Bill Wyman may have begun his career in The Rolling Stones as a bit of a misfit, but what he lacked in comradery with his fellow band members he compensated for with a variety of interests and talents outside the world of rock-n-roll.
According to Wyman’s website, he auditioned for the Rolling Stones on December 7, 1962, and played his first gig with them shortly after. The group was initially impressed with his instrument and an amplifier he built himself. Besides playing bass, Wyman also provided backing vocals on early records and live shows.
But when he joined the band at age 26, he was 7 years older than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Additionally, he was married and employed, causing him to feel like an outsider within the band.
While he didn’t exactly sync with the antics of the rest of the group, he proved himself to be an eclectic individual, and later on, a valuable archivist of the Stones’ early years.
In a 2013 interview, he said he began collecting Rolling Stones memorabilia, such as press clippings and tickets, because he had an eight-month-old son at the time and wanted to document that point in his life.
He said, “The band wasn’t slightly interested in collecting anything and they thought I was an idiot for doing it. But they don’t think [so] anymore.” But, scrapbooking and journaling came naturally to Wyman. He kept a journal throughout his childhood, beginning during the years following WWII. Some of this writing was used in his 1990 autobiography Stone Alone and his 2002 book Rolling with the Stones.
He wrote that his childhood was “scarred by poverty,” which subsequently lent itself to the ingenuity he applied to his varying interests. For example, prior to his tryout with the Stones, he had been performing music around London with a fretless bass that he customized himself.
This ingenuity also led him to design, market and patent the “Bill Wyman Signature Metal Detector.” Wyman has been metal detecting as a hobby for years and has amassed an extensive collection of ancient coins dating from years 1100AD to 1836AD. Some of his discoveries have even been donated to museums.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Wyman said, “I’ve always been interested in multiple things since I was a teenager. I’ve always been interested in ancient cultures, archaeology, astronomy, photography, art – and as I grew up, I tried to learn more and embellish those things by reading books and [watching] documentaries and films.”
Because of his inherent interest in photography since a youngster, Wyman has become a highly proficient photographer and his works have been featured in galleries across the globe. The subjects of his photographs, not surprisingly, are mostly of fellow musicians. However, in an unlikely friendship, he focused his keen eye on the works and life of Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, released in the limited edition book Wyman Shoots Chagall.
From 1964 to 1966, while Bob Bonis was serving as U.S. Tour Manager for the Rollings Stones on their first five trips stateside (as well as for all three of The Beatles’ American tours), Wyman watched as Bonis engaged his own passion for photography. With his Leica M3 primed and ready to capture the next moment in rock-n-roll history, it’s easy to imagine the adult Bonis and Wyman talking shop while the kids played. We would have loved to be a fly on those walls.
The iconic and intimate photographs captured by Bonis during these years are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!