Bill Wyman: Satisfaction Guaranteed (Relix Revisited)
You’re a reference point for so many players. I’m curious who was your reference point as a young bass player in the 1960s? Who were you looking to for guidance or inspiration?
Booker T and the MGs. [Donald] “Duck” Dunn. He was my idol and of course, over the years, he’s become a great friend who I see quite regularly because he comes to England a couple times a year. We get together and have something to eat or something. Steve Cropper I know quite well now, spend some time with him sometimes. But he was my, like, idol. I mean Willie Dixon was an upright bass player. I had to emulate certain things he did because we played those kind of songs when we began. Muddy Waters’ stuff, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, so on, so on. But it was a bit difficult because I was playing a bass guitar with a guitar pick and he was playing an upright with the slap and that applied to Chuck Berry records, etc., etc.
Since I’ve been with the Rhythm Kings, I’ve restyled myself, actually. I’ve moved onto just playing with my thumb, flat wound strings, a big speaker, which I always had that see, a 15-inch or 18-inch speaker just to get that fat bottom. I’ve tried to play so it sounds a bit like an upright now. I play notes and I move the way an upright plays rather than rock and roll. And I enjoy it much more, I must say, it seems to fit, simply you play, another simple bass player, you know I’ve always tried to be that, leave space. It works very well for me. It’s the Booker T people really, and also Carl Radle who was in with Eric Clapton and Leon Russell and people like that in the ‘70s, who was a very similar bass player to me and often we used to get together and I’d say that it sounds like me playing Eric’s song, you know, and he’d say it sounds like me when you play. You know, those kind of simple players that leave lots of space and holes and I think that’s quite important.
Considering the Stones were named after a Muddy Waters song and you’re such a massive blues and R&B fan, what was it like for you hanging with legends like Muddy Waters and the Chess crew in the 60s and backing Bo Diddley with Charlie Watts in 1963?
Yeah, I played with Muddy on a number of occasions actually, outside of the band. I know the band got together with him in Chicago in the ‘70s, in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. I played with Muddy in Montreaux in ‘74. I also played with him again in Montreaux in ‘78, and I saw him on many occasions in between. I was able to do that. I was very fortunate and I enjoyed every minute of it. But, there again, it was just a matter of playing with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Muddy, those people who just kept keeping the bottom end in and keeping it simple and letting then do their thing over it. But you gotta build that foundation and that’s what Charlie and I did with the Stones and we’re those kind of players. It’s just making a foundation for other people to get off on and be extroverts (laughing). You know, you can sit in the back and just watch them and say here they go again.
Dec. 7, 1962 you audition for The Rolling Stones and get the job. At what point did you realize that it was more than just another gig? That this was something changing rock and roll?
It never crossed our mind. I did realize that, once Charlie joined the band, cause I’d joined just a month before him with my drummer from my band, and when Charlie joined I noticed a difference because Charlie was a jazz drummer, and we locked in very quickly together, and then it just sort of slowly escalated. But you never thought, none of us ever thought it would go into something major where we’d be making records or being on TV or going abroad to play because it wasn’t done for those reasons. It was done just to play music and we were playing jazz clubs and things like that because that’s the only place there was to play. And so those thoughts were far away from us. It’s only when we started to have riots and craziness in clubs and in the small theaters that we suddenly realized that something’s going on here and we saw what was happening with The Beatles and we thought well, we could be like that as well maybe because we play totally different music and we’re great friends with them and there’s room for both stars in music.
I interviewed Jim Dickinson a while ago and we got to talking about the Stones. And he said of its latest incarnation, “You go see them now, it’s not The Stones, it sounds like a cover band.”
Well they work to time rhythm; they have a time, tempo time, and things like that which we never had obviously. And I’ve seen them on a number of occasions, and the more I see them, the more, without being too critical, the more they sound machine-like, rather than free and dangerous as they were in my days when you never knew whether it was all going to fall to pieces in the next chorus or whether it was going to elevate into something magic. And it always elevated to something magic fortunately. Very rarely did it sort of collapse, but there was always a danger of that, and there was always this kind of floaty feeling in the band, you know, which was very nice and exciting. I just find it all sounds too worked out and perfect and all that now.
I get, literally, hundreds of emails from fans saying we missed you on the last tour, you should have been there, it doesn’t sound the same, etc, etc, etc. But I don’t really want to dwell on that because it’s all in the past and it’s not sour grapes or anything because I’m still the greatest of friends with everybody. In fact I’m doing a session with Charlie and Peter Frampton on Monday. I asked Charlie if he wanted to come and I see Charlie all the time because he lives quite close and his granddaughter and my children go to the same school so we’re constantly in touch. I see Woody [Ron Wood] quite a lot, Mick. I don’t see Keith much because he lives in America, but it’s a very friendly situation, so it’s not sour grapes as such.
But I do get multiple emails from fans in Germany and everywhere else saying it doesn’t quite sound like it should. But, you know, it’s bound to change when someone else comes in. I mean, when Brian Jones died and Mick Taylor came in the sound of the band changed considerably, and the same happened when Mick Taylor left and Ronnie Wood joined, and it’s bound to happen when one member leaves, but it doesn’t stop the band.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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