"[Brian] often took us off our bluesy course, with at times marvelous results." — Mick Jagger (1989 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech)
Born in 1942 Brian Jones had natural musical ability, learning piano from a young age his skills soon advanced beyond his mother who was a piano teacher, he also played clarinet and at the age of 13 took up saxophone and guitar. He was also a gifted student but, disliking a life of regimentation and rules, he moved away from academia and towards a life in music.
Moving to London Brian's guitar skills and love of the blues led to him becoming a key player on the local R n' B scene, gigging with Alexis Korner and Jack Bruce amongst others. With his blues playing improving Brian formed his own group and following a period where he practiced the blues with Keith Richards and improved Mick Jagger's harmonica playing the group evolved into "The Rolling Stones". While on stage Mick was the centre of attention it was still very much Brian's group as he promoted the band, got them gigs and played a variety of instruments live.
The Stones released their first single in 1962 and when "Not Fade Away" reached number 3 in the UK charts in 1964 it signaled the arrival of the group as a major force — by the end of 1966 they had notched up a further six Number 1's, one Number 2 and one Number 5. While Brian didn't write the songs, nor was he lead guitarist, his guitar playing was a counterpoint to Keith's and his musical knowledge and skill ensured he was not just a support player. Also, from a publicity point of view Brian was essential; he was the most photogenic of the group and helped give them an acceptable image.
However, despite appearances, Brian was living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to the full and by the mid-60s this, coupled with the growing confidence of Mick and Keith, meant that he was no longer the major influence in the band. While it could be argued that Brian had fallen from the height of his creativity, he continued to add his own unique style to the group on tracks such as "Paint It Black" (sitar), "Ruby Tuesday" (recorder) and where would "Let's Spend The Night Together" be without his excellent piano piece?
By the late 60's Brian's behavior had led him to be sidelined by the band and on June 8th 1969 he left the band that he had formed. On July 3rd he was found drowned in his swimming pool and The Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park on July 5th became a tribute to his memory.