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Listen to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' pre-Rolling Stones band 'The Blues Boys'


As the old saying goes, everybody needs to start somewhere. Whether it’s paying your dues in a garage band or playing at night while working during the day, no musician has ever sprung fully formed out of the ether and into superstardom. The Rolling Stones are no exception, and before they gathered some of the best musicians in London around them, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were simply another pair of blues-obsessed teenagers to approximate their heroes from across the Atlantic.

Before befriending future band members Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart in 1962, Jagger and Richards led a five-man unit named The Blues Boys, also featuring guitarists Dick Taylor, Bob Beckwith, and drummer Allen Etherington. It was this configuration of musicians that recorded a few homemade demo tapes at the homes of Beckwith and Etherington. According to the box, Taylor actually pulls double duty on guitar and drums, with Etherington being relegated to percussion.

The tapes find the young band performing exactly what some fresh-faced blues fanatics would be trying out in the early 1960s. Jimmy Reed is the standout, but what’s the most telling is how little blues The Blues Boys actually played. Instead, rock and roll from the likes of Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, and especially Chuck Berry are all over the early tapes. Berry was a sticking point during the early Stones days as Jones wasn’t initially a fan, much to the chagrin of Jagger and Richards. Obviously the latter two were the ones picking most of the material for The Blues Boys, and four different Berry tunes can be found on the tape: ‘Johnny B. Goode’, ‘Around and Around’, ‘Little Queenie’, and ‘Beautiful Delilah’.

Despite it’s lo-fi sound, Jagger’s distinctive vocal style can be heard loud and clear. Strangely enough, so can Richards’ distinctive early style, which was heavily indebted to figures like Elmore James and Scotty Moore. Richards is precise, technically gifted, and easily the loudest instrument in the mix, standing out more than even Jagger’s vocals.

Inevitably, The Blues Boys would disintegrate when Jagger and Richards eventually hooked up with Jones and started hanging out at the Ealing Jazz Club. They both started sitting in with Blues Incorporated, a local outfit whose rotating cast of famous musicians was only rivalled by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in terms of legendary status: Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Graham Bond, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and Ron Wood all sat in at different points, making them one of the most important groups in promoting the British Blues boom.

Listen to the early tapes of The Blues Boys down below.