Brian Jones founder of The Rolling Stones loved his fans.
And the many letters that continue to surface prove that.
Most of all his letters ended with…
“I must rush dear honestly.”
I wonder what The Rolling Stones would be today if he lived?
Would he have re-joined them?
Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969), known as Brian Jones, was an English musician and founding member of The Rolling Stones. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist whose use of non-traditional instruments, such as the sitar and marimba, were integral to the changing sound of the Rolling Stones.
Forming The Rolling Stones
Jones left Cheltenham and moved to London where he became friends with fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and others who made up the small London rhythm and blues and jazz scene there. He became a blues musician, for a brief time calling himself “Elmo Lewis”, and playing slide guitar. Jones also started a band with Paul Jones called The Roosters and in January 1963, after both Brian and Paul left the group, Eric Clapton took over Brian’s position as guitarist.
Jones placed an advertisement in Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) of 2 May 1962 inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayers Arms pub; pianist Ian “Stu” Stewart was the first to respond. Later singer Mick Jagger also joined this band; Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards had met Jones when he and Paul Jones were playing Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” with Korner’s band at The Ealing Club. Jagger brought guitarist Richards to rehearsals; Richards then joined the band. Jones’s and Stewart’s acceptance of Richards and the Chuck Berry songs he wanted to play coincided with the departure of blues purists Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight, who had no tolerance for Chuck Berry.
As Keith Richards tells it, Jones came up with the name “The Rollin’ Stones” (later with the ‘g’) while on the phone with a venue owner. “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor—and track one was ‘Rollin’ Stone Blues’”.
The Rollin’ Stones played their first gig on 12 July 1962 in the Marquee Club in London with Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, bass player Dick Taylor (later of The Pretty Things) and drummer Tony Chapman.
From mid-1962 to late 1963 Jones, Jagger and Richards shared an apartment (referred to by Richards as “a beautiful dump” in Chelsea, London at 102 Edith Grove, Chelsea, with James Phelge, a future photographer whose last name was used in some of the band’s early “Nanker/Phelge” writing credits. Jones and Richards spent day after day playing guitar while listening to blues records (notably Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf). During this time, Jones also taught Jagger how to play harmonica.
The four Rollin’ Stones went searching for a bassist and drummer, finally settling on Bill Wyman on bass because he had a spare VOX AC30 guitar amplifier and always had cigarettes, as well as a bass guitar that he had built himself. After playing with Mick Avory, Tony Chapman and Carlo Little, in January 1963 they finally persuaded jazz-influenced Charlie Watts to join them. At the time, Watts was considered by fellow musicians to be one of the better drummers in London; he had played with (among others) Alexis Korner’s group Blues Incorporated.
Watts described Jones’s role in these early days: “Brian was very instrumental in pushing the band at the beginning. Keith and I would look at him and say he was barmy. It was a crusade to him to get us on the stage in a club and be paid a half-crown and to be billed as an R&B band”.
The group played at local blues and jazz clubs, garnering fans in spite of resistance from traditional jazz musicians who felt threatened by their popularity. While Jagger was lead singer, Jones, in the group’s embryonic period, was the leader—promoting the band, landing gigs, and negotiating with venue owners. Jones played guitar and harmonica, and during performances, especially at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, he proved to be a more lively and engaging performer than even Jagger. Jagger initially stood still while singing—partly by necessity, as their early stages hardly provided enough room to move.
While acting as the band’s business manager, Jones received £5 more than the other members, which did not sit well with the rest of the band and created resentment.
Departure from the band
Jones was arrested a second time on 21 May 1968, for possession of cannabis, which Jones said had been left by previous tenants of the flat. He was facing a long jail sentence if found guilty, owing to his probation. Wyman commented, “The fact that the police had secured a warrant with no evidence showed the arrest was part of a carefully orchestrated plan. Brian and the Stones were being targeted in an effort to deter the public from taking drugs”. The jury found him guilty, but the judge had sympathy for Jones; instead of jailing him, he fined him £50 plus £105 in costs and told him: “For goodness sake, don’t get into trouble again or it really will be serious”.
Jones’s legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse and mood swings became too much of an obstacle to active participation in the band. The Rolling Stones wanted to tour the United States in 1969 for the first time in three years, but Jones was not in fit condition to tour and his second arrest exacerbated problems with acquiring a US work visa. In addition, Jones’s attendance of rehearsals and recording sessions had become erratic; and when he did appear, he rarely contributed anything musically, or his bandmates would switch off his guitar, leaving Richards playing nearly all the guitars. According to Gary Herman, Jones was “literally incapable of making music; when he tried to play harmonica, his mouth started bleeding”.
This behavior was problematic during the Beggar’s Banquet sessions, and had worsened by the time the band commenced recording Let It Bleed. While the band was recording “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, Jones asked Jagger, “What can I play?”; Jagger’s response was, “I don’t know, Brian, what can you play?” From this point, he made himself scarce, rarely attending sessions. By May, he had made two contributions to the work in progress: autoharp on “You Got the Silver” and percussion on “Midnight Rambler”. Jagger informed Jones that he would be dismissed from the band if Jones did not appear at a photo shoot on 21 May 1969 for the compilation album Through The Past Darkly. He showed.
The Stones decided that following the release of the Let it Bleed album (scheduled for a July 1969 release in the US), they would start a North American tour in November 1969. However, the Stones management was informed that because of his drug convictions, Jones would not receive a work permit. At the suggestion of pianist and road manager Ian Stewart, the Stones decided to add a new guitarist, and on 8 June 1969, Jones was visited by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts, and was told that the group he had formed would continue without him.
To the public, it appeared as if Jones had left voluntarily; the other band members told him that although he was being asked to leave, it was his choice how to break it to the public. Jones released a statement on 9 June 1969 announcing his departure. In this statement he said, among other things, that “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting”. Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers).
At this time Jones was living at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the residence formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne, which Jones had purchased in November 1968. There is uncertainty as to the mental and physical state Jones was in. The last known photographs, taken by schoolgirl Helen Spittal on 23 June 1969, shortly after his departure from the Stones, are not flattering; Jones appears bloated, with deep-set eyes. People who visited (particularly Alexis Korner) were surprised, however, by Jones’s state in late June. Korner noted that Jones was “happier than he had ever been” at this time. He is known to have contacted Ian Stewart, Mitch Mitchell, Alexis Korner and Jimmy Miller about intentions to put together another band.
At around midnight on the night of 2–3 July 1969, Jones was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. His Swedish girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, was convinced he was alive when they took him out, insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived, it was too late, and he was pronounced dead. The coroner’s report stated “Death by misadventure”, and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
Wohlin claimed in 1999 that Jones had been murdered by a builder who had been renovating the house the couple shared. The builder, Frank Thorogood, allegedly confessed to the murder on his deathbed to the Rolling Stones’ driver, Tom Keylock; Keylock later denied this. In the book The Murder of Brian Jones, Wohlin alleges that Thorogood behaved suspiciously and showed little sympathy when Jones was discovered in the pool (he was the last to see Jones alive), but she has stated that she was not present at Jones’s death. Witnesses who claim to have seen the “murder” have been interviewed by journalists; however, these witnesses have almost always used pseudonyms, and none has been willing to go on record or report to the police. A critical witness, still alive, is a man called ‘Marty’ in the Hotchner book Blown Away.
Many items, such as instruments and expensive furniture, reportedly were stolen from the home after Jones’s death. Rumours also exist that recordings by Jones for his future projects were stolen but nothing has surfaced to date. A watch given by Alexis Korner to Brian, with a personal inscription, surfaced at Christie’s in New York.
This watch belonging to Mick a gift from Ahmet Ertegun, came from the same collector.
Upon Jones’s death, Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled “A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day” (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on US television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors published a poem entitled “Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased”.
The Rolling Stones performed at a free concert in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, two days after Jones’s death. The concert had been scheduled weeks earlier as an opportunity to present the new guitarist, and the band decided to dedicate the concert to Jones. Before the Rolling Stones’ set, Jagger read excerpts from “Adonais”, a poem by Percy Shelley about the death of his friend John Keats, and stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies as part of the tribute. The band opened with a Johnny Winter song that was one of Jones’s favorites, “I’m Yours and I’m Hers”.
Jones was reportedly buried 12 feet (3.7 m) deep in Cheltenham Cemetery (to prevent exhumation by trophy hunters) in a lavish casket sent by Bob Dylan. Watts and Wyman were the only Rolling Stones who attended the funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were travelling to Australia to begin filming the movie Ned Kelly; they stated that their contracts did not allow them to delay the trip to attend the funeral. Keith Richards reportedly remained in the recording studio.
When asked if he felt guilty about Jones’s death, Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: “No, I don’t really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people, you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn’t understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you.”
In August 2009 it was reported around the world that Sussex Police had decided to review Brian Jones’ death for the first time since 1969, after new evidence was handed to them by Scott Jones, an investigative journalist in the UK. Scott Jones has traced many of the people who were at Brian Jones’ house the night he died, plus unseen police files held at the National Archives. In the Mail on Sunday in November 2008 Scott Jones said Frank Thorogood killed Brian Jones in a fight and the senior police officers covered up the true cause of death. Robert Greenfield wrote about the police review in the March 2010 edition of Playboy. Depending on the results of this review, the 1969 case that was originally ruled to be death by misadventure could be reopened as a murder investigation or the Coroner may be asked to review the inquest verdict. According to Ben Harris (Editor of Brian Jones Fanzine), the main person of interest in Brian Jones’s death was the builder Frank Thorogood, who died in 1994. Thorogood was interviewed by police but not charged; other witnesses were not interviewed.