Bill Wyman

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Bill Wyman
Bill Wyman 2009.jpg
Wyman in 2009
Background information
Birth nameWilliam George Perks Jr.
Born (1936-10-24) 24 October 1936 (age 85)
London, England
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • photographer
Instrument(s)Bass guitar, vocals
Years active1959–1993, 1997–present

William George Wyman (born William George Perks Jr.; 24 October 1936) is an English musician, best known as the bassist and backing vocalist for the rock and roll band the Rolling Stones from 1962 until 1993, plus a one-off guest appearance in 2012. In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Rolling Stones. Since 1997, he has recorded and toured with his own band, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. He has worked producing records and films, and has scored music for films and television.


Wyman has kept a journal since he was a child during World War II, and has published seven books. He is also a photographer, and his works have been displayed in galleries around the world. [1]

He became an amateur archaeologist and enjoys metal detecting. He designed and marketed a patented "Bill Wyman signature metal detector", which he has used to find relics in the English countryside dating back to the era of the Roman Empire.

Early life

Born William George Perks Jr. in Lewisham Hospital in Lewisham, South London, the son of Molly (née Jeffery) and William George Perks Sr., a bricklayer. One of six children, Wyman spent most of his early life living in the rough streets of Penge, Southeast London. Wyman described his wartime childhood as "scarred by poverty," having survived the blitz and enemy fighter plane strafing that killed neighbours. [2] [3]

He attended Oakfield Primary School, [2] passing his eleven plus exam to gain entry to Beckenham and Penge County Grammar School from 1947 to Easter 1953, leaving before the GCE exams after his father found him a job working for a bookmaker and insisted that he take it. [4] [5] [2]

Music career

Wyman took piano lessons from age 10 to 13. A year after his marriage on 24 October 1959 to Diane Cory, an 18-year-old bank clerk, he bought a Burns electric guitar for £52 (equivalent to £1,274in 2021 [6] ) on hire-purchase, but was not satisfied by his progress. [7] He switched to bass guitar after hearing one at a Barron Knights concert. He created a fretless electric bass guitar [8] by removing [9] the frets on a second hand UK-built Dallas Tuxedo bass [10] [11] and played this in a south London band, the Cliftons, in 1961.

He legally changed his surname to Wyman in August 1964, taking the phonetic surname of a friend, Lee Whyman, with whom he had done national service in the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1957. [12]

The Rolling Stones and 1980s side projects

Wyman (left) with Brian Jones (Right) in 1965. Bill Wyman and Brian Jones 1965.jpg
Wyman (left) with Brian Jones (Right) in 1965.

When drummer Tony Chapman told him that a rhythm and blues band called the Rolling Stones needed a bass player, he auditioned at a pub in Chelsea on 7 December 1962 and was hired as a successor to Dick Taylor. [13] The band were impressed by his instrument and amplifiers (one of which Wyman modified himself, and a Vox AC30). [13] [14] Wyman was the oldest member of the group. [15]

In addition to playing bass, Wyman frequently provided backing vocals on early records, and through 1967, in concert as well. He wrote and sang lead on the track "In Another Land" from the album Their Satanic Majesties Request , which was released as a single and credited solely to Wyman, making it his first official solo single. The song is one of two Wyman compositions released by the Rolling Stones; the second is "Downtown Suzie" (sung by Mick Jagger), on Metamorphosis , a collection of Rolling Stones outtakes. The title "Downtown Suzie" was chosen by their erstwhile manager Allen Klein without consulting Wyman or the band. The original title was "Sweet Lisle Lucy", named after Lisle Street, a street in the red light district in Soho, London.[ citation needed ]

Wyman was close to Brian Jones; he and Jones usually shared rooms together while they were on tour and often went to clubs together. He and Jones hung out together even when Jones was distancing himself from the band. Wyman was distraught when he heard the news of Jones' death, being one of two members besides Watts to attend Jones' funeral in July 1969. Wyman was also friends with guitarist Mick Taylor. Like the other Rolling Stones, he has worked with Taylor since the latter's departure from the band in 1974. [16]

Wyman has kept a journal throughout his life, beginning when he was a child, and used it in writing his 1990 autobiography Stone Alone and his 2002 book Rolling with the Stones. In Stone Alone, Wyman claims to have composed the riff of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" with Brian Jones and drummer Charlie Watts. Wyman mentions that "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was released as a single only after a 3–2 vote within the band: Wyman, Watts and Jones voted for, Jagger and Keith Richards against, feeling it not sufficiently commercial.[ citation needed ]

Wyman touring in 1975 with the Rolling Stones Bill Wyman - Rolling Stones - 1975 cropped.jpg
Wyman touring in 1975 with the Rolling Stones

Wyman also played on The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions , released 1971, with Howlin' Wolf, Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts and Stevie Winwood, and on the album Jamming with Edward , released in 1972, with Ry Cooder, Nicky Hopkins, Jagger and Watts. He played bass on at least two tracks of the 1967 album "I Can Tell" by John P. Hammond [17]

In July 1981, Wyman's solo single "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star" became a top-20 hit in many countries. [18] Also in 1981, Wyman composed the soundtrack album Green Ice for the Ryan O'Neal/Omar Sharif film of the same name.[ citation needed ] In the mid-1980s, he composed music for two films by Italian director Dario Argento: Phenomena (1985) and Terror at the Opera (1987).[ citation needed ]

In 1983, Wyman helped organize a fundraiser for Action Research into Multiple Sclerosis in the form of a concert tour with a group calling themselves Willie and the Poor Boys. The group played shows in the U.S. and Great Britain that included a rotating group of guest musicians, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. The effort was inspired by Wyman's friend and former Small Faces and Faces musician Ronnie Lane. [19] The group produced an album of the same name that lists Wyman, Charlie Watts, Geraint Watkins, Mickey Gee, and Andy Fairweather Low as principal members, plus Ray Cooper, Jimmy Page, Willie Garnett, Chris Rea, Steve Gregory, Paul Rodgers, Kenney Jones, Henry Spinetti, and Terry Williams.

Wyman made a cameo appearance in the 1987 film Eat the Rich . He produced and played on a few[ quantify ] albums of the group Tucky Buzzard. [20]

After the Rolling Stones' 1989–90 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tours, Wyman left the band in January 1993. [21] The Rolling Stones have continued to record and tour with Darryl Jones on bass, but not as an official member of the band. [22]

In 2012, Wyman and Mick Taylor were expected to join the Rolling Stones on stage at shows in London (25 and 29 November) and Newark (13 and 15 December), though Darryl Jones supplied the bass for the majority of the show. [23] [24] At the first London show on 25 November, Wyman played on two back-to-back songs, "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and "Honky Tonk Women". He later stated that he was not interested in joining the band for further tour dates in 2013. [25]

Later activity

Wyman was a judge for the 5th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers. [26]

On 25 October 2009, Wyman performed a reunion show with Faces, filling in for the late Ronnie Lane as he had previously done in 1986 and 1993. [27] [28]

On 19 April 2011, pianist Ben Waters released an Ian Stewart tribute album titled Boogie 4 Stu. Wyman played on two tracks: "Rooming House Boogie" and "Watchin' the River Flow", the latter recorded with the Rolling Stones. [29]

Musical instruments

Wyman's bass sound came not only from his 30-inch short scale fretless bass (the so-called "homemade" bass; actually a modified Dallas Tuxedo bass), [30] but also from the "walking bass" style he adopted, inspired by Willie Dixon and Ricky Fenson.[ citation needed ] Wyman has played a number of basses, nearly all short scale, including a Framus Star bass and a number of other Framus basses, [31] [32] a Vox Teardrop bass (issued as a Bill Wyman signature model), a Fender Mustang Bass, two Ampeg Dan Armstrong basses, a Gibson EB-3, and a Travis Bean bass. Since the late 1980s, Wyman has primarily played Steinberger basses. In 2011, The Bass Centre in London issued the Wyman Bass, a fretted interpretation of Wyman's first "homemade" fretless bass, played and endorsed by Wyman. [33] One of Wyman's basses was the most expensive bass ever sold. His 1969 Fender Mustang Bass sold in an auction for $380,000 in 2020.

Personal life

Wyman in 1989 Wyman 01.jpg
Wyman in 1989

Wyman, although moderate in his use of alcohol and drugs, has stated that he became "girl mad" as a psychological crutch. [34]

Wyman married his first wife, Diane Cory, in 1959 and their son Stephen Paul Wyman was born on 29 March 1962. [35] They separated in 1967 and divorced in 1969. [36]

On 2 June 1989, aged 52, Wyman married 18-year-old Mandy Smith, whom he had "fallen in love with" when she was 13 and, according to Smith, had a sexual relationship with when she was 14. [37] The couple separated two years later and finalised their divorce two years after that. [38] [39] In April 1993 Wyman married model Suzanne Accosta, whom he first met in 1980; the two had remained friends until their romance developed. [40] The couple have three daughters. [41]

In 1993, Wyman's son Stephen Wyman married Patsy Smith, the 46-year-old mother of Bill's ex-wife Mandy Smith. Stephen was 30 years old at the time. Therefore, Bill became the father-in-law of his ex-mother-in-law as well as the stepgrandfather of his former wife. [42]

In 1968, Wyman bought Gedding Hall as his country home near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, [43] it dates back to 1458 [40] [2] Wyman also lives in St Paul de Vence in the South of France where his friends include numerous artists. He is a keen cricket enthusiast and admired Denis Compton [2] and played in a celebrity match at the Oval against a former England XI, taking a hat-trick. [44] [45] He is a lifelong Crystal Palace F.C. fan, attending his first match as a birthday treat with father William. [2] On a 1990 European tour with the Rolling Stones, he feigned a toothache and said he needed to travel back to London to see a dentist when in fact he went to watch Palace at Wembley in the 1990 FA Cup Final. [46] It was around this period of the Stones "Steel Wheels" tour he developed his fear of aeroplane flying. [47]

Wyman started selling metal detectors in 2007. [48] Treasure detecting adventures in the British Isles are detailed in his 2005 illustrated book, Treasure Islands, co-written with Richard Havers. [49] [50]

In 2009, Wyman quit smoking after 55 years. [51]

Wyman is a photographer who has taken photographs throughout his career, and in June 2010 he launched a retrospective of his work in an exhibition in St Paul de Vence. The exhibition included images of his musical and artistic acquaintances from the South of France including Marc Chagall. [52] In 2013, the Rook & Raven Gallery in London hosted an exhibition of a selection of Wyman's images which had been reworked by artists including Gerald Scarfe. [53]

In March 2016 Wyman was diagnosed with prostate cancer but expected to make a full recovery. [54]


With The Rolling Stones

Solo albums

Collaborative album

Compilation albums

Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings

Also plays on

Solo singles


Bill Wyman has authored or co-authored the following titles:


The Rolling Stones

The last three books and Bill Wyman's Treasure Islands were all written in collaboration with Richard Havers.[ citation needed ]

A Journey through America with the Rolling Stones. Robert Greenfield. Helter Skelter Publication. ISBN 1-900924-24-2


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