Today would have been the 58th birthday of Brian Jones, who founded the Rolling Stones and was their original rhythm guitarist. Jones died in his swimming pool, under mysterious circumstances, in 1969.
Lewis Brian Hopkins-Jones was born Feb. 28, 1942, in Cheltenham, England. His mother was a piano teacher and his father played the organ for church. Always musically inclined, Jones began cutting classes as a youth to play clarinet and saxophone in jazz outfits. His hero was alto saxman Charlie Parker. As a teenager, Jones spent time in Scandinavia, where he learned to play guitar. He also had two children before he turned 20 and held a number of jobs, including as an architect's trainee and optician's assistant.
In his hometown, Jones joined the rock band the Ramrods. He then moved to London, where he played in Alexis Korner's Blues Inc. before starting his own band with pianist Ian Stewart.
Jones assumed the name Elmo Lewis and began gigging at the Ealing Blues Club, where he ran into Korner's band now featuring drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Keith Richards and sometime-singer Mick Jagger.
Jones, Jagger and Richards began living together and cut a demo tape of their bluesy rock, which was rejected by EMI Records. Using Stewart's salary from a chemicals job to get by, the band persevered and adopted the name the Rolling Stones, after a Muddy Waters song.
The Stones went through several bassists and drummers in 1962, before emerging in January 1963 with bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Watts. With the Beatles breaking big in the UK at the time, Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham decided to promote his band as a nastier version of the Fab Four. He suggested Stewart leave the band and become its roadie, because he felt the pianist didn't fit the new image.
Chuck Berry's "Come On" was the Stones' first single. The Beatles' John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned the Stones' second record, "I Wanna Be Your Man," which made the top 15 in the UK. A version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" followed and went top five, ultimately becoming the Stones' first U.S. chart entry. The group's first #1 back home was a cover of the Bobby Womack/Valentinos song "It's All Over Now." Jagger and Richards then began writing their own songs, including "The Last Time," which became the Stones' first U.S. top-10 hit.
The Stones became an international force in rock music in 1965, when the Jagger/Richards song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. As the pair became a dependable songwriting team, Jones began to try to adjust to taking a backseat in the group.
But Jones continued to put his stamp on the band. On its first LP of all original songs, Aftermath (1966), Jones added an Eastern influence by playing sitar on the #1 "Paint It Black" (RealAudio excerpt). But Jones' musical contributions diminished as he began to descend into drug addiction.
Though he contributed to the Stones' masterpiece Beggar's Banquet, Jones grew increasingly unreliable, and his drug busts were making it difficult for the band to tour. Jagger began planning to replace Jones with Mick Taylor, who had already played on their then-about-to-be-issued single "Honky Tonk Woman." Although Jones announced to the press that he was leaving the band of his own accord to start a blues band, he was troubled by his dismissal.
Shortly thereafter, on July 2, 1969, an inebriated Jones who also had been popping pills and using an asthma inhaler was swimming with some women and workers at his estate (which had once been owned by "Winnie the Pooh" creator A.A. Milne), in Sussex. In the early morning hours of the following day, Jones was pulled out of the pool by his girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, who tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him. Though his death was ruled an accident, witnesses have claimed that they saw the workers pushing Jones' head under water.
The Stones carried on with Taylor and gave a concert in Jones' honor at London's Hyde Park, during which they unleashed a quarter of a million white butterflies as Jagger memorialized his fallen bandmate with a reading from poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Adonais."
"I want to say a few words about Brian," Jagger said, prefacing the poem, "and about his going when we didn't expect him to."
In 1971 an LP of Moroccan music Jones had been working on in the late '60s, Brian Jones Presents: Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, was issued by Polygram.
Jones was inducted, along with the Stones, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Other birthdays on Monday: John Fahey, 61; Joe South, 60; Marty Sanders (Jay and the Americans), 59; Barbara Acklin, 57; Ronnie Rosman (Tommy James and the Shondells), 55; Eddie Manion (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes), 48; Phillip Gould (Level 42), 43; Cindy Wilson (B-52's), 43.