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For a certain set of music fans, The Rolling Stones have always included Ronnie Wood. The guitarist wasn’t one of the band’s five original members, but he is one of the longest-serving. And he might have to consider himself lucky. Wood’s confidence during his tryout for the Stones made drummer Charlie Watts crack a good-natured joke. Having the mild-mannered drummer open up might have helped Wood achieve his long-held professional dream of joining The Rolling Stones.

Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger (from left), Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood attend a party in New York City in 1980.
(l-r) Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones | Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Ronnie Wood felt confident during his Rolling Stones tryout

When founding member Brian Jones died, The Rolling Stones replaced their rhythm guitarist/multi-instrumentalist with Mick Taylor. He played on some of the band’s most legendary albums, including Let It Bleed and Exile on Main St., but he abruptly left the band. Wood was one of the guitarists who received a Rolling Stones tryout, and he had a good reason to be confident during his audition.

Wood and Rolling Stones members frequently crossed paths in the busy London music scene in the 1960s. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were frequent guests at the guitarist’s home studio. Taylor, Jagger, and Richards played on Wood’s first solo record, I’ve Got My Own Album to Do.

The Stones considered Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who survived a violent attack alongside Wood, as replacements after Taylor’s 1974 departure. Wood confidently walked into his Rolling Stones tryout, which led longtime drummer Charlie Watts to crack a joke at his expense.

Charlie Watts made a joke when Wood took control of his Rolling Stones audition

Not only had Wood recorded with Jagger and Richards at his home studio, but he also helped write a Rolling Stones song before he ever joined the band. He and Jagger came up with the framework for “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” from the 1974 album of the same name.

Richards also lived in the cottage at Wood’s estate for a time in the early 1970s. Between the recording sessions, songwriting partnerships, and shared living spaces, Wood confidently strolled into his Rolling Stones tryout and took command of the situation. As Wood writes in his autobiography, Ronnie, the soft-spoken Watts made a joke because of it:

“I walked into the studio, took one look at Mick, Keith, Bill [Wyman], and Charlie, and announced, ‘I’ve got a song. I’ve played it to you before. We’re gonna do “Hey Negrita.” Let’s cut it.’ And Charlie said, ‘He’s only just walked in and he’s bossing us around already.'”

Similar to how Wood helped create “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” (and received a credit for “inspiration” on the album), “Hey Negrita” was a Stones tune he had a hand in writing only to receive another inspiration credit. The song appeared on the 1976 album Black and Blue, but Wood wasn’t acknowledged for writing any songs on his first Stones record. 

The 1975 addition to The Rolling Stones roster waited several years to write an album song. “Dance (Pt. 1),” the lead track from 1980’s Emotional Rescue, was the first writing credit Wood received after his Rolling Stones tryout, per AllMusic. He helped pen several tunes on Tattoo You (1981), Undercover (1983), and Dirty Work (1986).

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He walked in with confidence, but Wood’s tryout with The Rolling Stones wasn’t a mere formality. He had formed friendships with key band members, but the group auditioned several guitar players.

For his part, Richards said adding Wood was one of the easiest decisions The Rolling Stones made. It wasn’t just that he knew the band members, but he also knew their songs and how to fit his guitar playing into them. Months of auditions more or less ended when he walked in. 

He always dreamed of being a member of the band. When the confident Ronnie Wood took control of his Rolling Stones tryout and got Charlie Watts to make a joke, it might have been the final stamp of approval before he joined the group.

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