After his first job for the Stones, overdubbing saxophone on 'Live With Me', Bobby Keys, and horn mate Jim Price, joined the band during many tours and recording sessions until the summer of 1973. Here's how Bobby remembers Ian Stewart, or Stew, as he calls him!
Ian Stewart was our road manager, although he was also more than that. Stew was the guy who'd come back to the dressing rooms and tell us when to go onstage. No one would go toward the stage until Stew said so. All the promoters would come back there and tell us we had to go on, but Stew was the guy who brought the Stones onstage and made sure that the stage was ready. And he always had such a charming way of telling everyone it was time to go: "All right, my little lovely showers of shit, my little three-chord wonders, it's time to go!".
The funny thing is, in his boogie-woogie piano realm, boy, he was a motherfucker. He could play. He was really special. But he was always very self-effacing about his piano-playing, he never gave himself the credit. I remember at some point asking someone what Stew's deal was, which was when I found out that he was in fact the original piano player for the Stones. I had no idea because when I came on Nicky Hopkins was playing piano with 'em and I thought, well, that's Nicky, he's the best, that explains that.
It's very unusual that you find somebody who was one of the actual founding members of a band take what would seem to be a secondary seat in the organization as opposed to being onstage - I mean, he's driving the guys to the gig. He'd play on some stuff, but not a lot. Even so, I know how well loved he was by Keith and Charlie and Mick and Bill. Of all the bitching they'd do about each other, I never heard anybody bitch about Stew. Ever.
I loved him, too. The first car that I bought in England I bought from Stew. It was a Riley Elf. I hadn't even heard of a Riley before. Stew was also instrumental in getting me into the band, or bringing Jim Price and me to Mick's attention as a horn section. I'd met Mick and Keith as a saxophone player, but as a horn section it was Ian Stewart who brought us to Mick's and Keith's and Charlie's and Bill's attention because of the Delaney & Bonnie Southern gospelrock thing. He was a big fan of Leon Russel's and Dr. John's. The fact that Jim Price and I got to play with the Rolling Stones had a lot to do with Ian Stewart.
Adapted from the following source: Bobby Keys, Every Night's a Saturday Night, Counterpoint, 2012.