Charlie Watts: A man and his cars and clothes but no driving

James Raia

Some rock & roll stars collect women. Charlie Watts preferred one, Shirley Ann Shephard, his wife of 57 years. Instead, the deceased Rolling Stones drummer fancied fancy clothes and vintage cars. He often coordinated his style hobbies as package deals.

Watts, who died at age 80 on Aug. 24, didn’t enjoy driving his rare vehicles. He’d opt for proper attire for the occasion to sit in one of the cars and enjoy the combined craftsmanship of his suits and his vehicles.

Charlie Watts, the drummer for The Rolling Stones who died Aug. 24 at age 80, had a collectio of vintage cars he didn't drive.
Charlie Watts, the drummer for The Rolling Stones who died Aug. 24 at age 80, had a collection of vintage cars he didn’t drive.

Watts didn’t have a driver’s license. He liked how cars were made, how they looked and how they sounded. It was somehow all made better when he took it all in while wearing the proper custom-made attire. He reportedly owned 200 suits and not quite as many cars.

The drummer’s entire car collection wasn’t discussed after his death. But several of his most well-known vehicles were revisited in remembrances.

Among other vehicles, Watts owned: a 1937 Lagonda Rapide Cabriolet with a V12 (only 25 were made); Citroën 2CV (The French sedan James Bond drove “For Your Eyes Only”); Bugatti Atlantic (late 1930s); Citroën Méhari; Lamborghini Muira; and several Rolls-Royces.

Charlie Watts the recently deceased Rolling Stones drummer, owned a 1937 Lagonda Rapide Cabriolet with a V12.
Charlie Watts, the recently deceased Rolling Stones drummer, owned a 1937 Lagonda Rapide Cabriolet with a V12.

“I just love the shape of old cars,” Watts said in a 2018 interview with the British music magazine New Musical Express. “I can’t drive, so I just sit in them and listen to the engine. I suppose you could call it a rich man’s indulgence.”

Charlie Watts didn’t drive but still loved cars

While not as fanatical about cars as Watts, other Rolling Stones band members enjoyed vintage vehicles and, unlike their bandmate, liked driving them.

Keith Richards often drove a 1972 Ferrari Dino 246GT. Mick Jagger preferred a 1966 Aston Martin DB6. Bill Wyman drove a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 250 S luxury limousine. Richards, Jagger and Wyman also all had 1983 Ferrari 400I models and drove them in London and in the UK countryside when feasible.

But with celebrity, convenience and privacy reigned. The band’s concert stops around the world were best accomplished with travel in a customized private Boeing 737-400. The group owned it.

Regardless, the Rolling Stones’ collective and individual interests in automobiles remained important. The group sang songs with lyrics about cars, including “I see a line of cars /And they’re all painted black.”

It’s from the single “Paint it, Black.” One interpretation of the song is that it’s about a person struggling with depression.

The song “Black Limousine” is a single from the band’s 1981 album “Tattoo You.”

Richards and Jagger co-wrote the group’s single, “Brand New Car.”

It’s taken from the studio album “Voodoo Lounge” and was released in July 1994. The lyrics are often cited as being about a woman.

The song begins: “I got a brand new car / And I like to drive real hard / I got a brand new car / And I’m feeling good so far / Take her on the highway for a little spin / I want to see the kind of shape she’s in.”

With more than 400 songs recorded, the Rolling Stones’ catalog of tunes with automotive themes also includes: “Moonlight Mile,” “All Down the Line” and a cover of “Route 66.” The latter may be the band’s best-known automotive-related tune. It begins:

“Well, if you ever plan to motor west / Try take my way / That’s the highway / That’s the best / Get your kicks on Route 66.”

The song was written in 1946 by Bobby Troup, an actor who played a neurosurgeon on the 1970’s television drama ”Emergency.” He died in 1999.

The Stones recorded the song in 1964, joining an illustrious and varied group with iconic renditions, Nat King Cole to Chuck Berry, Depeche Mode to John Mayer.

In a black-and-white YouTube video of the Rolling Stones’ recording, Watts is on the drums in his usual background perch. He’s wearing a suit and a thin necktie. And he’s keeping the beat more or less with his signature way — less is more.

Article Last Updated: August 26, 2021.

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