Remembering Sax Player: Bobby Keys & His Rock & Roll Life
Robert Henry "Bobby" Keys was born on December 18th 1943 in Slaton, Texas. At just 15 years old he made friends with Buddy Holly, also a Texas Boy, it was the first time he had heard an electric guitar. Eventually Keys was playing sax on tour with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour, mostly with Bobby Vee.
It was in 1964 he met the Rolling Stones in San Antonio & began a lifelong relationship with them. He would become close friends with both Keith Richards & Mick Jagger. It's Keys that is seen on film in 1971 throwing television sets out of Hotel windows with Keith Richards. In his autobiography: Every Night's A Saturday he says he regretted that moment the most, because that's what people remember him for over his music. He is also seen grabbing naked girls & drinking up a storm in the Stones rarely seen film of the times Cocksucker Blues. Keys even served as an attendant at Mick & Bianca Jagger's wedding.
His partying is legendary & eventually it destroyed his health. Another legendary Stones Tour story in 1973 as told by Keith Richards in his book has Keys filling up a bathtub with Dom Perignon Champagne. He was sitting in it with some French chic, drinking most of it up & missing that nights show. To the disgust of Mick Jagger he was fired from the band, even as Keith tried to get him back in. Keys was the main sax player on most Stones tours beginning in 1969 up to that point.
After missing most shows in the mid seventies he was pushed back to secondary duties until 1982. Keith Richards snuck him into the rehearsals for Steel Wheels Tour in 1989 & after popping in with his solo on Brown Sugar, a stunned Jagger agreed with Richards & Keys was back in the band.
He would play on every other Stones Tour through 2013. On record he played on the Stones, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup, Emotional Rescue, Stripped & Shine A Light.
His impressive resume includes playing on John Lennon's albums- Some Time In New York City, Walls & Bridges & Rock & Roll alums, as well as Lennon & Elton John's #1 hit What Ever Gets You Through the Night & Power To The People. Keys also played on George Harrison's first solo album: All Things Must Pass. His Beatles connections got him to hang out with Lennon & pals on the famous Lost Weekend In L.A. which lasted almost two years.
"Sometimes in the afternoon, I’d roll a little hash and John and I would listen to music and then he'd have to go home because [Yoko] would be getting suspicious of his whereabouts," said Keys. "And she knew that I lived in the neighborhood and she knew that I was up no good!"
Keys would also play on Ringo Starr's photograph as well as the classic Ringo album & Goodnight Vienna.
Bobby Keys has also appeared with other musicians such as: Joe Cocker on the classic Mad Dogs & Englishmen album. He also played with Eric Clapton (Eric Clapton album), Humble Pie, The Faces, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Donovan, Harry Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Keith Moon, Sheryl Crow, Grahm Nash, Yoko Ono, Chuck Berry & B.B. King.
Keys passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver on December 2nd, 2014 at age 70.
"The Rolling Stones are devastated by the loss of their very dear friend and legendary saxophone player, Bobby Keys," the band said in a statement. "Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s. He will be greatly missed."
Keith Richards:“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.”