Two of the renowned collections owned by the late and universally-loved Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts are to be auctioned by Christie’s. Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz is a two-part auction featuring his extraordinary collections of first edition books and jazz memorabilia.
The flagship event will take place at Christie’s London headquarters on September 28, for Part I, alongside an online sale, open for bidding from September 15-29 (Part II), that goes live for browsing from August 18. In total, more than 500 lots will be on offer, with estimates starting at £800 and climbing to £300,000. Preview events will feature highlight lots in Los Angeles (July 26-29) and New York September (5-8), before a public pre-sale exhibition in London, which takes place from September 20-27.
The live sale will be led by a significant, inscribed copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, inscribed inside the front cover to ‘the original Gatsby’, MGM screenwriter Harold Goldman. The book will have an estimate of £200,000-300,000. Also in Watts’ unique literary collection are presentation inscriptions and the rarest obtainable editions of books by such writers as George Orwell, Agatha Christie (including Murder at the Vicarage, with an estimate of £4,000-6,000), Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse (including Carry On Jeeves, estimated at £4,000-6,000), and James Joyce. Estimates range from £800 to £300,000.
His unrivaled collection of jazz recordings and memorabilia has a particular focus on one of his greatest heroes, Charlie Parker, including Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952, with an estimated value of £10,000-15,000. An annotated printed score for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess will also feature in the auction, with an estimate of £10,000-15,000.
Other jazz lots include Irving Berlin’s scores for 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 ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke (£6,000-10,000).
‘Enduring love of the music’
Dave Green, Charlie’s oldest friend from their youth, when they grew up as next door neighbors and fellow jazz enthusiasts, says: “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.”
Add Benedict Winter, specialist, private and 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.”
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