Ian Stewart (musician)

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Ian Stewart
Stewart performing at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois, with the Rolling Stones in July 1975
Stewart performing at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois, with the Rolling Stones in July 1975
Background information
Birth nameIan Andrew Robert Stewart
Born(1938-07-18)18 July 1938
Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland
Died12 December 1985(1985-12-12) (aged 47)
London, England
  • Musician
  • tour manager
  • Keyboards
  • piano
Years active1961–1985
Formerly of

Ian Andrew Robert Stewart (18 July 1938 – 12 December 1985) was a British keyboardist and co-founder of the Rolling Stones. He was removed from the lineup in May 1963 at the request of manager Andrew Loog Oldham who felt he did not fit the band's image. He remained as road manager and pianist for over two decades until his death, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of the band in 1989.

Early life[edit]

Stewart was born at his mother's family farm, Kirklatch,[1] at Pittenweem, in the East Neuk of Fife, Scotland, and raised in Sutton, son of architect John Stewart and Annie, née Black.[2] He attended Tiffin School, Kingston upon Thames,[3] Greater London. Stewart (often called Stu) started playing piano when he was six. He took up the banjo and played with amateur groups on both instruments.[4]


Role in The Rolling Stones[edit]

Stewart, who loved rhythm & blues, boogie-woogie, blues and big-band jazz, was working as a shipping clerk at a London chemical company[5] when he was the first to respond to Brian Jones's advertisement in Jazz News of 2 May 1962 seeking musicians to form a rhythm & blues group.[6] Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined in June, and the group, with Dick Taylor (later of the Pretty Things) on bass and Mick Avory (later of the Kinks) on drums, played their first gig under the name the Rollin' Stones at the Marquee Club on 12 July 1962.[7][8] Richards described meeting Stewart thus: "He used to play boogie-woogie piano in jazz clubs, apart from his regular job. He blew my head off too, when he started to play. I never heard a white piano player play like that before."[9] By December 1962 and January 1963, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts had joined, replacing a series of bassists and drummers.[10]

During this period, Stewart had a job at Imperial Chemical Industries. None of the other band members had a telephone; Stewart said, "[My] desk at ICI was the headquarters of the Stones organisation. My number was advertised in Jazz News and I handled the Stones' bookings at work." He also bought a van to transport the group and their equipment to their gigs.[11]

In early May 1963, the band's manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, said Stewart should no longer be onstage, that six members were too many for a popular group and that the older, burly, and square-jawed Stewart did not fit the image.[12] He said Stewart could stay as road manager and play piano on recordings. Stewart accepted this demotion. Richards said: "[Stu] might have realised that in the way it was going to have to be marketed, he would be out of sync, but that he could still be a vital part. I'd probably have said, 'Well, fuck you', but he said 'OK, I'll just drive you around.' That takes a big heart, but Stu had one of the largest hearts around."[13]

Stewart loaded gear into his van, drove the group to gigs, replaced guitar strings and set up Watts's drums the way he himself would play them. "I never ever swore at him," Watts said of their relationship.[14] He also played piano and occasionally organ on most of the band's albums in the first decades, as well as providing criticism. Shortly after Stewart's death Mick Jagger said: "He really helped this band swing, on numbers like 'Honky Tonk Women' and loads of others. Stu was the one guy we tried to please. We wanted his approval when we were writing or rehearsing a song. We'd want him to like it."[15]

Ian Stewart (centre) and Billy Preston (left) performing with the Rolling Stones

Stewart contributed piano, organ, electric piano and/or percussion to all Rolling Stones albums released between 1964 and 1986, except for Their Satanic Majesties Request, Beggars Banquet, and Some Girls. Stewart was not the only keyboard player who worked extensively with the band: Jack Nitzsche, Nicky Hopkins, Billy Preston, and Ian McLagan all supplemented his work. Stewart played piano on numbers of his choosing throughout tours in 1969, 1972, 1975–76, 1978 and 1981–82.[10] Stewart favoured blues and country rockers, and remained dedicated to boogie-woogie and early rhythm & blues. He refused to play in minor keys, saying: "When I'm on stage with the Stones and a minor chord comes along, I lift me hands in protest."[16] In 1976, Stewart stated, "You can squawk about money, but the money the Stones have made hasn't done them much good. It's really gotten them into some trouble. They can't even live in their own country now," referring to band members' tax exile status to minimize tax obligations on their high incomes and royalty payments.[17]

Stewart remained aloof from the band's drug abuse and partying lifestyle. "I think he looked upon it as a load of silliness," said guitarist Mick Taylor. "I also think it was because he saw what had happened to Brian. I could tell from the expression on his face when things started to get a bit crazy during the making of Exile on Main Street. I think he found it very hard. We all did."[18] Stewart played golf, and as road manager showed a preference for hotels with courses. Richards recalls: "We'd be playing in some town where there's all these chicks, and they want to get laid and we want to lay them. But Stu would have booked us into some hotel about ten miles out of town. You'd wake up in the morning and there's the links. We're bored to death looking for some action and Stu's playing Gleneagles."[19]

Other work[edit]

Stewart contributed to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" from Led Zeppelin IV and "Boogie with Stu" (which was also named after his nickname) from Physical Graffiti, two numbers in traditional rock and roll vein, both featuring his boogie-woogie style. Another was Howlin' Wolf's 1971 The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions album, featuring Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Steve Winwood, and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. He also played piano and organ on the 1982 Bad to the Bone album of George Thorogood and the Destroyers. He also performed with Ronnie Lane in a televised concert.

On 5 January 1966 Bill Wyman produced "Stu-Ball" for Ian Stewart and the Railroaders at IBC Studios, London with Stewart on piano, Wyman on bass, Keith Richards (guitar) and Tony Meehan (drums).

In 1981 Stewart and Charlie Watts contributed to the song "Bad Penny Blues", which appeared on the album, These Kind of Blues by The Blues Band,[20] and was a founding member, with Watts, of Rocket 88.

Personal life[edit]

Stewart married Cynthia Dillane[21] on January 2, 1967,[22] together they had a son named Giles.[23] Through his son Stewart has four grandchildren.[22]

Death and posthumous recognition[edit]

Stewart contributed to The Rolling Stones' 1983 Undercover, and was present during the 1985 recording for Dirty Work (released in 1986). In early December 1985, Stewart began having respiratory problems. On 12 December, he went to a clinic to have the problem examined, but suffered a massive heart attack and died in the waiting room.[24] Stewart was 47 years old.

The Rolling Stones played a tribute gig with Rocket 88 in February 1986 at London's 100 Club, and included a 30-second clip of Stewart playing the blues standard "Key to the Highway" at the end of Dirty Work. When the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, they requested that Stewart's name be included.[25]

In his 2010 autobiography Life, Keith Richards says: "Ian Stewart. I'm still working for him. To me The Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organisation ... we'd be nowhere."[26]

On 19 April 2011, pianist Ben Waters released an Ian Stewart tribute album, entitled Boogie 4 Stu. One of the songs recorded for this album was Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow", played by The Rolling Stones featuring Bill Wyman on bass. This was the first time since 1992 that Wyman joined his former band.[27]

Stewart was honored by the Scottish Music Awards in 2017. Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts all sent video messages for the ceremony and the award was accepted by Stewart's widow and son.[23][28]

Works inspired by Stewart[edit]

According to a Sunday Herald article in March 2006, Stewart was the basis for a fictional detective:

... Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin has revealed that John Rebus, the star of 15 novels set in the grimy underbelly of the nation's capital, may have more to do with the Rolling Stones than any detective could have surmised. The award-winning novelist admits during a new Radio 4 series exploring the relationships between crime writers and their favourite music that he took some of his inspiration for the unruly inspector from the "sixth Stone", Ian Stewart.

The lyrics to Aidan Moffat & the Best-Of's song "The Sixth Stone" were written by Ian Rankin about Stewart. The song is included on Chemikal Underground's compilation Ballads of the Book, which featured Scottish authors and poets writing lyrics for contemporary Scottish bands.

Selected performances[edit]


  1. ^ Scotland on Sunday, 16 April 2004
  2. ^ The Rolling Stones, Jill C. Wheeler, Abdo Publishing, 2020, p. 17
  3. ^ "Old Tiffinians Association" (PDF). Tiffinfriends.org. pp. 132–3. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  4. ^ Wyman, Bill (2002). Rolling With the Stones. DK Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 0-7894-9998-3.
  5. ^ "Ian Stewart: 1938-1985". Rolling Stone. 30 January 1986.
  6. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 34–35
  7. ^ Wyman 2002. pp. 36–37.
  8. ^ Karnbach, James; Benson, Carol (1997). It's Only Rock 'n' Roll: The Ultimate Guide to the Rolling Stones. Facts On File Inc. pp. 57–58. ISBN 0-8160-3035-9.
  9. ^ Ian McPherson. "Chronicle 1962". Timeisonourside.com. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  10. ^ a b Zentgraf, Nico. "The Complete Works of the Rolling Stones 1962–2008". Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  11. ^ Wyman 2002. p. 45.
  12. ^ Oldham, Andrew Loog (2000). Stoned. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 222. ISBN 0-312-27094-1.
  13. ^ Jagger, Mick; Richards, Keith; Watts, Charlie; Wood, Ronnie (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. Chronicle Books. p. 62. ISBN 0-8118-4060-3.
  14. ^ Nash, Will (2003). Stu. Out-Take Limited. p. 94.
  15. ^ John Walsh (9 March 2011). "Ian Stewart: the sixth Rolling Stone". The Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2011. Stu was the one guy we tried to please," said Mick Jagger after he died. "We wanted his approval when we were writing or rehearsing a song.
  16. ^ Wyman 2002. p. 482.
  17. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 287. CN 5585.
  18. ^ Nash 2003. p. 194.
  19. ^ Connelly, Ray. "Stu". Out-take.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  20. ^ "The Official Blues Band Website". The Blues Band. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  21. ^ Loog Oldham, Andrew (2014). Rolling Stoned. Gegensatz Press. p. 262. ISBN 9781933237848.
  22. ^ a b Sloan, Billy (28 November 2017). "We know it's only rock'n'roll but we loved him: The Rolling Stones salute founding member Ian Stewart before awards honour". The Sunday Post. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  23. ^ a b Ritchie, Gayle (10 December 2020). "Forgotten Rolling Stone was Fife musician whose image 'didn't fit'". The Courier. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  24. ^ "The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet Online - Ian Stewart". Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
  25. ^ "The Rolling Stones". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  26. ^ Richards, Keith 2010 Life (book), p. 92
  27. ^ "Boogie 4 Stu album details". It's Only Rock'n Roll – The Rolling Stones Fan Club. 13 March 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  28. ^ The Newsroom staff (3 December 2017). "Rolling Stones pay tribute to forgotten Scots bandmate Ian Stewart". The Scotsman. Retrieved 8 January 2024.

External links[edit]