From Chuck Berry to Muddy Waters: 15 songs that inspired The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards
“If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.” — Keith Richards
Keith Richards may well be the iconic lasting legend of rock ‘n’ roll. The ultimate gun-slinging guitarist, spilling his Jack Daniels as he swaggers up to the amp, plugs in and lets a riff rip through the entire crowd. It was this image that helped propel Richards and The Rolling Stones into the pantheon of rock and roll.
However, as the guitarist would attest to himself, The Rolling Stones may have become rock heroes but they were certainly standing on the shoulders of giants. More so than any other band, the Stones were happy to give credit to the band which had shaped them. In 2015, Keith Richards laid out 15 songs which shaped his life.
Shared as part of MOJO’s exclusive feature with the guitarist, at a time when he was releasing his solo album Crosseyed Heart, Richards picked out 15 songs which have inspired his meteoric rise to prominence. If there’s one guitarist who is the most prominent member of the rock and roll set, then it’s certainly ol’ Keef.
Below you can find the full list of Richards’ selections and a perfect playlist which acts as an incredible education in R&B guitar. A devoted blues lover it’s not surprising to see Richards select some of the who’s who of blues greatest players, many of which he has shared his love of before.
Unsurprisingly, one of the first names on the list, though we can’t be sure it was the first one he wrote down, had to be Chuck Berry. The duck-walking genius, Berry, was largely cited as inspiring countless acts from The Beatles to The Kinks and, of course, The Rolling Stones. Richards picked ‘Little Queenie’, a track that the Stones themselves would go on to cover.
Speaking about Berry’s performance on Jazz on a Summer’s Day, Richards said: “Chuck took them all by storm and played against their animosity. To me, that’s blues. That’s the attitude and the guts it takes. That’s what I wanted to be, except I was white.”
“I listened to every lick he played and picked it up,” he added. “Chuck got it from T-Bone Walker, and I got it from Chuck, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B.B. King. We’re all part of this family that goes back thousands of years. Really, we’re all passing it on.”
Another artist Richards wouldn’t be able to leave out was, of course, Muddy Waters. Not only did the singer’s track (the one selected here ‘Rollin’ Stone’) provide the band with their name, but his unique style influenced Richards’ incredible playing. In 1981, The Rolling Stones shared the stage in with the icon, a time Richards’ remembers with glee: “You want to be a blues player, the next minute you fucking well are and you’re stuck right amongst them, and there’s Muddy Waters standing next to you. It happens so fast you really can’t register all of the impressions that are coming at you… It’s one thing to play a Muddy Waters song. It’s another thing to play with him.”
There is, of course, room for the enigmatic Little Richard on the selection, too, with ‘Lucille’ being picked up. With it, Richards provides a team of guitar music’s greatest players to make sure you’re well educated on the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. There are also nods to Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy (another artist Richards has played with), The Coasters and Fats Domino.
It makes for an incredible playlist and offers up a plethora of artists to delve deeper into. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, is that these musicians helped inspire Keith Richards to become a member of The Rolling Stones and push the band into the upper echelons of music’s history.
15 songs that inspired The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards: