3. Brian Jones introduced Robert Johnson’s music to a British guitar player named Keith Richards in 1962
Brian Jones was an English gadabout musician from Cheltenham, an affluent London suburb, who developed a love for American Delta Blues in the late 1950s. By 1961 he was playing bottleneck slide guitar, featuring the music of Robert Johnson and other great American bluesmen, to awestruck young British fans, one of whom was Keith Richards. With Keith, Mick Jagger, and a pianist named Ian Stewart, Jones founded a band which he named the “Rollin’ Stones” (after a Muddy Waters tune) and which became one of the largest acts in Britain by 1964, and the rest of the world the following year. As the band’s fame spread and its audience expanded, Jones became a lesser influence in the band which he created as it strayed from his beloved blues. He performed on record playing instruments which included keyboards, harmonica, harp, recorder, dulcimer, zither, autoharp, synthesizers, saxophone, and guitars. He also became one of England’s and rock and roll’s most notorious users of illicit drugs.
Fame, drugs, alcohol, and disagreement over the musical direction of the Rolling Stones in the mid-to-late 1960s led to Jones becoming a pariah in the band he created. Often too intoxicated to perform, he showed up at gigs or recording sessions unable to contribute. When his legal problems led to his being unable to obtain a visa to tour America in 1969 the band fired him. Despondent according to some, rejuvenated according to others, Jones holed up at his home, Cotchford Farm, formerly the home of A. A. Milne and lavishly decorated with the images of characters from Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. He died there in July, 1969, just weeks after being fired from The Rolling Stones, drowning in his swimming pool. Since his death rumors of murder have persisted, and while several writers have claimed to have proof of his murder, officially he joined the 27 Club through “death by misadventure” according to the coroners who performed his autopsy.