RIP: Legendary Badboy Saxophonist Bobby Keys

ROLLING STONE: He first crossed paths with the Rolling Stones in 1964 at the San Antonio Teen Fair. He was skeptical of the English rockers, but said, “I went out and listened to them and there was some actual rock & roll going on there, in my humble opinion.” “You got to realize that the vision, the image, according to 1964 US Rock and roll standards, was mohair suit and tie, and nicey-nicey ol’ boy next door,” Keys said in Keith Richards’ autobiography Life. “And all of a sudden hear comes this truckload of English jackflies singing a Buddy Holly song! Damn! I couldn’t really hear all that well, amplifiers and PAs being what they were, but man I felt it…it reminded me so much of the energy I heard from Buddy and I heard from Elvis. There was something in there that was the real deal.”

Keys reconnected with Mick Jagger at a Delaney and Bonnie session in the late Sixties. He backed them on some of the band’s most iconic albums, including Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. His most famous studio moment — 1971’s “Brown Sugar” — was originally supposed to be a guitar solo, but in a spontaneous moment, Jagger and producer Jimmy Miller suggested they add saxophone. “It was the first take – I just really shut my eyes and play,” said Keys. “I listen subliminally. I play more rhythmically than I do a lot of notes. I pull a lot of the stuff that I play off the rhythm tracks – and Keith Richards has been one of the main contributors to my inspirational playing.”

Born on the same day as Richards, the two became fast friends. Keys became Richards’ late night partner and accomplice in offstage antics, once throwing a television out of a hotel balcony in 1972. But his wild ways became even too wild for the Stones. On their 1973 European tour, he missed a commitment and Richards found him in his bathtub full of Dom Perignon. “He’s got a cigar, bathtub full of champagne and this French chick with him,” Richards recalled in Life. “And he said, ‘Fuck off’.” MORE