Guest Column: Charlie Watts & The Big Question

Charlie Watts, 1960s, London, Photographer unknown

by Ralph Greco, Jr


So, somebody tell me the rule: How many original band members still need to be in a band for that band to be able to call themselves by their original name?

The passing of original Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts brings the above question into clear focus, seeing as, of this writing, “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” are about to embark on a tour of the U.S. Before Charlie’s passing, the Stones announced that killer drummer Steve Jordan would be sitting in on the skins as at the time, Mr. Watts Charlie announced he’d being staying off the tour to recover from an “unspecified medical procedure.”

Unfortunately, the perennially well-dressed, jazzy, and effective skin man died this week at the age of 80. But the Stones shoulder on, with now only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards left as original members. The band had replaced their original bassist Billy Wayman in the early 90’s and has seen three different ‘second’ guitar players in its history. Surely, this band is not the only one who’ve augmented their lineup with replacements and even additional players. But again, I ask, how many original members need to remain for the band to still appear under their original name? When do all the replacements and add-ons simply render a band nothing much more than a well-rehearsed cover band with a sprinkling of original members along for the ride?

In the case of progressive rock legends, yes, there are no actual original members playing and recording under that band name. Original Kiss members, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley (the only two original members presently populating the hard rocking four-piece) have said that they can see Kiss carrying on by simply replacing themselves when they end their long stint with their band this year. Surely certain songs mean so much to audiences that those audiences will forgo the idea of who is “actually” playing the song as long as they get to see the band who performed that song…at least in name.

And indeed, the many men and women who replace specific players are often fantastic players. But the end-game question becomes (and it & #39’s the same question I put to myself when I consider movie sequels and remakes): How far away from the original do we get when the thing becomes wholly something different than what was originally intended?

And does anybody even care about this face anymore?

R.I.P. Charlie Watts.