Stones has benefited from their entire music career. He is a minimalist, unpretentious, musician whose solid beats are uniquely his and will be tough to match.

But here at “Rock Pasta: Freaky Friday Classic” we acknowledge that there can be similar artists that could possibly replace him, and explore who can emulate his distinct drumming style and blend in with what the Stones have been doing best for decades. 

Kenny Jones

Kenney Jones of The Faces already had experience being a temporary drummer for the Rolling Stones. He was the drummer on the band’s classic ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)’ and not Charlie Watts.

Charlie was away on holiday and it was only Kenney who the band thought could match up to Watts when they needed a drummer one night to record the particular song. With the help and connections of Ronnie Wood, Jones jammed it up with Mick Jagger in the studio and recorded the demo, which the band later released as a single in 1973.

Ever the humble person, Charlie Watts couldn’t capture the feel of how Jones did the beats on the song when they recorded it so they used Jones’ track and Watts didn’t mind. Jones recalls,

“When I found out later it was actually me playing on drums on it I called Charlie up and said, ‘I didn’t mean to play drums on your album’ and he said ‘that’s okay. It sounds like me anyway’. He’s a lovely guy, Charlie. A perfect gentleman”.

If Jones has done it before, it wouldn’t be such a challenge for him to take Watts’ place if it ever comes to that.


Steve Smith

The Journey drummer is already a big fan of Charlie’s drumming (because, who wouldn’t be). He shares,
“His time is really steady and really solid and his feel is the nastiest rock and roll feel I’ve ever heard. As a kid, I was totally into chops and I didn’t appreciate just a simple feel. I was impressed by the flash, and I wasn’t listening deeply enough. Now I have a totally different attitude. The bottom line is how it feels and what you can get across, emotionally.”

He already admits that Watts is one of his biggest influences. And it also shows in his own style.


Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan is one of the few drummers who could do the unique drumming quirk the that Charlie Watts does and that is his little habit of skipping the beat on his hi-hat usually when playing 1/8 notes when he’s hitting the backbeat on the snare. Jordan already played with Keith Richards’ solo band and was attempting to sound like Watts on some tracks with the style of skipping the hi-hat on the same beat. And like Watts, Jordan also has extensive experience in jazz drumming, having played with Stevie Wonder in his teens. He is skilled in extemporaneous jazz fusion and soulful rock, an element that is essential to the Rolling Stones sound. Richards could already put in a good word for him.

Comment down below who’s your top picks that can come close to replacing the legendary Charlie Watts.