Anniversary: The Rolling Stones Played Their First Gig 50 Years Ago Today

On July 12, 1962–fifty years ago today– the Rolling Stones played their first concert at the Marquee Club in London.

“It is quite amazing when you think about it,” Mick Jagger recently told Rolling Stone, reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the group’s first show. “But it was so long ago. Some of us are still here, but it’s a very different group than the one that played 50 years ago.”

At the time the group was known as the Rollin’ Stones. Jagger was on vocals, Brian Jones and Keith Richards played guitar, the pianist was Ian Stewart and bassist was Dick Taylor. According to Rolling Stone (the magazine), “The drummer is up for debate; some fans contend it was their frequent early drummer, Tony Chapman, but Richards insisted in his 2010 memoir Life that it was friend Mick Avory.” It’s been 50 years of performances with a lot of partying and squabbles, as well as built and broken relationships in between. Can you blame the guy if there are some lapses in memory?

The story goes that the band was asked to fill in at the Marquee Club for another group. When Jones called local listings paper Jazz News to advertise the gig, he was asked what the band was called. Depending on where you read the story, he either looked at the ground where a record was lying, or he just happened to see the nearby LP. Either way, the record was The Best of Muddy Waters, and the song was called “Rollin’ Stone.” From there, the band’s name was born.

The Rolling Stones fansite It’s Only Rock and Roll, created a set list of what the group played on that night in 1962. It comes from “meticulous, setlist-documenting,” though to be fair says the setlist differs slightly from Richards’ memory of the show described in Life. Again, can you blame him if there’s a descrepency?

1. “Kansas City”
2. “Baby What’s Wrong”
3. “Confessin’ the Blues”
4. “Bright Lights, Big City”
5. “Dust My Broom”
6. “Down the Road Apiece”
7. “I’m a Love You”
8. “Bad Boy”
9. “I Ain’t Got You”
10. “Hush-Hush”
11. “Ride ‘Em on Down”
12. “Back in the U.S.A.”
13. “Kind of Lonesome”
14. “Blues Before Sunrise”
15. “Big Boss Man”
16. “Don’t Stay Out All Night”
17. “Tell Me You Love Me”
18. “Happy Home”

It’s now 2012, and to honor that first gig the rock band gathered at the place where it started– the Marquee Club in London— to shoot their anniversary photo (above, right). The last time the group was publicly photographed together was at the premiere of the Martin Scorsese-directed Shine a Light documentary in 2008.

The band is also scheduled to attend a photographic exhibit at the Somerset House in London, which should be happening right around the time of this article’s publication. The photos from this exhibit are slated to appear in the upcoming book ROLLING STONES: 50, to be released in the U.S. by Hyperion in October.

As the band said in a statement, “This is our story of 50 fantastic years. We started out as a blues band playing the clubs and more recently we’ve filled the largest stadiums in the world with the kind of show that none of us could have imagined all those years ago.”

There is talk of one more concert this year, and a tour is “likely” to happen in 2013. To check out a slide show from the band’s 50 years, visit The New Yorker.