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Revisiting The Rolling Stones’ First Tour

The Rolling Stones’ first tour, which began on 29 September 1963, was a star-studded affair featuring the Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and Little Richard, among others.

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Rolling Stones First Tour

In early 1963, when the Rolling Stones began gigging seriously, they played in and around London, at mostly clubs and pubs. In mid July they drove over 250 miles north, in their beaten up old van, to play the Alcove Club in Middlesbrough; it was their first gig away from their stablished fan base and following this they went on a two and a half month whirlwind tour of clubs and ballrooms throughout the UK. It was all in support of their debut single, ‘Come On’ that had been released in early June; helped by some TV it all began to pay off, as by the end of August, the Stones made No.20 on the NME chart.

Even before they began the routine of club and ballroom one-nighters the Stones were told by Eric Easton, their co-manager along with Andrew Loog Oldham, that he got them a slot on a prestigious package tour in the autumn. It was to star the Everly Brothers, who had topped the UK charts on four occasions, and Bo Diddley. According to Brian Jones in an interview for a pop paper at the time, “This is a wonderful break for us and we’re looking forward to meeting the American duo. For the present we are coping with plenty of dates in and around the London area. We don’t hear enough about the London scene in these days of Liverpool domination, but we’re hoping we’ll fly the flag of the Capital when we get on our tour”
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The 30-date package tour that was scheduled to last 36 days, got under way on Sunday, 29 September 1963 at London’s New Victoria Theatre and according to a report in the NME, the week before the opening night, the band was really looking forward to one thing more than anything else. “For us, the big thrill is that Bo Diddley will be on the bill! He’s been one of our great influences. It won’t be a case of the pupils competing with the master, though. We’re dropping from our act on the tour all the Bo Diddley numbers we sing”

Package tours were very much a 60s phenomenon, with as many acts packed onto the bill as a promoter could squeeze into two hours; two hours that included an interval so that fans could cool down with an ice cream. Stage managing such a fast paced show was no mean feat and for this tour promoter Don Arden, father of Sharon, the future Mrs Ozzy Osbourne, hired one of the best in the business, Peter Grant, who would a few years later manage Led Zeppelin.

Compered by comedian, Bob Bain the opening act was a long forgotten band called the Flintstones, followed by Mickie Most, who had made No.45 on the charts in July with a song called ‘Mr Porter’ (he became a very successful record producer, among his hits was the Animals, ‘House of The Rising Sun’), then the Stones and Bo Diddley who closed the first half of the show. The Flintstones and then Bob Bain got the second half underway and prior to the bill-topping Everlys, British singer Julie Grant (who had a couple of minor hits earlier in the year) did her turn. Grant was only on the bill because Eric Easton managed her.

Tour programmeEven in the first week it became clear that the Everlys, whose star had waned since the coming of The Beatles and the other beat groups, were not selling enough tickets. According to Don Arden, “The Everly Brothers had definitely had it. I phoned up Little Richard and said ‘Richard you’ve gotta help me out’ He said ‘Ok’.” And he did and by the time the tour reached Watford’s Gaumont cinema, its seventh date, the American was added to the bill.

The Stones set lasted barely 10 minutes and to begin with they played ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Fortune Teller’, ‘Money’ and ‘Come On’. As the tour progressed they substituted ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Route 66’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ at some shows; ‘Come On’ was dropped as none of the band really liked it.

On 6 October following the second show in Cardiff, they drove to London in their new VW van to record what was to be their new single at De Lane Lea Music in Soho. It was a cover of Lennon & McCartney’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’.

Most people on this tour were not there to see the Stones and that included the journalists. A few days after the opening night the NME’s reporter noted, “I can freely admit to bewilderment at recognition of the Rolling Stones. They won great appreciation for ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Fortune Teller’, their hit parade success ‘Come On’ and ‘Money’. But not from me”.

By the time the Stones got to Southend, the fifth night of the tour, the local paper decreed: “We couldn’t really give a verdict on the Stones, the up-and-coming young group with the caveman hairstyles, because we hardly understood a word they sang, but the teenage girls screamed, and they are the ones who put such groups on the recording map.” In a souvenir programme for sale at one of the shows, Mick Jagger was quoted as saying, “I give the Stones about another two years”

Over 50 years later the Rolling Stones are still touring, although these days their set is a little longer than ten minutes…and they still don’t play ‘Come On’.

Follow the Rolling Stones’ Live playlist for more classic Stones live performances.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Deborah Lusardi

    October 1, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Pretty cool,pretty cool

  2. steve lovering

    November 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Excellent.

  3. Carolyn Crneck

    January 2, 2015 at 3:22 am

    I thought this was informative about the Rolling Stones , when they just started out , giging hotels & pubs , I would have loved to have been there,but I was only 2 yrs old.. But still and all I love Brian Jones & the Rolling Stones but I especially love their classic hits, they are genius…

  4. sigi

    September 29, 2015 at 11:57 am

    von diesem Song bis heute…immer Rolling Stones. Greatings from Germany…..

  5. Stephen Modiano

    September 29, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Truly satisfying article, The Bo Didley beat is all over Mona! Decades later is The Gunslinger Tour in Hollywood, with Bo Didley and Ron Wood.

  6. Catherine Johns

    September 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I saw them in Cardiff on that first tour. I thought they included ‘Not Fade Away’ in their set, but I suppose it might have been on another occasion. The thing that stood out for me was that they were all dressed completely differently: that was subversive in itself at the time, when bands (including the Beatles) normally wore a ‘uniform’.

  7. Tony mead

    September 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I saw them in Jersey,Channel Islands,in 1964,I still think there the greatest band.

    • Rebecca Stewart

      October 7, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Tony,

      I work for a production company that’s making a series for BBC4 called the People’s History of Pop. (More info here: http://bbc.co.uk/peoplespop)

      We’re telling the story of British popular music through fans’ memories and I’d love to hear a bit more about when you saw the Stones!

      Please get in touch either via email, rebecastewart@7wonder.co.uk, or phone – 020 3701 7619

      Thanks,

      Rebecca

  8. Frances mense

    September 29, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I have a programme from this signed by the Everlys. I wish I got The Stones onstead

  9. Pauline Elley

    September 29, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I saw them at Leyton baths and Granada Walt hamstow. Still the best band ever. Still go see them now when they’re here x

    • Rebecca Stewart

      October 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Pauline,

      I work for a production company that’s making a series for BBC4 called the People’s History of Pop. (More info here: http://bbc.co.uk/peoplespop)

      We’re telling the story of British popular music through fans’ memories and I’d love to hear a bit more about when you saw the Stones!

      Please get in touch either via email, rebecastewart@7wonder.co.uk, or phone – 020 3701 7619

      Thanks,

      Rebecca

  10. david stott

    September 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Just a slight correction to the gig in middlesbrough the club was called the Outlook not the alcove it was friday the 12th of july it was indeed their 1st outside of london it also had the hollies who had a record out at the same time(Just like me)it was promoted as Rythmn & Blues-north v south cost 10 bob to get in pricely sum back in the day long walk home for young teens from stockton but worth it

  11. Marcelo Elorza

    September 29, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Gracias Andrew por compartir esto. Saludos desde Argentina

  12. Diane

    September 29, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    That was a great read. Just saw the Stones in Buffalo, New York…that makes 3 times and counting…what a fantastic way to spend my birthday!!

  13. jackqueline gilstrap

    September 30, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Great article! I do so often wish i would have been born 30 yrs sooner & british so that i could have experienced TH WORLDS GREATEST ROCK N ROLL BAND in this way. security wasnt what it is today so i would have had a lot better chance to get to meet Mick. just feel lucky to have seen them 14 times, still never enough tho! eagerly awaiting show 15! Keep on rolling u fantastic, fabulous best band ever! With love & adoration from your #1 fan!

  14. carlos

    September 30, 2015 at 9:32 am

    The best ticker ok good

  15. Richard Bridgland

    September 30, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Saw this show at Southampton Gaumont – Local ‘Express & Echo’ rated Everlys, Little Richard was outrageous, Bo Diddley was OK, and the others – including the Stones – were “no more than adequate for this type of show!!

    • Rebecca Stewart

      October 7, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Hi Richard,

      I work for a production company that’s making a series for BBC4 called the People’s History of Pop. (More info here: http://bbc.co.uk/peoplespop)

      We’re telling the story of British popular music through fans’ memories and I’d love to hear a bit more about when you saw the Stones!

      Please get in touch either via email, rebecastewart@7wonder.co.uk, or phone – 020 3701 7619

      Thanks,

      Rebecca

  16. ann Hardiman

    October 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    We see them in Aylesbury on a very foggy night Bryan Jones didn’t make it they were supported with the Ronnets would love to see them again sadly the price of tickets are too much for us now

  17. Roger Webster

    October 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    My then girlfriend now wife where there when the show hit Derby Oct 11th 1963 and the hairs on my neck still stand up when I think about it.

  18. Annie Clifford

    September 29, 2016 at 8:06 am

    I went to the Odeon, Birmingham to see this show, as, until ‘The Beatles’, the Everly’s had been my favourite band and I still quite liked them. What a line up that was!! I went with my Mom, as none of my friends was interested.
    Particularly, I remember Mom thoroughly enjoying Little Richard, who, when well into his set, leapt on top of his piano, removed his shirt and flung it into the audience. We were quite near the front, and Mom was on her feet thoroughly enjoying his antics, and jumping for his shirt when it flew our way! (She missed, sadly, and didn’t get her momento of the show) and I was extremely embarrassed at the time!!
    Looking back, it was one of the shows I will never forget. The Everly’s topped the bill and when they sang, you could hear a pin drop, they were brilliant.

  19. Dave Yates

    September 29, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I remember seeing this show when it visited Sheffield.

  20. martin haywood

    September 29, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    can anyone tell me if this tour included the bedford granada, i saw the stones there before their first hit when i seem to rememberr them wearing cherry red suits, they were outstanding as a support act & it was obvious they were going on to bigger things but who dreampt they would be still pulling in stadiums full of followers of all ages 53 years later, what an achievement. m j haywood.

  21. gabriel blik

    September 29, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    See my face book. The first singles in Holland from 1969, I have all the original singles and epees from 1963 till the death of Brian Jones.maybe is this what for an exhibition . I don t give them away.
    Greetings Gabriel Blik

  22. Derek Etherton

    September 29, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    They did a stand alone gig at Hove Town Hall in this year. So remember buying the tickets at the local tobacconist in Church Road. Fabulous night and I found out years later that my wife of 49 years was there. The old town hall burnt down a few years later – it was a hot gig!

  23. David Jones

    September 30, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I saw that show in Cardiff first experience of live Rock and Roll it was brilliant!

  24. Stephen Riley

    April 3, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Saw this show in Derby.Little Richard blew everybody away.I remember Mickie Most rolling round the floor singing Johnnie B Goode.er.Bo was good too.

  25. Margaret oates

    February 18, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    I saw the Stones in the Glasgow Barrowland on a February Monday night in 1963. They hadn’t been heard of in Glasgow & the vast ballroom was practically empty except for the wee crowd who had come to see the M I 5 who were the support band. Anyone else remember this Gig ?

  26. Roger Owen

    January 9, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Saw the show in Taunton – Bo Diddlley in my town, oh joy,! But didn’t use limited time to show what he could do. Little Richard – legend – ranted around theatre (cinema) instead of pounding piano and giving us hits. Rolling Stones looked good and could really play those tracks we’d got to treasure in previous 7 or 8 years. The first time I’d heard the proper sound etc of the records I’d loved played live. They stole the show our little crowd.

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