When Bill Wyman first went to rehearse with the Rolling Stones in December 1962 he arrived with his homemade bass, two amps and big bass cabinet. He gave the band the kind of sound they were looking for – more powerful, more electric and his spare amp did not go amiss. For the next thirty-one years Bill became one half of rock’s most reliable and rock solid rhythm sections.
Born William George Perks on Saturday 24 October 1936 at Lewisham Hospital in South East London, he later changed his surname to Wyman, the name of a friend, in the early days of the Stones. His wartime childhood was unremarkable other than the fact that he was evacuated twice. Like Brian and Mick he went to grammar school but unlike the rest of the Stones he also did three years of National Service, joining the RAF, during which time he served in Germany from 1955.
Being introduced to rock ‘n’ roll through American Forces Radio in Germany he heard Elvis, Jerry Lee and the others who changed the face of popular music earlier than most people in Britain. Returning to southeast London and civilian life he got a job as a storekeeper and also formed a band whose drummer got the job of drumming with the Rolling Stones in the summer of 1962. This led to Bill being introduced to Mick, Keith, Brian and Ian Stewart and as often been repeated, “he brought electricity to the Stones.”
Always a lover of rock ‘n’ roll Bill quickly learned to love the blues and true to character, he has said he would love to have been an archivist in a museum, he set about studying the blues and became an avid record collector and information.
By the time Bill decided to quit the Stones in 1993 he had already written Stone Alone, which concentrated on his career with the band during the 1960s. He later wrote an illustrated coffee table book, Rolling with the Stones and has also written books about the blues, metal detecting, – one of his great passions, the artist Chagall, who was a great friend from his time living in the South of France and produced and starred in a TV series about the history of the blues. Bill has also written music for film and appeared in several movies.
Bill was the first of the Rolling Stones to release a solo album, Monkey Grip in 1974 and while with the band had a hit single with ‘SJ Si Je Suis Un Rock Star’. In the last two decades he’s released numerous albums under the aegis of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and toured the UK, America and Europe with his all star band.
Bill, like Mick, loves cricket and he has played in numerous charity cricket matches and on one occasion he took a hat trick at the Oval. Bill’s other major passion is photography and since 2006 he has exhibited his images all over the world. He’s been called the Renaissance man of rock and it’s a notion that suits him well.