Chuck Leavell recalled the “tense” experience of joining the Rolling Stones just when relations between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards hit rock bottom.
The former Allman Brothers Band pianist joined the Stones lineup 40 years ago after auditioning the year before and thinking he hadn’t gotten the job.
“I got a call from [road manager] Ian Stewart, and within 36 hours I was on a plane for the audition,” Leavell said. classic rock in a recent interview. “I stayed for three days and thought I got the job, but they kept Ian McLagan on this tour. Later that year they came to Atlanta and Stu called me… ‘Do you want to come over and do a Party ?’ So I got up and sat down to a few songs. Towards the end of the year, Stu called and said, “We’re going to tour Europe next year, and everyone has decided that he wanted you, so that’s when I got the official job for the first time.
But Jagger and Richards were rubbing shoulders at the time, which would soon lead to the two musicians embarking on solo projects.
“Things were tense,” Leavell said. “It wasn’t the best time in their relationship at all. But even with that tension, making music was a process they knew they had to go through. It wasn’t just an obligation to a label, it was a was about making music. I really admire how they found a way out of it.
He noted that “it says a lot about why we’re celebrating 60 years of The Rolling Stones. They’ve always found a way to make it work, and right now the band is closer than ever.”
Leavell was named musical director of the Stones, a title he walked away from. “I kinda don’t care because Mick and Keith are the music directors as far as I’m concerned,” he explained. I set tempos, became the go-to guy for arrangements, which started translating into stage cues. … If Mick is working with the crowd, he can look back and I can wave him to keep rolling or ‘here’s the verse’, ‘here’s the chorus’, that sort of thing. I also composed the setlists.
He added that “people say, ‘Don’t you get tired of ‘Start Me Up’ or one of those songs you’ve played 1,000 times?’ And the answer is, ‘Damn, no! Are you kidding me?’ I look here and I’m like, ‘Is that Keith Richards? Is that Ronnie Wood?’ I’m happy every time.”
Rolling Stones album chart
Ready to travel to the (dark) past? Check out the Rolling Stones albums ranked from worst to best.