BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
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In celebration of our Bill Wyman Giveaway, this week we offer you the second part of one of our most popular articles of the past year. If you missed it the first time, you will really enjoy Bill Wyman’s insights and stories. If you have read it, it is worth another read. No matter what, you should enter our Giveaway for the chance to win one of two Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings’ five-CD Collector’s Edition Box Sets, both autographed by Bill Wyman. Enter now by using the form at the end of the article, the Giveaway ends June 21.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: So have you settled your Stones frustrations with the side projects, and with the Rhythm Kings?
Bill Wyman: Yes, it was kind of hard being in the Stones, and I felt bottled up, as did Mick Taylor. When you cannot create in a band you are in, it’s a nightmare really. We were pretty much doing an album every eighteen months, where there’s maybe ten songs on it, so the people who mainly write the songs had a whole stack of tunes to add to the record. So there was no room for me, I had to appreciate that, besides I don’t write their kind of music anyway. But I got over it. In the eighties I got involved with Willie and the Poor Boys, which were pretty much the forerunners of the Rhythm Kings. In fact Ringo was a guest on the video we did. That project was a lot of fun to do. I only do these things because they are enjoyable; fortunately I have a lot projects going on at the same time, it just goes on. And we are just starting a Rhythm Kings thirty-eight-show tour. Plus, I have three beautiful teenaged daughters, which is a nightmare! But it’s also a delight, and I enjoy every minute of these things, but if there’s something I don’t like anymore I don’t do it.
BP: From your Rhythm Kings recordings, is your only Stones cover “Melody?”
BP: With Clapton and Georgie Fame, right?
BW: Correct. And my vocalist, Beverley Skeete, when we perform “Melody” is nice as Skeete and Georgie Fame go back and forth with “Melody,” and Georgie sings Beverley, and Beverley sings back Georgie, so they make it more personal. This tune always goes down like a storm, and you know that once we started performing “Melody” the Stones must have heard about it, and they put it back into their live performances, too. But we also do Muddy Waters‘ “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” too, the up-tempo Stones version, and occasionally I get dragged into singing “Honky Tonk Women,” which I feel that I don’t have the voice for, but it goes down well, the audience loves it, and my band plays it great. But the only Stones tune we’ve recorded is “Melody.”
BP: And is it by design that you haven’t also recorded with any original Stones musicians?
BW: [Laughing] But I have used Mick Taylor who did a little bit on a track. Mick wasn’t in very good form, he had just sold his guitars, so I had to hire stuff for him, he really wasn’t up to scratch, and it was a shame. I spent three days with him trying to get stuff out of him and help him; he was in a bad state. But since that time, he’s gotten himself together and has a band now. Sometimes when we are in Europe, especially Holland, Mick Taylor comes up on stage with us and plays two or three numbers.
BP: You also used Bobby Keys, one of the few Americans you’ve recorded with.
BW: Yeah, and Chuck Leavell, too. I do still stay in touch with those guys via email which is nice.
BP: Have you heard about the new Nicky Hopkins book?
BW: No, who is the author?
BP: Julian Dawson. The book is titled And on Piano Nicky Hopkins, the Extraordinary Life of Rock’s Greatest Session Man.
BW: Tell Julian thank you for writing the book. Nicky was a fantastic player.
BW: Nicky was a really good friend, who used to stay at my house. I liked to go visit him in California, too. We were quite close.
BP: He was truly gifted.
BW: One of the best, he could play anything. Let me tell you a brief story about Nicky. I was at Olympic Studios waiting for the rest of the Stones, so it was just me and Ian Stewart when Nicky arrived. Stewart told us that we had to hear this new album by Delaney & Bonnie, their first album. So Stewart plays it on the turntable in the control room, just the first track. Nicky walks out into the studio and played the entire song note for note, with all the breaks, etc. Ian Stewart turns around to me and says, “That’s what I don’t like about Nicky Hopkins!” Of course, he was joking, but isn’t that wonderful?
BP: The fascinating thing about Nicky was after listening to him play with all the U.K. bands, I found it remarkable that he wound up in San Francisco playing with the likes of the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver, and even Jerry Garcia’s band.
BW: In England he played with everyone. The Who, the Beatles, the Stones, everyone wanted to use his skills whenever they could because he was a stunning player, he really embellished tracks like nobody else at the time. The only other person like that was Billy Preston, who was another gem.
BP: So there were only two musicians who played with the Beatles and the Stones, Nicky Hopkins and Billy Preston.
BW: Yeah, absolutely.
BP: And, of course, Preston got the credits on the Stones album cover Black and Blue “Melody (Inspiration by Billy Preston.)”
BW: That’s right.
BP: Bill is there anything else that you would like to add?
BW: People and fans ask me when am I going to come to America with my Rhythm Kings band. I get lots of requests via email and my website [www.BillWyman.com], unfortunately I stopped flying in 1990, so I’ve had no desire to fly again. I did go to the States twice since, but those were for book signings where I was contracted to do it. I also took the band over in 2001 and did some gigs. It wasn’t a very good tour, we weren’t known over there, and it was pretty much like the first Stones tour of the States. We did okay, but it wasn’t what it should have been. Yet people ask me, are you going to come over again, I always say, “Build a bridge or a tunnel, and I will be there!” We do go to France via the Chunnel.
BP: Thank you, Bill, continue to keep busy and stay young.
BW: I’ll try. Thank you, too, Bob, it’s been nice chatting with you.
Bob Putignano is a contributing writer at Blues Revue and a contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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