The Rolling Stones have paid glowing tributes to a little-known Scottish bandmate as he was honoured for his contribution to the music industry – more than 30 years after his death.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts sent video messages praising the contribution of founder member Ian Stewart to an awards ceremony in Glasgow where he was posthumously recognised.
His wife Cynthia collected a special “hall of fame” honour on his behalf at the annual Scottish Music Awards fundraising for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins Scotland.
Stewart, who was born in Pittenweem, Fife, was working as a clerk in a chemical company in London when he became the first musician to respond to the late Brian Jones’ Jazz News advertisement in May 1962 seeking musicians to form a new rhythm and blues group, with Jagger and Richards joining a few weeks later, followed by Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
But by the following year Stewart was ousted from the band’s official line-up on the orders of manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who felt six members were too many for a pop group and told Stewart his looks did not fit in with the rest of the band.
Stewart remained as the “Sixth Stone” for more than two decades, playing on a string of classic albums, and remained with the band as a sessions manager and their tour manager. However he died from a heart attack, aged just 47, in December 1985, before he was able to hear the final album he worked on, Dirty Work.
Frontman Jagger said: “The thing about him was that I don’t think the Rolling Stones would ever have got going if it hadn’t been for him. He was a great player. He was a great piano player. He was a great guy that got us all together.”
Lead guitarist Richards said: “The Rolling Stones are only here because of Ian Stewart. Without him the Rolling Stones would have never existed. He hooked up with Brian Jones and then Mick and I sort of waltzed in and then suddenly it became the Rolling Stones. His love of music, his choice of the guys to play with, was legendary. I still have so much affection for the man.”
Watts, the Stones’ drummer, said: “He didn’t like fussy music. He liked straight-ahead things. If he didn’t want to play something he wouldn’t play it. If he didn’t like how it went he wouldn’t play it. But what he liked and what he played was very unique and very admired by a lot of piano players.”
Wood, who joined the Stones as a guitarist in 1975, said: “He was always encouraging to me throughout my opening days with the Stones and all of the rehearsing I had to do and swotting up.”
Jagger added: “He always used to talk about how wonderful Scotland was, particularly east Scotland.
“And one time I went up to see where he was born and it was the most beautiful place. I always hold that in my memory and I hold him very dearly in my memory.”
Other acts recognised at the ceremony at the Old Fruitmarket included The Waterboys, who were honoured with the outstanding contribution to music award almost 35 years after they were formed by Edinburgh-born frontman Mike Scott. Two of the leading Scottish acts to emerge from the 1980s music scene – Texas and Horse – were honoured for their contributions to the industry.
Emeli Sandé, winner of the songwriting award, and evolution award winner Nina Nesbitt, were among those to perform. Others included two of Scotland’s rising singing stars, Bathgate-born Lewis Capaldi and Glaswegian Tom Walker, named best breakthrough artist and best emerging artist respectively.