It’s difficult to imagine a world without the Rolling Stones, but once upon a time, the world of music didn’t have the sharp edge forged by the British Invasion. Everything grand, though, has to begin somewhere. As fate would dictate, the story of how The Stones began rock-n-rolling starts with Brian Jones.
Jones was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on February 28, 1942 to music loving parents. Brian had an IQ of 135 and performed well in school with minimal effort. He did, however, have qualms with authority and would eventually quit school under less than optimal circumstances. He opted to travel for the summer throughout Northern Europe, but soon returned to England and eventually settled in London. There he befriended musicians such as Paul Jones and Eric Clapton.
Growing up, Jones had listened mostly to classical music but had a special affection for the blues. In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, original Stones bassist Bill Wyman said Jones began performing at local blues and jazz clubs, all the while working odd jobs and performing on the street. In May of 1962, Jones placed a want ad calling for musicians to audition for a new rhythm and blues band. The Stones’ original keyboardist Ian Stewart responded first, followed shortly thereafter by Mick Jagger and his childhood friend, Keith Richards.
In the book ”According to The Rolling Stones”, Richards explains how Jones, in a moment of panic, came up with the band’s name the Rolling Stones. Richards said that while Jones was on the phone with a venue owner, “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’. The Best of Muddy Waters album was laying on the floor – and track five, side one was ‘Rollin’ Stone.’”
On July 12, 1962, the Rolling Stones performed their first show at the Marquee Club in London with Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums, according to “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Guide to the Rolling Stones”. In the early years, the band members played the instruments they could afford, such as Richards’ Harmony Meteor and Jones’ Harmony Stratotone. During the band’s years with Bob Bonis serving as their U.S. Tour Manager, Jones was approached by British guitar maker Vox. The company asked him to promote its two-pickup MK III guitar, and with its unique teardrop shape, the instrument quickly become as iconic as the band itself.
In the early years of the Rolling Stones, Jones used his influence as a multi-instrumental musician to help shape the band’s core sound. In a 2013 interview with Q107 Toronto, Richards recalled how what he calls “guitar weaving” was created during this period. He said, “We listened to the teamwork, trying to work out what was going on in those records; how you could play together with two guitars and make it sound like four or five.” The layered rhythms of the duo’s guitars would become signature to the band’s sound, and Jones’ ability to play multiple instruments is best displayed on the albums Aftermath (1966), Between the Buttons (1967), and Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967).
Despite his innate talent, however, Jones began feeling alienated from the group as the charisma of Jagger’s stage presence, combined with Richards’ and Jagger’s songwriting abilities, precipitated his eventual departure from the band. Jones’ managerial duties were also changing, further displacing him from another role. As his role in the band continued to diminish, so did his health as he sought the solace of drugs and alcohol.
Speaking of Jones, Wyman told the Los Angeles Daily News that “[Jones] formed the band, he chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs … he was very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it – highly intelligent – and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.”
Tragically, Jones struggled to bear the weight of legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse and mood swings, making him unable to maintain an active role in the band. Jones was asked to leave the band that he helped create, and officially left on June 8, 1969. Less than one month later, on July 3, 1969, Jones was found dead in the swimming pool at his home in East Sussex, England. His death was ruled accidental. Like his contemporaries such as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, he died at the age of 27.
Bob Bonis was fortunate enough to know Jones while working with the Rolling Stones as U.S. Tour Manager for the band’s first five trips (as well as all of The Beatles’ U.S. tours) to the United States from 1964 through 1966. During his time with the band Bonis was in the unique position to capture some of the most candid and profound moments with his Leica M3 camera always at the ready.
Bonis captured many moments of Jones both by himself and with the band. These photographs are now available for the first time through The Bob Bonis Archive at BobBonis.com. Each photograph is released in strictly limited editions and is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from The GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. Live.
The world wouldn’t be the same today without Brian Jones and the work he did to make the Rolling Stones into the rock-n-roll powerhouse they are today. Despite the tragic end to this young musician’s life, his work and influence on the world of music will never be forgotten.
Brian Jones, we hear hear you still, and always will.