Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones’ drummer since the group’s inception in 1962, is “unlikely to be available” for the band’s rescheduled U.S. tour this fall, according to a statement from a Stones spokesperson.
Watts, who turned 80 in June, recently underwent an unspecified but “completely successful” medical procedure, according to the statement.
Veteran drummer Steve Jordan, who has worked extensively with Stones co-founder Keith Richards, will fill in; the 13-date “No Filter” tour begins in St. Lous in Sept. 26.
Watts said in a statement: “For once my timing has been a little off. I am working hard to get fully fit but I have today accepted on the advice of the experts that this will take a while. After all the fans’ suffering caused by Covid I really do not want the many RS fans who have been holding tickets for this Tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation. I have therefore asked my great friend Steve Jordan to stand in for me.”
The spokesperson said: “Charlie has had a procedure which was completely successful, but I gather his doctors this week concluded that he now needs proper rest and recuperation. With rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks it’s very disappointing to say the least, but it’s also fair to say no one saw this coming.”
Jordan said: “It is an absolute honour and a privilege to be Charlie’s understudy and I am looking forward to rehearsing with Mick, Keith and Ronnie. No-one will be happier than me to give up my seat on the drum-riser as soon as Charlie tells me he is good to go.”
Virtually from the group’s inception, Richards and Watts have been the core of the Rolling Stones’ instrumental sound: Richards spends upwards of half the group’s concerts turned around, facing Watts, bobbing his head to the drummer’s rhythm. In fact, it could be argued that without singer Mick Jagger, Richards and Watts, it just is not the Rolling Stones.
Although the group lost no momentum after Bill Wyman, its bassist for 30 years, departed in December 1992, Watts is different. A 2012 review of a Rolling Stones concert reads in part: “For all of Mick and Keith’s supremacy, there’s no question that the heart of this band is and will always be Watts: At 71, his whipcrack snare and preternatural sense of swing drive the songs with peerless authority, and define the contradictory uptight-laid-back-ness that’s at the heart of the Stones’ rhythm.”
Unlike certain other members of the Stones, Watts generally has been healthy throughout the group’s career and played on around 95% of its six-decade official catalog. He was stricken with throat cancer in 2004 but successfully recovered, and suffered from substance abuse in the 1980s but beat that as well.
Watts has never been a flashy drummer, but driving the beat for “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” for a two-hour set — in a stadium, no less — is an act of great physical endurance. Even so, his announcement caught even the group’s largest fan communities by surprise, and social media was filled with well wishes and concern for him in the hours after the announcement.
Dates for the 13-date U.S. “No Filter” tour, originally scheduled for 2020, can be found here.