Funny thing about history is how often no one’s aware when they’re seeing it being made. Case in point – the hundred or perhaps 200 people who hung out at the Marquee Club on Oxford Street in London this night in 1962. Some of them might have been disappointed in fact, that their usual Thursday night entertainment – a jazz/blues combo called Alex Korner’s Blues Inc. – wasn’t there. They’d been invited to play live on the BBC that night, and had recommended a fill-in for them. They were friends with a new group that played covers of American blues, led by Brian Jones at the time. A promo in Jazz Times said that Long John Baldry would be there, but headlining “Mick Jagger, R&B vocalist is taking an R&B group into the Marquee (they’re) called the Rollin’ Stones.” Thus was born rock’s most enduring, and probably most famous band – the Rolling Stones as they’d soon become.
The Stones were brand new back then, and had to borrow money from Mick’s dad to rent equipment that night. Although Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards were in the band, Jones was the de facto leader of them in 1962 and would remain so until Andrew Oldham became their manager the following year and changed the look and dynamic of the group. They were joined by Ian Stewart, a pianist fired by Oldham who’d later go on to be a fairly successful session musician, and drummer Tony Chapman. Or maybe Mick Avory, soon-to-be Kinks drummer. No one seems to really remember who was behind the kit that night; the ads listed Avory but Chapman was the normal drummer they rehearsed with then. Longtime regular Charlie Watts would join soon, but no one seems to know exactly when. “None of us can really remember when Charlie’s first gig was,” Jagger would later lament, adding that the ’62 show to him was the conception of the band, not the birth. “It’s not the same band,” he remarked in the last decade. “Only Keith and myself are the same.”
So from that haphazard and inauspicious beginning they were rolling, Or “rollin’”. They didn’t have a set name only days before the gig, so Jones, when asked happened to look at an old Muddy Waters record and see a song called “Rollin’ Stone” and dubbed them that. Stewart hated the name. “It sounds like the name of an Irish show band,” he’d sneer, not a rock band. Not that they were that yet. “I hope they don’t think we’re a rock & roll outfit,” he allegedly told the club owners before the first show.
They powered through an 18-song set of covers they term “Chicago Blues” – songs by Muddy Waters and ones like “Got My Mojo Workin’”, “Kansas City” the song made popular by Fats Domino and covered later by the Beatles, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man”, and “Happy Home” as a finale. Needless to say there was no “Satisfaction” or “Brown Sugar”; they were still a year or two away from writing their own material.
The Marquee Club would move to Soho in 1964. The Rolling Stones played it again and recorded a live album at it in 1971; the Marquee closed by 1996 but the Stones keep on rolling. Seems some people think Mick’s group is in fact a rock & roll outfit… and a pretty good one at that!