Classic Hits & Oldies

Late Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones was born 80 years ago today

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David Redfern/Redferns

Brian Jones, the accomplished slide guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who founded The Rolling Stones, was born 80 years ago today, February 28, 1942.

Jones, who died at age 27 in July 1969, formed The Stones in 1962 to showcase the music of the American blues artists he loved, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. Brian came up with his band’s name, taken from the Waters song “Rollin’ Stone Blues,” and he initially was the group’s leader.

Jones’ slide guitar was a key element of the group, and he also played harmonica on many of the band’s recordings.  However, the band’s leadership soon shifted to singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, as they emerged as The Stones’ main songwriting team.

As The Rolling Stones began exploring other musical styles, Brian’s ability to play almost any instrument allowed him to add interesting sonic flavors to many songs.  Jones played the recorder on “Ruby Tuesday,” sitar “Paint It Black,” dulcimer on “Lady Jane,” marimba on “Under My Thumb” and “Out of Time,” Mellotron on most of 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request album, and autoharp on “You Got the Silver.”

However, as the 1960s progressed, Jones’ talents became increasingly hindered by drugs and his contributions began to wane. In June 1969, he was fired from The Rolling Stones. Less than a month later, he was found dead in the swimming pool at his house in Hartfield, U.K.

The coroner ruled Jones had died by drowning and later listed the cause as “death by misadventure,” noting that he had an enlarged liver and heart due to drug and alcohol abuse. Allegations that Jones had been murdered have circulated over the years, but a 2010 review by local police asserted that no new evidence had emerged to change the coroner’s original verdict.

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