Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz, London, September 2023

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Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts (1941-2021) © Andrew Timms

London – Christie’s is privileged to announce Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz, a two-part auction comprising an unparalleled library of modern first edition books, the finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years, together with an extensive collection of jazz memorabilia amassed by the legendary musician and Rolling Stones’ drummer. The flagship auction will take place at Christie’s headquarters in London on 28 September (Part I), alongside an Online sale which will be open for bidding from 15 to 29 September (Part II). Over 500 lots will be offered, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000. Highlight lots will tour to Los Angeles from 25 to 29 July and New York from 5 to 8 September, ahead of the public pre-sale exhibition in London from 20 to 27 September.

“Charlie was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly sixty years, he was totally unique and devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood. He was the quintessential English gentleman and his absence is a great loss for us all. We miss him hugely.”

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts (1941-2021) © Rolling Stones

The renowned drummer of the Rolling Stones who provided the backbeat to some of the most iconic tracks of our time, Charlie’s love of music ran alongside a passion for the greatest works of twentieth-century literature. Leading the live sale will be an important inscribed copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book which continues to define the Jazz age, inscribed inside the front cover to ‘the original Gatsby’, Harold Goldman, screenwriter at MGM (estimate: £200,000-300,000).

The collection also boasts exciting presentation inscriptions and the rarest obtainable editions of books by authors including George Orwell to Agatha Christie, and from Arthur Conan Doyle to James Joyce, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000.

Charlie Watts’ love of jazz underpinned his life. Having formed his own jazz group, The Charlie Watts Quintet, whose performances at Ronnie Scott’s were a highlight of his multifaceted career, this musical passion also became a dominant force in his collecting, underpinned by his love of the jazz greats including Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. This unrivalled collection also includes a particular focus on his favourite saxophonist, Charlie Parker, one of the most important figures in the development of jazz, including Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). An annotated printed score for Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin will also be showcased (estimate: £10,000-15,000).

“Charlie was my dearest old friend since early childhood and in our early teens we both developed a lifelong love of jazz. Charlie of course became a member of the greatest rock band in the world but his love of jazz never left him. His collection of jazz memorabilia which he started in his teens and built up during his years with the Stones is truly astonishing; it reflects his enduring love of the music and the musicians who made it.”

Dave Green, Childhood Friend and Jazz Musician

Literature and Jazz Part I: Live Sale Highlights

Literature and Jazz Part II: Online Sale Highlights

Presenting collectors and fans with further opportunities, the Online sale (Part II) will be open for bidding from 15 until 29 September (live for browsing from 18 August). It will include lots by acclaimed 20th century authors, such as Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and Carry on Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (estimate: £4,000-6,000). Further Jazz lots feature two scores by Irving Berlin – Songs from Top Hat and Songs from Follow the Fleet – inscribed to Ginger Rogers (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and two inscribed piano scores by the influential cornetist Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke (estimate: £6,000-8,000).

Benedict Winter, Specialist, Private & Iconic Collections and Mark Wiltshire, Specialist, Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s: “Charlie Watts holds a unique position within music history and Christie’s is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy. Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste. We invite the public to join us in this rare opportunity to glimpse the very private world of this extraordinary musical genius.”

“People like Charlie Watts are very hard to put in a pocket, they don’t make pockets for people like Charlie. A totally unique guy – the best drummer England has ever produced.”

Keith Richards

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