Friday, July 1, 2011

Back to the beginning

Not fade away: the forgotten Fife lad who founded the Stones

He was born in a traditional Scottish village where his ancestors had fished the North Sea for generations. His grandfather chewed tobacco and sailed a boat called the Fisher Lassie out of the East Neuk of Fife.
But Ian Stewart's fate was to be quite different after a move to London led him to Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards where they jointly founded the Rolling Stones.
After his death in 1985, the band's remaining members said: "Without Ian there would have been no Rolling Stones". But despite the accolade the Scot remains a little known player in the history of one of the world's most successful rock bands. Stewart's involvement with the band began when he answered an advert placed by Brian Jones in a jazz magazine. The Scot played piano and keyboards and Jones played saxophone and guitar. They were later joined by Jagger and Richards.

Harry Watson, a cousin of Stewart who only recently discovered the truth of his musical ancestry, is considering writing a book on Stewart's life to highlight the Fife influence in some on the world's best known songs. "People think of the Stones as being from London, but there was this guy from Pittenweem who was behind it all", said Mr Watson.
Along with locals in the 1,500-strong village, he wants to see a memorial plaque to his cousin's achievement. Pittenweems's councillor, James Braid, 88, is in favour of the plan and believes it will prove to be a draw for tourists. He adds: "This village is famous for it's fishing but I didn't know about this connection - maybe it will bring in more tourists. I like the Rolling Stones but I wouldn't say I was a fan. The young people in the village will be particularly pleased".

The village's connection with the supergroup has gone largely unnoticed because Stewart was sidelined early on in the fledging band's career. "Ian was left out of the band after the arrival of the manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who decided that they needed a stronger image. He wanted all the band members to be very androgynous looking but Ian, being a craggy-faced Fifer, was nothing like that".

Stewart remained with the band for the rest of his life as a session musician and a tour manager, all the while pursuing individual music projects when he could. Jaap Hoeksma, the editor of Shattered, a Rolling Stones fanzine, said that Stewart was the soul of the band and kept them going through their early days. He said: "He was a fully fledged member of the band but he was side-tracked by Andrew Oldham who did not think he looked good enough". Brian Jones insisted that Stewart was kept on as a roadie and he later played piano in sessions and on tour.

"He was the first of the Stones to reply to Jones's advert and in the beginning it was just the two of them until Jagger and Richards came along". Later on he helped keep everyone's feet on the ground despite their growing fame". Mr. Watson, an editor of a Scots language dictionary at Edinburgh University, said: "His grandfather was one of the most old-fashioned fishermen in the East Neuk. He chewed tobacco and wore inner and outer waistcoats. It's quite ironic that his grandson went on to play a part in the formation of the Rolling Stones. "Everybody knows about Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe and how they did not become Beatles but little is known about my cousin".

"His east Fife credentials are impeccable. His father was from Cellardyke and his mother was from Pittenweem. The father became an architect and the family moved to London. Ian was born on one of their visits home. They are putting plaques up all over the place to famous people and I think that it is quite important that the birth place of one of the founder members of one of the biggest and most important bands in the world is recognised".

Stewart was born in 1938, a number of years before the rest of the Stones. He was brought up in Surrey by his Fife-born parents. He died of a heart attack at the age of 47. During his career he also worked with Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces. A spokesman for the Rolling Stones said last night that although Stewart did not have the most prominent role in the band, he always played a vital part. He said: "In many ways he was the glue that stuck the band together. He was much more than just a musician. Everyone thought the world of him".

Source: Scotsman, January 6, 1999

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