28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969 (27 Years old)
Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones was the founder and original bandleader of the Rolling Stones. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, with his main instruments being the guitar, the harmonica and the keyboards. His innovative use of traditional or folk instruments, such as the sitar and marimba, was integral to the changing sound of the band.
Although he was originally the leader of the group, Jones's fellow band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soon overshadowed him, especially after they became a successful songwriting team. He developed a serious drug problem over the years and his role in the band steadily diminished. He was asked to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969 and guitarist Mick Taylor took his place in the group. Jones died less than a month later by drowning in the swimming pool at his home on Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, East Sussex.
Original Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman said of Jones, "He formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. ... Very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it -- highly intelligent -- and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.
Forming the Rolling Stones
Jones left Cheltenham and moved to London where he became friends with fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and others who made up the small London rhythm and blues and jazz scene there. He became a blues musician, for a brief time calling himself "Elmo Lewis", and playing slide guitar. Jones also started a group with Paul Jones called the Roosters and in January 1963, after both Brian and Paul left the group, Eric Clapton took over Brian's position as guitarist.
Jones placed an advertisement in Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) of 2 May 1962 inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayer's Armspub; pianist Ian "Stu" Stewart was the first to respond. Later singer Mick Jagger also joined this band; Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards had met Jones when he and Paul Jones were playing Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" with Korner's band at the Ealing Jazz Club. Jagger brought guitarist Richards to rehearsals; Richards then joined the band. Jones's and Stewart's acceptance of Richards and the Chuck Berry songs he wanted to play coincided with the departure of blues purists Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight, who had no tolerance for Chuck Berry.
As Keith Richards tells it, Jones came up with the name the "Rollin' Stones" (later with the 'g') while on the phone with a venue owner. "The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, 'What are you called?' Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor—and track five, side one was 'Rollin` Stone'".
The Rollin' Stones played their first gig on 12 July 1962 in the Marquee Club in London with Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, bass player Dick Taylor (later of the Pretty Things) and drummer Tony Chapman.
The four Rollin' Stones went searching for a bassist and drummer, finally settling on Bill Wyman on bass because he had a spare VOX AC30 guitar amplifier and always had cigarettes, as well as a bass guitar that he had built himself. After playing with Mick Avory, Tony Chapman and Carlo Little, in January 1963 they finally persuaded jazz-influenced Charlie Watts to join them. At the time, Watts was considered by fellow musicians to be one of the better drummers in London; he had played with (among others) Alexis Korner's group Blues Incorporated.
Watts described Jones's role in these early days: "Brian was very instrumental in pushing the band at the beginning. Keith and I would look at him and say he was barmy. It was a crusade to him to get us on the stage in a club and be paid half-a-crown and to be billed as an R&B band".
While Jagger was lead singer, Jones, in the group's embryonic period, was the leader—promoting the band, landing gigs, and negotiating with venue owners. Jones played guitar and harmonica, and during performances, especially at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, he proved to be a more lively and engaging performer than even Jagger.
While acting as the band's business manager, Jones received £5 more than the other members, which did not sit well with the rest of the band and created resentment. Keith Richards has said that both he and Mick were surprised to learn that Brian considered himself the leader and was receiving the extra £5, especially as other people, like Giorgio Gomelsky, appeared to be doing the booking.
Estrangement from Bandmates
Andrew Loog Oldham's arrival marked the beginning of Jones's slow estrangement, his prominent role gradually diminishing as the Stones' centre shifted from Jones to Jagger and Richards. Oldham recognised the financial advantages of bandmembers' writing their own songs, as exemplified by Lennon–McCartney, and that playing covers would not sustain a band in the limelight for long. Further, Oldham wanted to make Jagger's charisma and flamboyance a focus of live performances. Jones saw his influence over the Stones' direction slide as their repertoire comprised fewer of the blues covers that he preferred; more Jagger/Richards originals developed, and Oldham increased his own managerial control, displacing Jones from yet another role.
According to Oldham in his book Stoned, Jones was an outsider from the beginning. When the first tours were arranged in 1963, he travelled separately from the band, stayed at different hotels, and demanded extra pay. According to Oldham, Jones was very emotional and felt alienated because he was not a prolific song writer and his management role had been taken away. He "resisted the symbiosis demanded by the group lifestyle, and so life was becoming more desperate for him day by day. None of us were looking forward to Brian totally cracking up".
The toll from days on the road, the money and fame, and the feeling of being alienated from the group resulted in Jones's overindulgence in alcohol and other drugs. He frequently used LSD, pills, and cannabis, and he drank heavily. These excesses had a debilitative effect on his physical health and, according to Oldham, Jones became unfriendly and asocial at times. His health problems caused him to be hospitalised on a number of occasions.
Jones was arrested for drug possession on 10 May 1967, shortly after the "Redlands" incident at Richards' Sussex home. Authorities found marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine in his flat. He confessed to marijuana use but claimed he did not use hard drugs. Reacting as fans did at the arrests of Jones's band mates, protesters appeared outside court demanding that Jones be freed. He was not kept in jail but was fined, given probation, and ordered to see a counselor.
In June 1967, Jones attended the Monterey Pop Festival with singer Nico, with whom he had a brief relationship. There he met Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper, and went on stage to introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience which was not well known yet in the USA. One review referred to Jones as "the unofficial 'king' of the festival".
Hostility grew between Jones, Jagger, and Richards, alienating Jones further from the group. Although many noted that Jones could be friendly and outgoing, Wyman, Richards, and Watts have commented that he could also be cruel and difficult. By most accounts, Jones's attitude changed frequently; he was one minute caring and generous, the next making an effort to anger everyone. As Wyman observed in Stone Alone: "There were two Brians... one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking... the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers... he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond".
In March 1967, Anita Pallenberg, Jones's girlfriend of two years, left him for Richards when Jones was hospitalised during a trip the three made to Morocco, further damaging the already strained relations between Jones and Richards. As tensions and Jones's substance use increased, his musical contributions became sporadic. He became bored with the guitar and sought exotic instruments to play, and he was increasingly absent from recording sessions. In Peter Whitehead's promotional film for "We Love You", made in July 1967, he appears groggy.
Jones's last substantial sessions with the Stones occurred in spring and summer of 1968 when the Stones produced "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and the Beggars Banquetalbum. He can be seen in the Jean-Luc Godard film One Plus One playing acoustic guitar and chatting and sharing cigarettes with Richards, although Jones is neglected in the music-making. The film chronicles the making of "Sympathy for the Devil". Jones's acoustic guitar can be heard occasionally in the film through the microphones of the film crew but was not included in the released version.
It was clear Jones was not long for the group. Where once he played multiple instruments on many tracks, now he played only minor roles on a few pieces. Jones's last formal appearance was in the December 1968 The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a part concert, part circus-act film organised by the band. It went unreleased for 25 years because Jagger was unhappy with the band's performance compared to others in the film such as Jethro Tull, The Who, and Taj Mahal. In the DVD release of the film Jones's playing is inaudible except during "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Sympathy For The Devil", and "No Expectations". Commentary included as bonus material indicated that almost everyone at the concert sensed that the end of Jones's time with the Rolling Stones was near, and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who thought it would be Jones's last live musical performance.
Departure from the band
Jones was arrested a second time on 21 May 1968, for possession of cannabis, which Jones said had been left by previous tenants of the flat. He was facing a long jail sentence if found guilty owing to his probation. Wyman commented, "The fact that the police had secured a warrant with no evidence showed the arrest was part of a carefully orchestrated plan. Brian and the Stones were being targeted in an effort to deter the public from taking drugs". The jury found him guilty but the judge had sympathy for Jones; instead of jailing him he fined him £50 plus £105 in costs and told him: "For goodness sake, don't get into trouble again or it really will be serious".
Jones's legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse and mood swings became too much of an obstacle to active participation in the band. The Rolling Stones wanted to tour the United States in 1969 for the first time in three years but Jones was not in fit condition to tour and his second arrest exacerbated problems with acquiring a US work visa. In addition, Jones's attendance of rehearsals and recording sessions had become erratic; and when he did appear he rarely contributed anything musically or his bandmates would switch off his guitar leaving Richards playing nearly all the guitars. According to Gary Herman, Jones was "literally incapable of making music; when he tried to play harmonica his mouth started bleeding".
This behaviour was problematic during the Beggar's Banquet sessions and had worsened by the time the band commenced recording Let It Bleed. In March 1969, Jones borrowed the group's Jaguar and went shopping in Pimlico Road. After the parked car was towed by police Jones hired a chauffeur car to get home. In May 1969, Jones crashed his motorcycle into a shop window and was secretly taken to a hospital under an assumed name. From this point, Jones was still attending recording sessions but was no longer a major contributor to the band's music. By May, he had made two contributions to the work in progress: autoharp on "You Got the Silver" and percussion on "Midnight Rambler". Brian Jones's last photo session as a Rolling Stone took place on Wednesday, 21 May 1969, first at St. Katherine Docks, Tower Bridge, London and then at Ethan Russell's photographic studio in South Kensington, London. The photos would appear on the album Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2) in September 1969.
The Stones decided that following the release of the Let it Bleed album (scheduled for a July 1969 release in the US) they would start a North American tour in November 1969. However, the Stones management was informed that because of his drug convictions Jones would not receive a work permit. At the suggestion of pianist and road manager Ian Stewart the Stones decided to add a new guitarist and on 8 June 1969, Jones was visited by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts where he was told that the group he had formed would continue without him.
To the public it appeared as if Jones had left voluntarily; the other band members told him that although he was being asked to leave it was his choice how to break it to the public. Jones released a statement on 9 June 1969, announcing his departure. In this statement he said, among other things, that "I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting". Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers).
During the period of his decreasing involvement in the band Jones was living at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the residence formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne which Jones had purchased in November 1968. There is uncertainty as to the mental and physical state Jones was in. The last known photographs of Jones taken by schoolgirl Helen Spittal on 23 June 1969, shortly after his departure from the Stones are not flattering; he appears bloated with deep-set eyes. However, Alexis Korner, who visited in late June only shortly after the Spittal photos were taken, noted that Jones seemed "happier than he had ever been". He is known to have contacted Korner, Ian Stewart, John Lennon, Mitch Mitchell, and Jimmy Miller about intentions to put together another band. Jones had apparently demoed a few of his own songs in the weeks before his death, including 'Has Anybody Seen My Baby?' and 'Chow Time.
At around midnight on the night of 2–3 July 1969, Jones was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. His Swedish girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, was convinced Jones was alive when he was taken out of the pool insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived it was too late and he was pronounced dead. The coroner's report stated "death by misadventure" and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
Many items such as instruments and expensive furniture were reportedly stolen from the home after Jones's death. Rumours also exist that recordings by Jones for his future projects were stolen but nothing has surfaced to date. A watch given by Alexis Korner to Jones with a personal inscription surfaced in an auction at Christie's in New York.
Upon Jones's death The Who's Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled "A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day" (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on US television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors published a poem entitled "Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased". Hendrix and Morrison both died within the following two years, both aged 27, the same as Jones.
The Rolling Stones performed at a free concert in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, two days after Jones's death. The concert had been scheduled weeks earlier as an opportunity to present the Stones' new guitarist, Mick Taylor, and the band decided to dedicate the concert to Jones. Before the Rolling Stones' set Jagger read excerpts from "Adonais", a poem by Percy Shelley about the death of his friend John Keats, and stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies as part of the tribute. The band opened with a Johnny Winter song that was one of Jones's favourites, "I'm Yours and I'm Hers".
Jones was reportedly buried 12 feet (3.7 m) deep in Cheltenham Cemetery (to prevent exhumation by trophy hunters) in a lavish casket sent by Bob Dylan. Watts and Wyman were the only Rolling Stones who attended the funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were travelling to Australia to begin the filming of Ned Kelly; they stated that their contracts did not allow them to delay the trip to attend the funeral. Keith Richards reportedly remained in the recording studio.
When asked if he felt guilty about Jones's death Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: "No, I don't really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn't understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you.
Theories surrounding Jones's death developed soon afterwards with associates of the Stones claiming to have information that he was murdered. According to rock biographer Philip Norman, "the murder theory would bubble back to the surface every five years or so". In 1993 it was reported that Jones was murdered by Frank Thorogood, who was doing some construction work on the property. He was the last person to see Jones alive. Thorogood allegedly confessed to the murder to the Rolling Stones' driver, Tom Keylock, who later denied this. The Thorogood theory was dramatised in the 2005 movie Stoned. In August 2009, Sussex Police decided to review Jones's death for the first time since 1969, after new evidence was handed to them by Scott Jones, an investigative journalist in the UK. Scott Jones had traced many of the people who were at Brian Jones's house the night he died plus unseen police files held at the National Archives. In the Mail on Sunday in November 2008, Scott Jones said Frank Thorogood killed Brian Jones in a fight and the senior police officers covered up the true cause of death. Following the review the Sussex police stated that they would not be reopening the case. They asserted that "this has been thoroughly reviewed by Sussex Police's Crime Policy and Review Branch but there is no new evidence to suggest that the coroner's original verdict of 'death by misadventure' was incorrect. As such, the case will not be reopened.