Ian ‘Stu’ Stewart The Sixth Stone (1938 – 1985)

Written by Cameron K
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Ian Andrew Robert Stewart was born in 1938 in Pittenweem, in Fife, Scotland. He was raised in Sutton, London, and started playing piano when he was six, later he took up the banjo.

Ian grew up listening to blues, boogie-woogie, and big-band jazz and joined some amateur groups. In the jazz clubs, he gained a reputation playing boogie-woogie piano and was part of a loose community of blues musicians around London.

In May 1962, Ian read an advert in Jazz News looking for a musician to form a rhythm & blues group. He went along to meet Brian Jones and they hit it off. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined the group, and the line-up was complete with Dick Taylor (bass) and drummer Mick Avory (Kinks).

The Rollin' Stones (named after the Muddy Water's song) played their first gig at the Marquee Club in July 1962 before Bill Wyman (December 1962) and Charlie Watts (1963) replaced Taylor and Avory respectively. For a short time, Ian became the Rollin' Stones man to go to for bookings as he was the only one in the band with access to a telephone. He worked at Imperial Chemical Industries (IC) and used his office phone for enquiries. They advertised for gigs in the Jazz News. He also bought a van to transport them and their equipment to venues.

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Andrew Loog Oldham became their manager in 1963 and saw the group as the bad boys of pop and antithesis of the cuddly Fab Four. In 1963 The Rolling Stones were signed to Decca. Image conscious, Loog Oldham wanted a quintet of slim young men all the same height and decided to reassigned tall, burly, and squared-jawed Ian Stewart to studio-only play. It was a guarded secret at the time, but Bill Wyman was two years older than Ian, however, Loog Oldham felt Ian did not quite fit into the line-up. Jagger replaced Jones as the frontman of the group and the Rolling Stones were launched with the release of their version of Chuck Berry's ‘Come On.’

On behalf of the group, Big Stu accepted the manager's decision and became a studio backroom boy and the group's road manager. The group were catapulted into stardom, and Ian Stewart loaded their gear into the van, drove them to their gigs, replaced guitar strings, and set Charlie Watts' drums. He played piano and occasionally organ on most of the band's first albums.

When Jagger and Richards started to write their own material, Stu was the first person they went to for criticism. If he like it then the band recorded it. He continued to contribute keyboard parts to most of the band's recordings (1964-1986) and live performances (1969 – 1982).

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In 1966, Bill Wyman produced an instrument entitled Stu-Ball for 'Ian Stewart & The Railroaders' which featured various Rolling Stones (all uncredited). The single was not promoted and went more or less unnoticed for decades. Despite his self-deprecation as a keyboard player, he was a highly regarded musician and his honky-tonk piano featured on many of the Stones’ hits from Around and Around to Honky Tonk Woman and beyond.

He features in The Yardbirds "Drinking Muddy Water" (1967) and on Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" (1971). The supergroup dedicated ''Boogie With Stu'' to him and he also played on the track. Ian ‘Stu’ Stewart was invited to join Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts, on The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions album (1971).

Throughout Ian remained aloof from the band's drug abuse and was affected by the demise of Brian Jones. He rejected partying lifestyle and preferred to play golf whenever he could as road manager, he booked them into hotels with golf courses.

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Ian had his own blues and jazz band, Rocket 88 which he put together in the late 70s with fellow boogie-woogie pianist, Bob Hall. They met when time permitted to jam and although the line-up varied it included many top British musicians. Among the regulars were Charlie Watts (drums), Alexis Korner (guitar/vocals), Jack Bruce (bass), Dick Morrissey (saxophone), George Green (piano), Colin Smith (trumpet) , and John Picard (trombone). Other luminaries included Hal "Cornbread" Singer (tenor sax), Colin Hodgkinson (bass), Zoot Money (keyboards), Don Weller (tenor sax), Danny Adler (guitarist), Chris Farlowe (vocals ), Mickey Waller (drums ), Pete York (drums ), Dave Markee (guitar ), Harvey Weston (bass ), Charlie Hart (keyboards ), Willie Garnett (saxophone ), and Malcolm Everson (baritone saxophone ), Using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, Rocket 88 recorded a self-titled, live album at the Rotation Club, Hanover, while on tour in Germany in 1979. The album was released in 1981.

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Ian Stewart was invited to play piano on to "Bad Penny Blues" by The Blues Band, in 1981. A year late, Stu played piano and organ on the George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ album, Bad to the Bone. He also performed with Ronnie Lane in a televised concert.

In 1983, Ian featured in Hal Ashby’s Rolling Stones tour movie ''Let's Spend the Night Together.''He actively contributed to The Rolling Stones' Undercover and the recording for Dirty Work. However, Ian Stewart was beginning to have respiratory problems. Whilst waiting to be examined he a fatal heart attack and died. Ian Stu Stewart was 47 years old.

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In 1986, The Rolling Stones played a tribute gig with Rocket 88 at London's 100 Club, and four years later when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame they requested the Sixth Stone’s name was included. In 2011, Bill Wyman re-joined the band to play bass on ‘Watching the river flow,’ for Ben Water’s tribute album to Ian Stewart entitled Boogie 4 Stu. Wyman left the band in 1992.

In an interview during a Radio 4 series (BBC), crime novelist Ian Rankin revealed his detective character, John Rebus, was in part based upon Ian ‘Stu’ Steward. Rankin, a lifelong fan of The Rolling Stones makes regular reference to song lyrics and album titles in his writing. In tribute to Stu, (a fellow Fifer), Rankin wrote the lyrics to the song "The Sixth Stone" recorded by Aidan Moffat and was included on Chemikal Underground's compilation Ballads of the Book (2007).

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Used with Kind Permission and Thanks


Read 1021 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 March 2021 13:55
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Cameron K

Cameron K

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