Bill Wyman - Biography

Bill WymanBill Wyman (born William George Perks on 24 October 1936) was the bassist for the English rock and roll band The Rolling Stones from its founding in 1962 until 1991.

Music career

Bill Wyman (real name Bill Perks) spent most of his early life in Penge, then in the county of Kent, England. He attended Grammar School from 1947 to Easter 1953. Wyman took piano lessons from ages 10 to 13. After his marriage, he bought a guitar, but wasn't satisfied by his own progress. After hearing a bass guitar at a Barron Knights' concert, he fell in love with the sound of it and decided that this was his instrument. He created the first fretless electric bass, by removing the frets from a bass guitar he was reworking, and played this in a local south London band, The Cliftons. He began calling himself Bill Wyman using the surname of a friend with whom he had done National Service in the Royal Air Force.

When drummer Tony Chapman told him of a fledgling rhythm and blues band called The Rolling Stones who needed a bass player, he applied for the job and was officially hired in December 1962, as a successor of co-founder, Dick Taylor. Although The Stones were impressed by his instrument and amplifier, they weren't too fond of Wyman's style and personality (probably influenced by the six-year age gap). Although he developed into a strong bass player and a key-element in the group's sound, Wyman always remained something of an outsider in the Stones during the following decades. Wyman's work as a Rolling Stone after the first year or so of being in the band, both in the studio and during concerts, rarely involved vocals. One notable exception was the song "In Another Land", released both on the Their Satanic Majesties Request album and, oddly enough, also as a solo Bill Wyman single. A second Wyman penned song, "Downtown Suzie", was released on a collection of Rolling Stones outtakes, with the title of the song altered by Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein without informing either Wyman or the band.

In the 1970s and early '80s he released three solo albums, none of which was particularly successful. The last one, 1982's eponymous new-wave rock offering, gave him a European hit single, "(Si,Si)Je suis un Rock Star", a parody on his French rock star exile status.

He also produced/managed some groups like rockers Tucky Buzzard.

Wyman kept a detailed daily journal of his days with the Rolling Stones. He used this journal extensively in writing his history of the Rolling Stones Rolling with The Stones and also his Stone Alone autobiography.

Evidently Wyman maintained a friendly relationship with guitarist Mick Taylor, the first member of the Rolling Stones to voluntarily leave the band. He continued to work with Taylor on solo projects from time to time after Taylor left the band.

Wyman says he created the essential riff to "Jumpin' Jack Flash", although Mick Jagger and Keith Richards dispute the claim and are credited with writing the song (Keith Richards even played the bass on it, much to Wyman's chagrin).

In the 1980s, distance grew between the other band members and Wyman due to, amongst other things, the Mandy Smith affair. After having contributed to the album Steel Wheels (1989), he decided he'd had enough of it, but took some time to finalise his decision. The Stones regretted his leaving but didn't seem too weakened by it. Instead of choosing a permanent replacement, they recruited several bass players to support them during recordings and concerts, the first of whom, Darryl Jones, made the strongest impression.

Wyman continues to tour with his backing band, The Rhythm Kings, which has featured such musicians as Martin Taylor, Albert Lee and Georgie Fame.

Musical instruments

Wyman is an adept musician, teaching himself to play several instruments including autoharp, guitar, vibraphone, glockenspiel, piano, organ, synthesizer, percussion and cello. He has also contributed backing vocals. His innovative bass sound came not only from his home-made fretless bass, but from the "walking bass" style he adopted (largely inspired by the odd couple of Willie Dixon and Ricky Fenson) and his tight work with Charlie Watts. Their sound not only anchored the group, but exemplified the "heartbeat and pulse" idea behind ideal rhythm sections.

Personal life

At age 47, Bill Wyman began a relationship with 13-year old Mandy Smith, with her mother's blessing. Six years later, they were married, but the marriage only lasted a year. Not long after, Bill's 30-year-old son Stephen married Mandy's mother, age 46. That made Stephen a stepfather to his former stepmother. (If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father's father-in-law and his own grandfather.) He was also very close to the late Rolling Stones founder/guitarist Brian Jones. One can easily note how Jones' death affected him; in early videos and recordings he seems more enthusiastic and animated, compared with the "Stone Face" persona he would adopt later. In books and other reflections made in the Stones' later eras and his "post-Stones" life, he is the only (vocal) band member who holds Jones in any kind of esteem.

Bill Wyman Official Website

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