Brian Jones

We all have our favorite guitarists.  For whatever reasons, they kind of stay with us for a lifetime.  And no, this is not a new list of favorite guitarists (we just did that, in a sense!).  So, let’s talk about the Rolling Stones.  During their 50 years in Rock and Roll, they have had four prominent guitars in their lineup.  One of them has been there form the start.  Of course, we all know that’s Keith Richards, maybe the coolest Rock persona in the history of Rock and  Roll (yes, my opinion).

Still, three other guitarists have been in their lineup.  The first, Brian Jones, actually more of a multi-instrumentalist, provided the band a diverse musical style.  In fact, it could be said that the band underwent more changes while he was a member of the band.  It could also be said that music was changing fast during his time, and he just had his finger on the pulse of it.

Mick Taylor

After Jones’ unfortunate demise, Mick Taylor was recruited.  Taylor brought some serious guitar legitimacy to the band.  He was able to play blues and slide like few other.  During his tenure with The Rolling Stones, he helped produce some of the finest ’70s Stones output that will never be forgotten.  But whether tension with Keith led to his early departure, or just a sense that he needed out, Taylor’s void led to the insertion of Ronnie Wood.

Ronnie Wood is a fine guitarist.  He was with every band he played with (he played bass with Jeff Beck Group).  His addition brought a more Keith-like guitarist into the fold giving the band a different perspective, including changing RonWoodit dramatically as they made their way through the rest of the ’70s, into the ’80s, and beyond until now.  Still, I feel that Ronnie  Wood doesn’t go the places he did with Faces.

Three important guitars in an important band.  Three, maybe four, even five distinct periods of the band.  Every period different, some of them even overlapping.  My question to you is this?  Which distinct guitarist was the band’s best, Keith excepted?  Which do you think provided the most support, the most spark?  Who gave us the best music? And let’s try to avoid the “they all did in their own way” statement.  We know that is true.  But there are favorite periods, and distinct reasons for those.



By MARowe

9 thoughts on “The Guitars of The Stones”
  1. With all respect to Brian Jones, Mick Taylor and Keith Richards; I’d have to say that Ron Wood is the best guitarist the Stones have had. While maybe not as musically curious as Brian Jones and not as technically proficient as Mick Taylor he wound up being the perfect counterpart to Richards and they make a team like no other and in a sense Ronnie helped Keith get better too.

    I do agree however that being a Stone may have held Ronnie back a bit. Had the Faces not collapsed and had the longevity of some of the other big “guitar bands” of the 70’s Ronnie Wood be as revered as any of the other great British guitar slingers. If there was band that rocked American roots music harder than the Stones it was the Faces.

  2. The fairest way for me to make this decision is to look at the albums that came out during each guitarist’s tenure. For me that leave no decision at all. Mick Taylor hands down. While my decision making process may be too simplistic, that’s the only way I can call it. Maybe those Taylor years may have been the other constant members’ most creative years and Taylor just happened to be there at the right time. I am not willing to make that judgement. The best albums for me were those Taylor year albums and, all things being equal, I’ll give him the benefit of being the best “extra” Stones guitarist.

    1. Bill, I agree with you. I love Ronnie Wood, and I mean I am a fan. Even wore my hair like his for years when I was in my 20s. But Taylor’s work with the band represents their best overall. I love most of Some Girls, and a lot of Emotional Rescue, but I fear not entirely for Ronnie’s guitar. The songs are great. And so, I also vote for Taylor and his brief tenure with the Stones.

  3. Well, Matt knows that I’m an unabashed Taylor fan who also loves Jones. For me, the thing which sets the Taylor Era apart from the Jones and Wood Eras is that Taylor’s melodicism provided a greater contrast to Keith’s jagged/angular rhythm playing. It boils down to a choice in musical philosophy for both the music listener and the players themselves. I’ve always thought Taylor’s contrasting style of playing forced Keith to play a lot harder and brought out the best of him during a time in Keith’s life when the hard drugs issues were engulfing him. Keith’s playing was more ferocious because there was no place to hide.
    In the case of Jones, I greatly admire his superb ability to have been able to master instruments within a matter of minutes to a half an hour after picking them up. However, over the years, I have more and more come to realize the wisdom of Keith’s reasoning that Brian would have been an even greater guitar player than he was had he stuck with just the guitar-particularly slide guitar. A person, in considering if this had happened in an alternate universe, would have to think about what the Aftermath and post-Aftermath albums would have sounded like had Brian not pursued different instruments.
    In the case of Ronnie Wood, I love the man dearly. But I have always felt that the freedom he had in doing all of the lead lines with Faces/Rod Stewart showed his abilities more clearly than when he decided to take on the ancient art of weaving pattern of playing with Keith. For me, Wood was the most effective with Keith and this pattern up to and including the Some Girls album. After Some Girls, it became a change of image to me which affected how I looked at the band. Sadly, Ronnie became a part of this equation. With the corporate sponsorship of the ’81 Tour from Jovan, they quit being a dangerous band in my eyes and instead became a corporate entity (even though I still love the band to this very day). If you really want to hear another example of Ronnie shining brightly while being with Keith, pick up the Wood solo album Gimme Some Neck from 1979 during the last time period where I considered Ronnie and Keith to be some sort of symbolic outlaws.

  4. I know that people say Mick Taylor was lucky to be in the Rolling Stones, and given the competition for the job they’re probably right. But whenever I hear anything from Sticky Fingers to It’s Only Ramp;R I think the Stones were REALLY lucky to have Mick Taylor. He added an element of class that the group didn’t have before or since. You might argue the Stones and “class” are mutually exclusive, but his finesse and grace took them to a new level for a few years.

  5. To each his own, I think. I like Woodie the least of all 3, but I cannot think how albums like Some Girls and Emotional rescue could have been possible without him (Tattoo You.. mm I don’t know, Taylor really would have added to the sound a lot ..). He’s a more straightforward rock and roll guitar player for the times when the Stones started to acquire a more “simple” sound. Brian Jones is the star of them all, an artist for sure, not just a guitar player. As said above, he took the Stones thru the blues transition to a pure Stones sound. I love that era and what Brian brought to the table. But in the end, the one that sticks in my heart is Mick Taylor, specially from the pure guitar work he offered, he’s the one for me; Dan really hit the nail when he talks about class.. Lots of that, Kudos Mick T.

  6. You guys are all missing the ‘real deal…’ The playing of Mandel and Perkins on selected tracks from Black and Blue and, with some later released on Tattoo You, demonstrate what really SHOULD have been. Wood’s contribution to the Band is keeping them going, as Keith finally had a true ‘mate’ to get on with…without Ronnie the Stones would have died before the end of the 80’s. But solos on Hand of Fate and Worried About You show a counter-style to Keith’s organic playing delivered by, especially Perkins, players who would have elevated the Stones’ rock style into a beautiful and melodic stratosphere unlike any other.

  7. I would have to say Brian Jones. After all Taylor and Wood offered Keith a similar style to guide and all but let him be the guiding light. I remember seeing the New Barbarians and walking away from that show thinking the Stones would always be the Stones if Keith were the only member. My point being that Brian seems to be the only foil to Keith that made him explore new ground rather than stay rutted in that Chuck Berry groove. In fact I believe that the last time Keith left the Berry groove behind was when he teamed up with Gram Parsons who like Brian Jones forced Keith to be a more exploratory guitarist. Of course this is just my humble opinion.

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