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Not Fade Away: The Rolling Stones Turn 50

  • Ron Synovitz

The Rolling Stones pose in front of the Marquee Club in London on July 11, 2012.

The Rolling Stones pose in front of the Marquee Club in London on July 11, 2012.

It was 50 years ago that a young English band played its first concert as the Rolling Stones -- performing at London's Marquee club for an audience of just over 100 people on July 12, 1962.

Most in the audience were fans of traditional jazz rather than the American blues played by the Rolling Stones. Nobody there could imagine the scruffy musicians would become one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in popular music history, as well as a force that would change popular culture.

Worldwide sales of their two dozen studio albums are estimated at more than 200 million.

The band named themselves after a 1948 song by Muddy Waters, the father of modern Chicago blues. From the beginning, the Rolling Stones evangelized the electrified urban blues music of black artists like Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Reed.

In broader terms, the Rolling Stones helped trigger a musical renaissance that raised the profile of urban blues -- exposing the world to a roots-based American genre that was unknown at the time by most white American teenagers.

PHOTO GALLERY: The World's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band

Initially promoted as southern England's answer to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones rose to international fame during pop music's British invasion of the 1960s.

But rivalry with the Beatles was a marketing ploy as the musicians were personal friends.

The Beatles' John Lennon and Paul McCartney actually penned the Rolling Stones' breakthrough record and second single -- "I Wanna Be Your Man."

Members of both groups would visit each other in the studio and appear on each others' records during the 1960s.

But it was the rebellious songwriting of vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards that propelled the band to its greatest commercial successes -- songs like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Jumping Jack Flash," "Sympathy For The Devil," and "Gimme Shelter."

Founding member Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool in July 1969 after he had been replaced in the band by guitarist Mick Taylor.

Another founding member, pianist Ian Stewart, was fired by the band's manager in 1963 because his face didn't match the gaunt image of the others. But Stewart continued to work for the band as a roadie and studio musician until his death in 1985.

Guitarist Ronnie Wood officially replaced Mick Taylor in 1976.

Reinvigorated, the Rolling Stones in 1978 released one of their biggest-selling albums in the United States -- "Some Girls" -- which was heavily influenced by British punk. The album also contained the hit dance song "Miss You," which Richards described in his autobiography as "the greatest disco song ever recorded."

When The Rolling Stones was inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, the organization said "critical acclaim and popular consensus has accorded them the title of the 'World's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band'."

Bassist Bill Wyman left the group in 1993 -- leaving Jagger, Richards, and drummer Charlie Watts as the only remaining original members.

The band's popularity has transcended musical fashions for decades -- from 1960s psychedelia, through disco, punk, and the stadium rock of the 1970s and 1980s.

Music critics attribute the band's endurance and relevance during the decades to its roots in traditional blues and soul music.

And they are still rocking on. Their latest studio album, "A Bigger Bang," was released in 2005.

To mark their achievement, Jagger, Richards, Wood, and Watts will assemble on July 12 in the city where it all began, London. There they will attend a photo exhibit following 50 years of the Stones, and have given assurances that there will be more shows to come.