The Rolling Stones made the rather shocking announcement Wednesday night that their upcoming No Filter tour will go ahead without Charlie Watts. The drummer is recovering from an unspecified medical procedure, and longtime Stones associate Steve Jordan will be subbing in for him.
“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,” Watts said in a statement. “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.”
Watts is the only member of the group besides Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to play on every single Rolling Stones album. He’s also been a part of every show they’ve played since he joined the group in January 1963, months after they started gigging at clubs around London with a rotating crew of temporary drummers like Tony Chapman and Carlo Little.
Throughout all that time, Watts has stayed as far away from the spotlight as is possible for a member of the biggest rock band on the planet. He hates photo shoots and long hours on music-video sets, preferring to spend his time listening to jazz records, and watching cricket matches on television.
But when Martin Scorsese shot two Rolling Stones concerts at New York’s Beacon Theatre in October and November 2006, he kept one camera on Watts all night. Here’s footage of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” where Watts, for once, is at the center of the action, and his bandmates are mere background figures.
The clip demonstrates how Watts has quietly served as the backbone of the Rolling Stones for the past 58 years. It’ll be very bizarre to watch them play with another drummer, and more than a little sad, but Steve Jordan will surely do an excellent job.
The tour kicks off September 26th in St. Louis and wraps up November 20th in Austin, Texas. It’s not impossible to imagine Watts stepping onto the stage at some of the latter shows, if only for a song or two. But if he doesn’t, there are already rumors about a 60th-anniversary tour in 2022. If that happens, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be back behind the drum kit where he belongs.