Straight from the horse's mouth - It wasn't Mick Avory that day at the Marquee...
INTERVIEW WITH "KINK" MICK AVORY.
THE STORY THAT BILL WYMAN GOT WRONG: MICK AVORY’S TRUE INVOLVEMENT IN THE ROLLING STONES SAGA.
In the chapter about the very early days of The Rolling Stones’ saga in “Stone Alone”, Bill Wyman got one thing wrong: Mick Avory did not – read: not – occupy the drummer’s stool at their 12 July 1962 gig at The Marquee. Wyman also omits to mention Mick Avory’s real involvement, viz. two rehearsals with the embryonic Stones the weeks before that gig.
When we phone Mick Avory at his London home one day in March 2007, he suffers a horrible bronchitis. Friendly and helpful – apparently, some of my questions are not exactly new – he patiently replies to my questions through a number of bouts of cough. Mick Avory became The Kinks’ drummer in January 1964, but two years earlier he simply refused the vacant job of drummer with…The Rollin’ Stones (mind the spelling) who were then rehearsing for their famous 12 July 1962 gig at The Marquee. Mick Avory truly is a footnote to the Stones story, since his involvement is restricted to…two rehearsals at The Bricklayers Arms in Soho. Still, it’s worth listening to Mick’s story as it reflects a genuine and demystified context of the emerging pop, R&B and blues scene in 1962: innocence, ignorance, idealism, young guys trying to gain a few extra ££ and luck. Lots of luck.Mr Avory, various sources like Wikipedia, www.drummerworld.com and even Bill Wyman’s book ‘Stone Alone’ claim you were the drummer at The Rollin’ Stones’ famous Marquee gig on 12 July 1962. But you say you weren’t. How did you become involved in the embryonic Rollin’ Stones in the first place?
Mick Avory: "The reason I came across Mick Jagger was that I had a day job and was doing gigs some evenings, usually weekends. One of the people I worked with was this young guy - , 14, 15 years old - he played the vibes and piano. His father was a drummer and a chimney sweep. He came round to my house to sweep the chimney and noticed the drums in the room and remarked: “You have a son playing drums, I could get him some work” - because I worked with his son see.
He used to advertise as a drummer in the Melody Maker and he got this contact from one Mick Jagger. He realized they were all youngsters and he was sixty back then and he passed the job on to me: “Do you want to do a gig at the Marquee with Alexis Korner?”. So I rang Mick Jagger who was unheard of then, it was 1962, he spoke to me and he said “Come up, we’ll run through a few things, got this gig to do”. (Note: Alexis Korner having other commitments, he passed the gig to Mick Jagger who subsequently had to put a group together and rehearse – ed.).
So I went out there. Keith was there, Elmo Jones was there - who was Brian Jones calling himself Elmo after Elmore James - they had this Chuck Berry thing in their heads. Everything would be Chuck Berry, we ran through Sweet Little Sixteen and a few more Chuck Berry songs. Ian Stewart, who was in the band then, was telling me all about this R&B thing that was coming in, how it was getting big and taking over the world, that it was only beginning in England. I was skeptical, I had a day job and I wasn’t at the time thinking of doing it for a living. I could do the gig, but I wasn’t really interested in joining a band.
So I went back a second time and rehearsed with them an said ‘If I do the gig, I wouldn’t want to carry on’. Ian said he understood. Ian Stewart was convinced this was gonna go somewhere. They were sort of fairly well-known in their own area. I wasn’t in the swing of things, so I didn’t know them. They were joust doing a few gigs around the area, like Ealing and Richmond. I hadn’t heard anything at the time, because I came from a town called Molesey, near Richmond. It was quite early in 1962, they were just piecing the band together and I didn’t even know what they were called”.
Mick Avory forgot about the rehearsals, the band and the music. Quite later, he picks up an issue of Jazz News and to his surprise sees himself listed under the “personnel” of a new band that one Mick Jagger had formed…
Mick Avory “That issue turned out to be a year old and there was a column that read ‘Mick Jagger forms a new group called The Rollin’ Stones’. I hadn’t realized what they were called, but they’d had a hit by then. That’s when I first realized that the guys I had rehearsed with were The Rolling Stones! I never actually did the gig, even though Wyman says I did. It’s such a long time ago, they’ve all forgotten”.
TONY CHAPMANIsn’t it strange that even recent sources keep on repeating that mistake? Apparently, they all copy Bill Wyman’s book.
Mick Avory: “Yeah, sounds like I did do it!”That’s a good one! But who did the gig at the Marquee?
Mick Avory: “I think Tony Chapman did the gig at the Marque. I didn’t. I just rehearsed twice in the Bricklayer Arms in the Soho”. (Note: Chapman was the regular drummer for The Cliftons whose bass-player was…Bill Wyman)I’m surprised you say they played so many Chuck Berry songs. Brian Jones for one wasn’t exactly into Chuck Berry.
Mick Avory: “I don’t remember that much about it. Everyone just played along, whatever people’s preferences were. It’s probably Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who picked up the Chuck Berry stuff. I spoke to Ian more than anyone and he was assuring me that this Chuck Berry stuff it was something new over here; these songs were recorded in the fifties but not released here. They used to get exports. These were all black guys, they weren’t pushed around the world”.Do you have memories of this or that Rolling Stone in particular?
Mick Avory: “Brian Jones seemed to be very into himself. He wasn’t that friendly, more on his own, keeping himself to himself. Mick was fairly friendly and Ian was kept fairly quiet. I remember thinking ‘Elmo’ was a strange name not knowing it came from Elmore James. But I can’t really remember. It wasn’t my world, it was a different world. Strange the way it came about. That’s all there was to it, really”.