Ron Wood Empties His Pockets on the Rolling Stones' Latest Tour - Rolling Stone
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Ron Wood Empties His Pockets on the Rolling Stones’ Latest Tour

The guitarist dishes on good luck charms, having his own private pub, and getting punched by Keith Richards

Ron Wood and Keith Richards during The Rolling Stones' 'Voodoo Lounge' tour.

Ron Wood and Keith Richards during The Rolling Stones', 'Voodoo Lounge' tour.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

It is a homey rock & roll scene in Ron Wood’s San Antonio hotel suite: Scarves are draped over the lamps, hand-labeled tapes are scattered around, candles are burning. Wood bounds to the door with a Guinness Stout and a wide grin. “D’you have a minute?” he says. “I want to finish watching something.” He returns to a chair, puts his glasses on and fixes a rapt eye to the TV screen. Stones video? Porn tape? No, it’s an interview with Katharine Hepburn, who is in fine cranky form. “Tough old broad!” Wood cackles.

Meanwhile, Wood’s pretty blond wife, Jo, bustles about, collecting dirty laundry and one-upping her husband with the occasional wry comment (“Slash stayed with us a week – I had to sneak down in the morning and get rid of all the bottles so the kids wouldn’t see”). When Hepburn’s interview is over, the genial Wood, clad in a white shirt, running shoes (what tha?) and black jeans that look to be a size 24, really begins rolling – pouring beers, cracking jokes. He eagerly displays his drawings (“This is one of my daughter”), music videos from his solo album, Slide on This (“They only play ’em on the Playboy Channel”), and pictures of his children. Wood and the Rolling Stones are currently winding up the U.S. leg of a stint on the road, which is shaping up to be the highest-grossing tour ever.

As his wife heads to the hotel’s laundry room balancing a pile of clothes, Wood calls, “Jo. Jo. You don’t need to wash those socks. I’ll rinse ’em in the sink.” She rolls her eyes and leaves. “I always rinse ’em in the sink,” he says as he pours himself another beer. “Oh, well.” He smiles and lifts his glass. “Cheers.”

Name a few of the more surreal moments of the tour.
A.C. Cowlings was in our room – that was kinda surreal. He couldn’t say much, obviously. He said hello and “great show” and stuff, but he didn’t give anything away. One night my friend Harry Dean Stanton was playing guitar and singing in my room, and Sean Penn was reciting poetry – these five-minute blurts. His own bits. He was very good.

What has been the best show so far?
The second show in Las Vegas. Those people paid so much money, so I was expecting, like [yawns]. Those $300 people were absolute maniacs.

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You’re the jokester of the group. When was the last time a band mate turned to you and said, “Knock it off, willya?!”
Every night. Oh, yeah. That last happened onstage the other night when I said to Mick, as I do most shows, “Stop looking at yourself!” He’s looking at the Jumbotron monitor of himself instead of the audience.

You just saw your kids. What’s a typical family activity?
We were all last together in San Francisco, and we went to the redwood forest and got lost in the woods for hours. And Jerry [Hall, Mick Jagger’s wife] came with little Georgia and Elizabeth. We didn’t have the little troublemaker Jimmy Jagger. [Laughs] We were a tribe.

Have any of your children pursued a musical career?
My son Jesse, who’s 18, has a good band going. It’s called Wood Spirit, funny enough. They’re great.

Does he feel self-conscious playing in front of you?
He doesn’t do it much around me. He never came to me for tips either. I was very surprised to see him play in Kingston, England, and his mum, my ex-wife, was at the door collecting. [Laughs.]

Which Rolling Stone would you turn to if you had a personal problem?
It depends. Like a love-life problem?

Very difficult. None of them, if it was a love-life problem. But if it was a matter of life and death – like an illness – Mick. Contrary to popular belief, he’s got a very caring side to him. And he would get, like, the air-sea rescue out. I’ve seen him do it a few times if somebody’s ill. From the coffee boy on the crew to the most important, it doesn’t matter. If somebody needs help, he springs to it. And, you know, so does Keith. And Charlie would, if you could get through to him – but once the gig’s over, he closes all access.

What’s your favorite Stones album that you didn’t play on?
Oh. That’s difficult. Beggars Banquet, I’d say. I met a young person once who said, “I’ve got all the Stones albums. All of them from Black and Blue onward.” [Laughs.]

Keith said in an interview a while back that he punched you once. Do you remember this?
Of course I do. [Laughs] I don’t remember what year, but it was in San Francisco sometime in the ’70s. Keith and I used to stay up late. Five nights was nothing, but then it would start getting unreasonable, and it was one of them times. He came at me with a broken bottle. It might have been broken on my head or something. But I do remember getting a punch and bleeding, and somebody caught Keith from going out the window. Drugs, you know. I was doing the base at the time. Keith hates lying, and I think I lied to him. That’s what it was. I said I wasn’t when I was. And he just went crazy. So I remember in the room next door, Mick and Charlie were writing. Mick was playing a song, and Charlie was tapping away. And I went in there covered in blood, and I went [whispers dramatically], “Look. . . what Keith and me. . . look what we’ve been doing.” And Mick said, “How does the middle eight to this song go?”

Were you two laughing about it the next day?
The same day, we were. It was a boiling point. During these long tours that we tend to do, there’s always a boiling point. Keith and I get out our aggressions right in the open all the time. That’s what I like about Keith: It’s right in your face.

Keith fears cheese. Do you have an irrational fear?
Keith finding our that I’ve spiked him with cheese in his soup. Look, I don’t blame Keith. It builds up in you, cheese.

So did you put Darryl Jones through a hazing ritual at all?
No, I just enjoyed watching him go through the same thing I had to, except he didn’t have to learn so many songs. I had to learn 150, I remember. I would just take potluck when we first went onstage. I’d say, “Just gimme the key, I’ll take it from there.

You’re not the new kid after 20 years.
It’s an apprenticeship that never stops. It’s the same for everyone in the band. That’s the magic: We all are still learning. Very often the songs that I grew up listening to are from them.

So you have a pub built right into your house in Ireland, eh? You can just roll out of bed and belly up to the bar?
Yeah! The name of my pub is what my dad used to say whenever I went out of line. He’d say, “Where do you think you are? On your father’s yacht?” And the name of my pub is Your Father’s Yacht. But it’s not one that charges anything. It’s in my courtyard – for my friends and stuff. It’s got a snooker table, a jukebox, a bar. It’s great. Guinness on tap. There’s the music studio and the art studio next to that. Eventually you get to the house, but I’ve got all these other things that I love – the horse stables and the doggies running round.

What’s the best thing about having money?
Well, you’re talking to the world’s worst businessman. I suppose having money would be great fun if I could fill this room up with it! But I probably have $10 in my pocket on a good day.

Let’s see. Empty your pockets.
There’s probably about $12. [He takes it out] Yep! There is! And I nicked this off of Jo.

When’s the last time you bought one of your band mates a present?
Well, Keith’s 50th birthday was last December. That’s the last time I remember shelling out quite a few grand. I got him a real old globe with dolphins on the bottom. It’s beautiful. I said to Keith, “I can picture this in your office.” And sure enough, that’s where it is.

Do you have any good-luck charms that you use for a show?
Yeah, things like rings, watches. I must keep this bracelet on for the gig. If I happen to take it off for the shower or something and forget to put it back on, I would worry.

When’s the last time you hung out with your former Faces partner Rod Stewart?
When we were in L.A., I saw him one night. We had a dinner at my manager’s house. We did this whole Sunday roast dinner: Yorkshire pudding and all that.

How wholesome. Do you cook?
No. I can do a good roast, but it’s been about 15 years. I always ring my mum. She gives me all the instructions. She’s still rocking. She’s 83. Every time I ring her up, she gives me all the information. What’s going on with Princess Di and this, that and the other. I spoke to her last night. She said, “I’ll speak to you when you’re sober.”

How did Jerry Lee Lewis happen by during the Stones’ recording session in Ireland?
He was living there to escape having the carpet taken from under him in Memphis [Tenn.]. I’ve known him for many a year. He doesn’t get on with many people. Not that I get on really well with him! [Laughs] I invited him over, and everyone kept saying, “He’s not coming, Woody.” Just when we least expected it, he turned up! Keith got mad at him because he said to him, “Son, one day you’ll learn how to play that thing!” Keith stormed out and went over to my pub. He was pacing up and down. I went, “Keith, why don’t you realize you finally met your match! Why get violent about it?” He said, “Yeah, you’re right.” Jerry Lee was just winding him up, anyway.

JO: We went to his house, and all his furniture has plastic on it – the lampshades, the cushions, the couch. And we were going upstairs, and there’s this big hole in the wall,” and I said, “Jerry, what happened here?” And he said, “I missed her that time.” [They both laugh.]

WOOD: We went over to Fats Domino‘s house, and he had the shrink wrap on the carpet as well! I said, “Why do you got all this plastic wrap on your chairs?” Fats is not allowed in the house. His wife makes him live in the garden in the shed. He lives out there in a hammock. He’s famous for cooking gumbo. He takes a big vat of gumbo to the hedge round his property and feeds all the waifs and people who can’t afford to pay for meals. He rang me in New Orleans the morning we were leaving and said, “Hi, it’s Domino. Sorry I couldn’t make it to the show, but when you get to be my age, you don’t get out much.” I felt so honored.

What’s the best party you’ve been to?
Robert Stigwood’s party in the ’70s. Mick Taylor [former Stones guitarist] left this band right in front of me. Mick [Jagger] came up to me and said, “What am I going to do? Mick Taylor just left. Will you join?” I said, “I’d love to, but I don’t want to let the Faces down.” He said, “If I get desperate, can I ring you up?” I said sure, then a year later. . . [laughs.] That was a good opportunity party. But the best party was probably my two this year for my birthday. One in Ireland and one in England. All these people came out of the woodwork. My son’s band played at the one in London. Beforehand he said, “Dad, we can’t go up. We’ve all had too much to drink.” I said, “That’s no excuse, son!”

This is a story from the December 29, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.


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