100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Charlie Watts
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12. Charlie Watts

Keith Richards once said that when the Rolling Stones formed, they "couldn't afford" drummer Charlie Watts, who was already the rock-steady sticksman for Alexis Korner's more established Blues Incorporated. Eventually, the Stones won him over and he asked to join. "You're great, man," he told Richards, "but you need a fucking good drummer." Other than the occasional sojourn in to jazz side projects, Watts has perfectly complemented Jagger, Richards and the rest of the gang with swinging grooves ("Brown Sugar"), taut four-on-the-floor rhythms ("Satisfaction") and understated impressionism ("Sympathy for the Devil"), rarely showing off, for more than 50 years. "When we got Charlie, that really made it for us," Richards said. "Charlie can rush like mad and still make it feel great. That's his style," Jim Keltner told Drum! "He can't explain it and I don't necessarily like going into too much detail with him about it. I just marvel at it."

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