Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie Watts Writes a Children’s Book Celebrating Charlie Parker (1964)

Ode to a Highflying Bird

Char­lie Watts’s first love has always been jazz. While his Rolling Stones band mates spent their youth lis­ten­ing to the Blues, Watts lis­tened to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. And some­thing about that seems to have stuck. Mick Jag­ger and Kei­th Richards defined what a rock star should look like in the late 60s – disheveled and flam­boy­ant. Watts always seemed to car­ry him­self with a jazzman’s sense of cool.

Back in 1960, when he was work­ing as a graph­ic design­er and doing drum­ming gigs on the side, Watts found anoth­er way to show off his love for jazz. He wrote a children’s book. Ode to a High­fly­ing Bird is about alt sax leg­end Char­lie Park­er, ren­dered in doo­dle-like fash­ion as a bird in shades. The hand-drawn text details Parker’s life sto­ry: “Frus­trat­ed with what life had to offer him in his home­town, he packed his whis­tle, pecked his ma good­bye and flew from his nest in Kansas City bound for New York.”

watts children book

The book was orig­i­nal­ly done as a port­fo­lio piece but, in 1964, after Watts became a mem­ber of the Stones, the book was pub­lished. As Watts recalled, “This guy who pub­lished ‘Rolling Stones Month­ly’ saw my book and said ‘Ah, there’s a few bob in this!’”

This wasn’t the only ode to Bird that Watts made over his long career. In 1992, his jazz band, The Char­lie Watts Quin­tet, released an album called From One Char­lie… which, as the title sug­gests, pays homage to Park­er and his oth­er bee-bop gods. “I don’t real­ly love rock & roll,” as he told Rolling Stone mag­a­zine. “I love jazz. But I love play­ing rock & roll with the Stones.”

A few old copies of Ode to a High­fly­ing Bird can be found on Ama­zon and on Abe Books.

via UDis­cov­er­Mu­sic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Char­lie Park­er Plays with Jazz Greats Cole­man Hawkins, Bud­dy Rich, Lester Young & Ella Fitzger­ald (1950)

Char­lie Park­er Plays with Dizzy Gille­spie in Only Footage Cap­tur­ing the “Bird” in True Live Per­for­mance

Watch Ani­mat­ed Sheet Music for Miles Davis’ “So What,” Char­lie Parker’s “Con­fir­ma­tion” & Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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  • John Ryan Horse says:

    This book was repub­lished in hard­cov­er, and includ­ed in Watts’ boxed set “From One Char­lie…” (1991), which also includ­ed a CD trib­ute to Park­er as well as a nice pho­to print (of CP) on qual­i­ty stock. I believe it was a lim­it­ed edi­tion set.

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