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By Ben Selby
Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie Watts never thought of himself as a rock star. Despite being a core member of one of the most famous rock bands in history, Watts never sought the limelight and rock and roll lifestyle usually championed by Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. Watts merely enjoyed the play the drums and chose to live a quiet life.
Plus, instead of flitting from one romantic affair to the next as was usually the case for many rock stars of the time, Watts stayed married to the same woman, Shirley Ann Sheppard, for 57 years.
In fact, so in love was Watts with Shirley, that when the Rolling stones were invited to visit the Playboy Mansion during the seventies, Watts chose not to talk to any of the girls and spent the entire party in the games room.
His passing last month, aged 80, has left a large hole in the hearts of fans, and the band which took him to super stardom. Lead singer Mick Jagger always regarded Watts as being “My only drummer.”
Charlie was totally unique. Outside of music, he had two other passions which he spent a sizeable chunk of the money he made being in the Rolling Stones. These were clothes, and classic cars.
Now, it is no secret all members of the Rolling Stones possess a palpable penchant for petrol power. Mick Jagger was best known by Londoners for being seen at the wheel of his Aston Martin DB6. Keith Richards’ immediate go to was a Ferrari Dino 246 GT, which he held onto till 2018. As for Bill Wyman, he was rather fond of his Mercedes 250 S.
Charlie Watts on the other hand was a bit different. During the course of his time with the band, he amassed an impressive collection of classic cars. The irony of this was, he couldn’t drive them.
Despite owning some of the most coveted cars in the world, Watts never had a driver’s licence, nor was he ever tempted to get one.
As an art student in 1960, Watts is reported to have said, “I don’t particularly want to drive, but if I were a millionaire, I would buy vintage cars just to look at them, because they are beautiful.”
Well, he certainly became a millionaire, and buy vintage cars he did.
One of the oldest members of his collection was a 1937 Lagonda Rapide. One of just 25 built, the V12 Rapide was a rare site when it was new, let alone today.
Watts bought the Lagonda in 1983 and it held centre stage in the collection ever since. True to his word, once the Rapide was delivered to his home, he never once drove it.
Another gem said to be part of Watts’s stable was a Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic. One of the rarest and most expensive cars ever built, the Atlantic for many is the absolute pinnacle of coach built pre-war motoring.
Lamborghini has been the ultimate prize of many rock stars for decades. So, it was only natural for Watts to have a bright yellow Miura S in his stable.
Watts also owned a Citroen 2CV in yellow. This car was identical to the car driven by Roger Moore in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”
As we have established, Watts’s collection of cars served essentially as an aesthetic art collection. According to Watts, gave him just as much pleasure as someone actually driving them.
During his down time, he slip into one of his tailor-made suits, all of which were matched to the upholstery of each car. He would then sit in one of his cars and just sit and listen to the sound of the engine.
A few revs later and he would be in his happy place. “I can’t drive, so I just sit in them and listen to the purr. I guess you could call it a rich man’s indulgence,” Charlie Watts told music magazine NME back in 2018.
Watts one of the most eccentric of all musicians and its unlikely we will ever see his like again. Whether he would have admitted it or not, he made his mark on the world of rock and roll.
As for his collection of classics, who knows, though a very low mileage Miura or 2CV may be coming on the market soon.