Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart (born Jan. 10, 1945) is an English rock vocalist from London who fronted several R&B/beat combos during the mid-1960s before rising to prominence as the frontman of the Jeff Beck Group on the 1968/69 albums Truth and Beck-Ola. In 1969, Stewart left the group along with bassist/guitarist Ron Wood to join the Small Faces, prompting that band’s name-change to Faces. That same year, Stewart released his first of five albums on Mercury with backing by assorted studio/touring personnel in addition to select Faces, an arrangement that continued through the following half-decade.

In 1975, Stewart began a 26-year run on Warner Bros., enjoying international stardom with a span of hits between his 1976 release A Night on the Town and the 1989 career-anthology Storyteller.


He was born Roderick David Stewart on January 10, 1945, in Highgate, North London, the youngest of five children born to Scottish master builder Robert Joseph Stewart (1904–1990) and Englishwoman Elsie Rebecca Gilbart (1905–1996), who married in 1928. He had two older brothers and two older sisters, all born in Scotland. His closest sibling was eight years his senior.

The Stewart’s were football enthusiasts. Before taking an interest in music, Roderick was captain of his Middlesex Schoolboys football team. His musical initiation involved the films of Al Jolson and the early rock n’ roll records of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran. When he was fourteen, his father bought him a guitar. The following year, he formed a skiffle group with schoolmates called The Kool Kats.

In 1960, Stewart tried for the Football League Third Division. Over the next year, he worked a series of odd jobs (delivery boy, sign writer, cemetery laborer) and immersed himself in beatnik culture and radical politics. He was arrested three times for partaking in disarmament sit-ins at Trafalgar Square. After 18 months of busking between France and Spain with folkster friend Wizz Jones, Stewart returned to London and cultivated a mod aesthetic and rooster-top hairdo.

In late 1962, Stewart sang at one gig for Kinks-precursor the Ray Davies Quartet, comprised of former classmates from William Grimshaw. The following year, he joined the R&B/beat combo The Dimensions as a harmonica player and secondary singer. They served as a weekly opening act for an up-and-coming Rolling Stones at the Studio 51 club on Great Newport Street.

In 1964, Stewart gigged with Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men, making his vinyl debut on their UA b-side “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air.” That same year, he cut his first solo single, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (b/w “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”), for Decca. The session backers on this single include a young John Paul Jones.

Stewart performed solo into early 1965 with backing by Southampton mod-rockers The Soul Agents. He then reteamed with Baldry in Steampacket, a jazz-blues-soul septet that also featured the nucleus of Trinity: Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll, Micky Waller, Vic Briggs, and Ricky Fenson. Since the three parties were contractually tied to different labels, they couldn’t record together, though they were taped during rehearsals at the Marquee Club. Meanwhile, Stewart issued his second solo single, “The Day Will Come” (b/w “Why Does It Go On”), that November on Columbia. Both sides were written by prolific songwriter Barry Mason.

After Steampacket folded in early 1966, Stewart formed the similarly styled Shotgun Express with singer Beryl Marsden, ex-Them/future-Camel keyboardist Pete Bardens, and two soon-to-be co-founders of Fleetwood Mac: guitarist Peter Green and drummer Mick Fleetwood. They issued two singles on Columbia in 1966/67, both paired as a maxi-single in the French market. Stewart’s second Columbia single, a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Shout” (b/w “I Just Got Some”), was produced by Auger with backing by Trinity.

In February 1967, Stewart was recruited for the Jeff Beck Group, formed by the namesake guitarist after his departure from The Yardbirds. The group also featured ex-Birds/Creation guitarist Ronnie Wood (on bass) and a sequence of drummers, including Stewart’s Steampacket colleague (and Trinity alumnus) Micky Waller. They debuted that July with the Columbia single “Tallyman” (b/w “Rock My Plimsoul”), credited solely to Beck with Stewart confined to the b-side.

Stewart issued his fourth solo single, “Little Miss Understood” (b/w “So Much to Say”), in March 1968 on Immediate Records. It was written and produced by Mike D’Abo (Manfred Mann) with a Stewart co-write on the b-side.

Meanwhile, the Jeff Beck Group toured at loose ends across the UK and Europe. Fortunes changed that June when promoter Peter Grant booked them on a US tour, where they won over audiences in advance of their first album, Truth, released that August on EMI (UK) and Epic (US).

Despite their success as a band, Stewart and Beck had fraught relations. Soon after the April 1969 sessions for their second album, Beck-Ola, Stewart and Wood departed for the Small Faces. Since the pair exceeded the 5’5″ height-average of the other members — Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagen — the band renamed itself Faces. Before the new five-piece made any recordings, Stewart recorded his debut solo album.


Stewart’s debut longplayer, The Rod Stewart Album, was released in November 1969 on Mercury. The eight-song set features five originals, including “I Wouldn’t Ever Change a Thing,” “Blind Prayer,” and “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Among the covers is the second and most well-known version of Mike d’Abo’s “Handbags and Gladrags” (first recorded by Chris Farlowe). Stewart is backed on this album by the JBG rhythm section (Wood/Waller), plus keyboardist Ian McLagen (Faces) and guitarists Martin Pugh and Martin Quittenton (both of Steamhammer). “Handbags” features D’Abo on piano; “Man of Constant Sorrow” features Keith Emerson on organ. The album was recorded the prior summer at London’s Lansdowne and Olympic Studios and produced by Lou Reizner.

The Rod Stewart Album was initially released in North America, France, Japan, and New Zealand. Most of these pressings feature a plain cover with the title in cursive. In February 1970, the album was issued in the UK on Vertigo as An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, named after the opening track on side two. The cover to this release features a child with an older man running through a field. Most reissues of the album outside North American and Japan bear this title.

That same month, Stewart entered London’s Morgan Studios to record a followup. The resulting Gasoline Alley was released in 1970 on Vertigo (UK, Europe, Aus.) and Mercury (everywhere else). The nine-song set features three originals: “Jo’s Lament,” “Lady Day,” and the Stewart/Wood-composed title-track. Also included are covers of the early rock standard “Cut Across Shorty” and the Elton John/Bernie Taupin number “Country Comforts,” which also appeared that year on the writer’s Tumbleweed Connection. The album concludes with a raunchy rendition of “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” (Beatty/Cooper/Shelby), also performed that year by Eric Clapton with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.

Gasoline Alley was co-produced by Stewart and Reizner. The services of Wood, Waller, Quittenton, and McLagan are retained for most of this release. Fellow Faces Ronnie Lane (bass) and Kenney Jones (drums) play on the tracks “My Way of Giving” and “You’re My Girl.” Additional backing is provided by Stanley Matthews (mandolin), Pete Sears (piano), and violinists Dennis O’Flynn and Dick Powell.

Every Picture Tells a Story (1971) “Every Picture Tells a Story”, “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, “Maggie May”, “Reason to Believe” 8D”Tomorrow Is Such a Long Time”, “Mandolin Wind”

Never a Dull Moment (1972) “Interludings/You Wear It Well”, “Angel”, “I’d Rather Go Blind” 8D”Italian Girls”

Rod Stewart / Faces Live: Coast to Coast – Overture and Beginners (1973)

Smiler (1974)

Atlantic Crossing (1975)

A Night on the Town (1976)

Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977)

Blondes Have More Fun (1978)

Foolish Behaviour (1980)

Tonight I’m Yours (1981)

Absolutely Live (1982)

Body Wishes (1983)

Camouflage (1984)

Rod Stewart (1986)

Out of Order (1988)

Vagabond Heart (1991)


Discography:

  • An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down [aka The Rod Stewart Album] (1969)
  • Gasoline Alley (1970)
  • Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)
  • Never a Dull Moment (1972)
  • Rod Stewart / Faces Live: Coast to Coast – Overture and Beginners (1973)
  • Smiler (1974)
  • Atlantic Crossing (1975)
  • A Night on the Town (1976)
  • Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977)
  • Blondes Have More Fun (1978)
  • Foolish Behaviour (1980)
  • Tonight I’m Yours (1981)
  • Absolutely Live (1982)
  • Body Wishes (1983)
  • Camouflage (1984)
  • Rod Stewart (1986)
  • Out of Order (1988)
  • Vagabond Heart (1991)

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