Friday Night with Guitar George: Bobby Keys Edition

Yesterday was Keith Richards’ seventy-first birthday.  Keith’s best friend, longtime Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, also would have been seventy-one yesterday but sadly he passed away on December 2nd.  He had continued to tour and perform until he was seventy, still playing those incredible solos from “Brown Sugar” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”  After learning of Bobby’s death, Keith posted this note on his website:

“I have lost the largest pal in the world and I can’t express the sense of sadness I feel although Bobby would tell me to cheer up.  My condolences to all that knew him and his love of music.”

In spite of having identical birth dates, theirs was an unlikely friendship: a slow-talking Texan saxophonist and a brashly cavalier British guitarist, but they shared lineage with Buddy Holly—Bobby geographically, being born down the street from Holly in Lubbock Texas, and Keith musically, having learned to play Holly’s “Not Fade Away” during the Stones’ infancy.  They first met in San Antonio in 1964 during the Stones’ first American tour.  Decades later, Bobby played sax at the wedding of Keith’s daughter Angela.  In between, they got into plenty of trouble together, but they also recorded some incredible music together. Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street would not be the classics they are without Keys’ contributions.

Tonight’s clip is from the aforementioned “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” off the Stones 1971 album Sticky Fingers.  It fades in as Jagger sings the last line of the song proper, followed by the epic coda, during which Bobby Keys’ sax goes toe to toe with Mick Taylor’s soaring lead guitar while Keith and Charlie keep a steady rhythm but mostly stay the hell out of the way.  There is no video, just a series of photos of Keith and Bobby together, with a really nice one that appears around 2:07. I post the song’s coda as a tribute to Bobby.  As for honoring Keith’s birthday, here is a link to the audio of the song in its entirety, the first twenty-three seconds of which is Keef at his best:

Programming note: the next two weeks will feature special Wednesday night holiday editions in lieu of the normal Friday posts.

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