Ginger Baker: “I won’t go within 10 miles of a Rolling Stones gig”

Ginger Baker

If there is one word that best represents Ginger Baker, it is honest. When it came to his artistic endeavors or some of the world’s top rock performers, Baker never minced words throughout his career, tearing wannabe drummers through the mud or knocking down the old guard of rock and roll. “The Rolling Stones? Not on my watch,” Baker declared, despite having friendly ties with some in the rock world.

His musical roots never quite fit the mold of a conventional rock star, despite Baker’s undeniable talent. From his earliest days behind the kit, the drummer’s heroes were jazz titans like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. When he began gigging as part of the Graham Bond Organisation, the tides shifted toward more commercial songs.

Jack Bruce, the stoic bassman, and Ginger Baker, the fiery drummer, formed a musical alliance that was as explosive as it was volatile. Their onstage connection could swing from electrifying harmony to utter hostility, often within the same performance. While creatively chaotic, the duo formed the first supergroup with Eric Clapton, laying the foundation for Cream. Cream emerged as a pioneering band that blended rock, blues, and jazz. The band blended rock, blues, and jazz in their groundbreaking musical approach.

Although Clapton was the band’s celebrity, Baker was still one of the greatest drummers of his day, playing wild fills throughout his solo, ‘Toad‘. Baker had an unrivaled style, but he wasn’t the only English drummer interested in jazz.

A few years before Cream’s formation, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were setting the way for the British invasion. While the band depended on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ blues swagger, drummer Charlie Watts had long been interested in jazz. Initially, he declined to join the band due to his jazz background.

Baker also thanks Watts for arranging one of his first pre-Cream gigs. Watts departed Korner’s Blues Incorporated to work with The Stones. Baker joined and showcased his booming approach for the first time.

While Baker became friends with Watts, he stated that The Stones’ music was not his style. He told Rolling Stone, “I mean Charlie is a fantastic friend of mine. Charlie means everything to me. When I was residing in the United States, Charlie came to my house and said, ‘I’d offer you some tickets. But I know you’d never leave!’ “I will not go within 10 miles of a Rolling Stones concert.”

Though Baker mocked The Stones’ musical style, the similarities between him and Watts are more than one would expect. After attempting to play jazz at the start of their careers, both would discover their calling in rock & roll. They did so while spoon-feeding their more eclectic tastes to a rock audience. Baker and Watts improved rock drumming, but Baker preferred classics over attempting rock.

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