Where did The Rolling Stones get their name from?

12 July 2023, 12:00

The Rolling Stones, circa 1978: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman
The Rolling Stones, circa 1978: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman. Picture: Colaimages / Alamy Stock Photo

The old proverb says “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, but why did Mick Jagger and Keith Richards name their legendary rock band after it?

Bob Dylan used the phrase in a classic song. Jann Wenner liked the name so much, he named his magazine after it. But why has The Rolling Stones' band name endured well over half a century?

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had originally started a group called The Blues Boys, but met up with guitarist Brian Jones, drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Ian Stewart, who were occasionally playing in a well-known collective called Blues Incorporated.

The future Stones eventually formed their own group, leaving Blues Inc to carry on. When Blues Inc were offered a BBC radio session, they needed someone to stand in at their residency at London’s Marquee Club. Jagger and co jumped at the chance.

The Rolling Stones - Not Fade Away (TV 1964)

Jones was on the phone to the magazine Jazz News, hyping up their huge break on 12th July 1962, but suddenly realised that the band didn’t have a name.

Thinking quickly, Jones spotted a copy of the 1959 compilation LP The Best Of Muddy Waters lying on the floor. Side 1, track 5 was called Rollin’ Stone (or Rollin’ Stone Blues, if you had the UK version of the album).

Muddy Waters Rollin'Stone - Newport1960

So, for one night only, the band was known as The Rollin’ Stones, with a line-up of Jagger, Richards, Stewart, “Elmo Lewis” aka Brian Jones, Dick Taylor on bass and Mick Avory (later to join The Kinks) on drums.

A copy of The Best Of Muddy Waters, yesterday.
A copy of The Best Of Muddy Waters, yesterday. Picture: Dorota Szymczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

That one night has lasted 61 years now, and The Rolling Stones name is synonymous with rock 'n' roll, rebellion, wild living and every other kind of establishment-rocking behaviour you can think of - even though the members of the band themselves are now able to draw a pension!

Read more: Where did the Rolling Stones logo come from?


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