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Christie’s celebrates Charlie Watts, the rock-steady heartbeat of the Rolling Stones, and his outstanding collection of Modern Literature and Jazz

London – WEBWIRE

Christie’s is privileged to announce Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz, a two-part auction comprising an unparalleled library of modern first edition books, the finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years, together with an extensive collection of jazz memorabilia amassed by the legendary musician and Rolling Stones’ drummer. The flagship auction will take place at Christie’s headquarters in London on 28 September (Part I), alongside an Online sale which will be open for bidding from 15 to 29 September (Part II). Over 500 lots will be offered, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000. Highlight lots will tour to Los Angeles from 25 to 29 July and New York from 5 to 8 September, ahead of the public pre-sale exhibition in London from 20 to 27 September.

“Charlie was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly sixty years, he was totally unique and devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood. He was the quintessential English gentleman and his absence is a great loss for us all. We miss him hugely.”
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood

The renowned drummer of the Rolling Stones who provided the backbeat to some of the most iconic tracks of our time, Charlie’s love of music ran alongside a passion for the greatest works of twentieth-century literature. Leading the live sale will be an important inscribed copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book which continues to define the Jazz age, inscribed inside the front cover to ‘the original Gatsby’, Harold Goldman, screenwriter at MGM (estimate: £200,000-300,000).

The collection also boasts exciting presentation inscriptions and the rarest obtainable editions of books by authors including George Orwell to Agatha Christie, and from Arthur Conan Doyle to James Joyce, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000. 

Charlie Watts’ love of jazz underpinned his life. Having formed his own jazz group, The Charlie Watts Quintet, whose performances at Ronnie Scott’s were a highlight of his multifaceted career, this musical passion also became a dominant force in his collecting, underpinned by his love of the jazz greats including Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. This unrivalled collection also includes a particular focus on his favourite saxophonist, Charlie Parker, one of the most important figures in the development of jazz, including Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). An annotated printed score for Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin will also be showcased (estimate: £10,000-15,000).

“Charlie was my dearest old friend since early childhood and in our early teens we both developed a lifelong love of jazz. Charlie of course became a member of the greatest rock band in the world but his love of jazz never left him. His collection of jazz memorabilia which he started in his teens and built up during his years with the Stones is truly astonishing; it reflects his enduring love of the music and the musicians who made it.”

Dave Green, Childhood Friend and Jazz Musician

Literature and Jazz Part I: Live Sale Highlights

Literature and Jazz Part II: Online Sale Highlights

Presenting collectors and fans with further opportunities, the Online sale (Part II) will be open for bidding from 15 until 29 September (live for browsing from 18 August). It will include lots by acclaimed 20th century authors, such as Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and Carry on Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (estimate: £4,000-6,000). Further Jazz lots feature two scores by Irving Berlin - Songs from Top Hat and Songs from Follow the Fleet - inscribed to Ginger Rogers (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and two inscribed piano scores by the influential cornetist Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke (estimate: £6,000-8,000).

Benedict Winter, Specialist, Private & Iconic Collections and Mark Wiltshire, Specialist, Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s: “Charlie Watts holds a unique position within music history and Christie’s is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy. Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste. We invite the public to join us in this rare opportunity to glimpse the very private world of this extraordinary musical genius.”

“People like Charlie Watts are very hard to put in a pocket, they don’t make pockets for people like Charlie. A totally unique guy – the best drummer England has ever produced.”
Keith Richards


About Charlie Watts

Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2, 1941 and grew up in Wembley, north London. Long before the advent of rock’n’roll, Watts was listening to jazz records by the likes of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker and cited ‘Walking Shoes,’ by the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan with Chico Hamilton on drums, as the record that made him determined to become a drummer. He was 12 at the time. Charlie Watts was the engine of the “greatest rock’n’roll band in the world”. His immaculate drumming propelled the Rolling Stones with a driving rhythm that never missed a beat in almost sixty years, playing on all twenty-six Rolling Stones studio albums since 1964. Drummer, artist, aficionado and style icon with a deadpan wit, his undemonstratively reassuring presence was a key ingredient in the group’s chemistry. Charlie’s first and most enduring passion was jazz and when not on tour with the Stones he enjoyed touring with his own jazz combo.

Watts made his first appearance with The Rolling Stones in January 1963 at the Flamingo club in London’s Soho. Watts’ jazz background meant he knew how to roll as well as how to rock and his indestructible beat grounded the Stones’ classic pop hits such as ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ ‘Get Off My Cloud,’ ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ and ‘Paint It Black.’

Although he had made his name in rock as an essential part of the ‘Greatest Rock n Roll band in the world’, his personal tastes were principally in his first love - jazz. In the late 1970s, Charlie joined Stones sideman Ian Stewart in the boogie-woogie band Rocket 88. In the 1980s, he toured worldwide with the Charlie Watts Big Band, which included such names as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine and Jack Bruce. 1993 saw the release of Warm & Tender by the Charlie Watts Quintet, which included vocalist Bernard Fowler. In 1989, with the rest of the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2009, Charlie began playing with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie band with the pianist Axel Zwingenberger, the pianist and vocalist Ben Waters, and the bassist Dave Green. In 2006, Watts was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame by Modern Drummer magazine, joining Steve Gadd, Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and other highly esteemed and influential drummers from the history of rock and jazz.

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s has sold 8 of the 10 most important single-owner collections in history, including the Paul G. Allen Collection—the most valuable collection ever offered at auction (November 2022). In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). 

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability by reducing our carbon emissions by 50% and pledging to be net zero by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

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