Preview: Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings

Bill Wyman at the Jazz and Blues Festival. Pic: Comp
Bill Wyman at the Jazz and Blues Festival. Pic: Comp
Have your say

JESSIE J might be headlining the BBC’s Live at the Castle spectacular tomorrow, and the legend that is Tom Jones may be entertaining on the Esplanade this Sunday, but the music doesn’t stop there.

As the Capital gears up for its annual arts extravaganza, The Fringe, the spotlight first falls on the biggest festival of its kind in the UK, The Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival, which runs for 10 days from today.

Boasting what organisers describe as “a super-charged line-up” in 13 venues across the Capital, there will be a chance to enjoy everything from bop to boogie-woogie and blues-rock; from samba to swing and soul. In other words something to suit every mood and musical taste.

Big names performing at this years Jazz Fest, include Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, featuring former Spice Girl Melanie C; Irish singer-songwriter legend Van Morrison, and Maggie Bell, Scotland’s Queen of the Blues.

Of all the 140 gigs that make up the event, one in particular is guaranteed to prove popular, the appearance of Rolling Stones’ legend Bill Wyman, with his acclaimed Rhythm Kings, who play the Festival Theatre on July 27.

Speaking from the south of France, where he now lives, Wyman, who last appeared with the Stones in 2012, is a busy man.

“I have my archeology, I write books, I have photo exhibitions, a young family growing up, so I am kept pretty busy,” he says.

“It keeps me fresh. I do one big tour every year. Last year, it was the UK and this year it is Europe. In between, in the summer, we just do whatever festivals come along. This year we have four, then I move on to other projects, it’s as simple as that.”

Another of those projects finds Wyman wearing his restaurateur’s hat - he famously opened Sticky Fingers Cafe in London, in 1989.

“For 25 years Sticky Fingers has been going. Just ridiculous,” he chuckles.

Thankfully, it’s his music that brings the bluesman back to the Capital next week, along with his band, with whom he has been recording and touring with since 1997.

“The band just keep themselves available at particular times of the year so that they can do this stuff,” he explains.

“They all have their own careers, working with other people, so for me it’s like pulling a football team together every year. That keeps it fresh.

“It becomes a lot of fun. We put on a fantastic show but we don’t have to worry about making the charts, hit singles, a new album, or record companies up our backsides. We don’t have those problems, we just have a really nice time together and the audiences love it.

“It’s variety all the way; we do a blues song, then we do a soul song, then a Ray Charles’ song, then a James Brown song, then a JJ Cale... it’s really fun to do, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. I have other things to do.”

One of the attractions for the rock icon is that it allows him to play the music he loves - the music responsible for getting him hooked in the first place.

“Mostly it was blues that I liked,” he recalls, “or rhythm and blues as it was in those days. Not what they call R&B now, which is lightweight smarmy stuff. I’m talking about the likes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley’s stuff, that is R&B to us, that and then later people like Marvin Gaye, although they got into soul.”

Wyman is proud of the fact that the line-up of his band remains almost unchanged since it formed.

“We have pretty much the same band that I started with. The horns are the same, the drummer is the same, the guitarist is the same, although he is in America at the moment so I have replaced him with Andy Fairweather Low.”

Of course, for many, Wyman’s name will forever be synonymous with the Rolling Stones. However, he is modest when asked about his rock legacy.

“I don’t think about it too much. It’s kind of forced upon me sometimes by people, otherwise I don’t think about it like that. I just concentrate on what I’m doing now. For example, in my madness, I’m just finishing a solo album, which is going to come out in October, which is ridiculous at my age.”

For the record he is 77.

“But anybody who has heard any of it has loved it so I’m really excited about it. I just thought, ‘I’ll have a go at one’, but I won’t play any of that with the Rhythm Kings, because they are a separate entity.

“We do jazz blues, soul. Sometimes rockabilly, ballads. So there is a whole mixture of stuff we do with all different singers - we have five or six singers and everybody does one or two songs, which adds variety to the show.”

And when he’s not performing in the Capital, Wyman reveals he has one ambition left to fulfil.

“I always bring my camera and shoot pictures where ever I go. People seem to be more respectful of you now, they don’t bother you so much when you are walking about. So you are able to see more of the city, and that is a pleasure in itself. I’d like to be right inside the Castle, I’ve taken picture of the castle... but I’ve never been right inside it.”

Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 27 July, 8pm, £32.50-£47.50, 0131-473 2000

The Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival runs from today to 27 July. For tickets and full details of events, visit