The Bobby Keys Collection
Saxophonist Bobby Keys, who died on 2 December just a couple of weeks short of his 71st birthday, may be best remembered for his contributions with the Rolling Stones, but he also appeared on hundreds of records by others, including some of the biggest names in rock.
His death came a day before that of Ian McLagan, the keyboard player of the Small Faces, with whom Keys collaborated on Faces records, on McLagan solo LPS, and on occasion with both serving on session duty on records by others.
Keys also crossed paths in the studio with the two Wrecking Crew drummers featured in this series, Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, especially the latter.
Bobby Keys was born on 18 December 1943 in Slaton, Texas, and began his music career as a teenager, hanging out with neighbour Buddy Holly and touring with the likes of Bobby Vee and Little Eva. He claimed to have played the saxophone solo on Elvis’ Return To Sender, but that story is unlikely. Certainly, RCA has no record of his participation (with that in mind this mix includes only songs that specifically credit Keys).
In the 1960s he worked in the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, where some of the greatest soul was produced. It’s also where the Rolling Stones recorded their Sticky Fingers album in 1970, which features Keys on Brown Sugar (recorded in one take), Bitch, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, and I Got The Blues. The year before he made his debut for the Stones on Live With Me, from Let It Bleed.
He had first met the band in 1964, but it was an encounter with Mick Jagger at a Delaney and Bonnie session in the late 1960s that initiated the long relationship with the band, with whom he’d be touring till the end of his life.
He got on well with the Stones personally; Keef and he were born on the same day and had a close bond, which included meeting rock & roll clichés like throwing TV’s out of hotel windows. This month Richards called Keys “greatest pal in the world… We were thick as thieves.” Read his appreciation HERE.
Jagger and Keys also had a close personal friendship. But in the mid-‘70s Keys was fired from the Stones backing band for missing gigs after Richards found him with a bathtub filled with Dom Perignon champagne, a French lady of uncertain virtue and a stash of hash. Still, he maintained a loose relationship with the Stones over the years until he rejoined their roster of backing players in 1982. He toured with them on every tour until this year.
Keys was also close to the ex-Beatles, especially with John Lennon, in whose famous “lost weekend” Keys played his partying part, having previously played with the Plastic Ono Band on tracks like Power To The People. He also played for Ringo Starr (on whose Ring O’ label he released the funky Gimmie The Key) and George Harrison.
As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments (you are invited to leave a comment there).
1. Bobby Keys – Gimmie The Key (1975)
2. Martha Reeves – Storm In My Soul (1974)
3. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar (1971)
4. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
5. Ringo Starr – Photograph (1973)
6. Barbra Streisand – Space Captain (1971)
7. Carly Simon – Night Owl (1972)
8. Graham Nash – There’s Only One (1971)
9. Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Kiss And Say Goodbye (1975)
10. Delaney & Bonnie – When The Battle Is Over (1969)
11. Faces – Had Me A Real Good Time (1970)
12. Humble Pie – Big George (1971)
13. John Lennon – Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (1975)
14. Harry Nilsson – Down (1971)
15. Ron Wood & Ronnie Lane – Tonight’s Number (1976)
16. Keith Moon – Back Door Sally (1975)
17. Third World War – Working Class Man (1971)
18. B.B.King – Caldonia (1971)
19. Eric Clapton – Lonesome And A Long Way From Home (1971)
20. Audience – Seven Sore Bruises (1972)
21. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)
Previous session musicians’ collection (all drummers, so far):
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2