Bobby Keys is the Coolest Stone

Bobby Keys by Dominique Tarle

I finally watched Stones in Exile last night after recently finishing Keith’s Life. The thing that struck me about the documentary was that none of them—especially Mick, but not even Keith—have the slightest clue about what made that album so great. Everybody interviewed for the documentary seemed clueless… Except for Bobby Keys. Yes sir, buddy. The saxophone player was the only guy who didn’t seem like a bumbling old man. Bobby Keys is still cool.

But the best is Keith’s explanation of why Keys got kicked out of the band in 1973:

Bobby went down in a tub of Dom Perignon. Bobby Keys, so the story goes, is the only man who knows how many bottles of it it takes to fill a bath, because that’s what he was floating in. This was just before the second-to-last gig on the ’73 European tour, in Belgium. No sign of Bobby at the band assembly that day, and finally I was asked if I knew where my buddy was — there had been no reply from his hotel room. So I went to his room and said, Bob, we gotta go, we gotta go right now. He’s got a cigar, bathtub full of champagne and this French chick in with him. And he said, fuck off. So be it. Great image and everything like that, but you might regret it, Bob. The accountant informed Bobby afterward that he had earned no money at all on that tour as a result of that bathtub; in fact he owed. And it took me ten goddamn years or more to get him back in the band, because Mick was implacable, and rightly so. And Mick can be merciless in that way. I couldn’t answer for Bobby. All I could do was help him get clean, and I did.

— Keith Richards, Life (pg. 363)

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Photo by Dominique Tarle.

9 thoughts on “Bobby Keys is the Coolest Stone”

  1. HA! That’s a cool r&r story. And did anyone else catch this wonderful tidbit at the end of Keith’s quote? “I couldn’t answer for Bobby. All I could do was help him get clean, and I did.” You know you got problems when it’s KEITH FUCKING RICHARDS getting you clean. Who knew the man knew how to get anyone clean, let alone himself? Mr. total-body-blood-transfusion, snort-my-dad’s-ashes himself.

  2. You know you got problems when it’s KEITH FUCKING RICHARDS getting you clean.


    It reminds me of the buddy from NOLA who came to New York to sober up!

  3. I can’t believe how good this book is. I’m about 200 pages in and I’m totally fascinated. Just like you’re having a conversation with Keith, except you can understand him.

  4. Reading Richards’ book Life myself, which got me here while searching stuff on Bobby Keys. Good to put a face to sax sounds I have loved in so many tunes. The thread here makes total sense to me, given what I am enjoying and learning in this book. Just glad as many got out alive as did. Victories in a crazy war.

  5. Bobby played a small club in Albuquerque on his (+ Keefs) birthday in 2011. I actually got to sit down and talk with him before and after the show. What a great guy. He told stories of the Exile recordings, talked bout his love for Keith and how he’s been blessed. Wonderful man.

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