The Rolling Stones
When the Beatles ceased to exist in 1970, the title of "World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” fell with very little dispute to the Rolling Stones, who by then were in the middle of such a wondrous creative peak that they might have challenged the Fab Four for the title anyway. It’s a title the one-time "anti-Beatles” haven’t relinquished since. Not only have the Stones been the greatest rock band in the world for more than 30 years, but they have been a functioning rock ‘n’ roll unit for more than 40, the longest run in history.
Boyhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with guitarist Brian Jones and pianist Ian Stewart, formed the first version of the Rollin’ Stones in 1962, and with the crack rhythm section of Charlie Watts on drums and Bill Wyman on bass soon on board, were ripping it up in an eight-month residency at London’s Crawdaddy Club shortly thereafter. A young and ambitious Andrew Loog Oldham saw them there:
"I saw them April 23, 1963 and then I knew what I had been training for,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Colombia. "The main thing they had was passion, which has served them to this day,” Oldham continued. Oldham’s first act as manager was to demote the shambling Stewart from the band’s live act for not keeping with his image of a lean, mean and sexy Stones (Stewart was the band’s road manager and recorded with them until his death in 1985).
At the time the Rollin’ Stones (named for the Muddy Waters song, Oldham added the "g”) were a ragged R&B cover band, but their run at the Crawdaddy had generated much attention, and with the Beatles on their way up no one wanted to miss the next big thing. Oldham quickly got them signed to Decca Records, which was still smarting from having turned down the Beatles.
In June of '63 the Stones’ first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s "Come On” went to No. 21 in the UK. The follow-up in November was a cover of the dreaded Beatles’ "I Wanna Be Your Man,” which rose to UK No. 12. By February of '64, they reached the UK Top 10 with Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away,” which also cracked the Top 50 in the U.S. — the bad boys were on their way.