Inside Late Rolling Stones Drummer Charlie Watts' Enduring Marriage to 'Incredible' Wife Shirley
When Rolling Stone Charlie Watts died on Wednesday at 80 years old, he left behind a lasting legacy — not only as the drummer for one of the greatest rock bands of all time, but as a devoted husband with an enduring love story.
Watts, who died in a London hospital surrounded by his family, was married to Shirley Shepherd for nearly 60 years. The couple shared a daughter, Seraphina, and a granddaughter, Charlotte.
"She is an incredible woman," the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer reportedly once said, per Vulture. "The one regret I have of this life is that I was never home enough. But she always says when I come off tour that I am a nightmare and tells me to go back out."
Sparks first flew for the pair in the early 1960s, after they met while Watts was rehearsing with Alexis Korner's band, he said in the book According to the Rolling Stones.
"Two of the guys in the band, the piano player Keith Scott and Andy Hoogenboom, the bass player, were from Hornsey Art School, which is where Shirley was studying, and she came down with Andy and his wife," Watts explained.
By 1964, they were married, and soon, Shirley was joining her husband on tour, according to Chrissie Shrimpton, a former girlfriend of Mick Jagger.
"The firm rule was always 'no girls on tour' but Shirley would nearly always go because Charlie simply refused to get up or wash if she didn't," Shrimpton said in Phillip Norman's biography of the frontman.
Going on tour with her husband was likely a good time for Shirley, as Watts once explained that she was even more of a fan of the Rolling Stones than he was.
"My wife and daughter may come out on tour, but Shirley's always had other things outside of this band. She's a great fan of the Stones, though. I'm not; it's what I do. Mick and Keith and Ronnie are my friends and the band is a very good one, but that's it," he said in According to the Rolling Stones. "But Shirley actually plays our records. I don't."
Over the years, Watts frequently gave his bride shout-outs in interviews, and explained just how much of an influence she had on him.
"I've always wanted to be a drummer… As long as it's comfortable with my wife, I'll continue to do it," he told Rolling Stone in 1996. "I don't know what I'd do if I didn't do it."
It was Shirley who even helped him kick his substance abuse issues, a problem that only became public knowledge years later.
"I've said it myself, but people don't believe it. I nearly killed myself. At the end of two years on speed and heroin, I was very ill," Watts told Rolling Stone. "My daughter used to tell me I looked like Dracula. I just stopped cold – for me and for my wife. It was never me, really."
In more recent years, the couple lived at Halsdon Manor in North Devon, England, according to Devon Live, and reportedly owned an Arabian horse farm.
Watts and Shirley were dog lovers, and in 2020 adopted a greyhound named Suzie from the Forever Hounds Trust, which shared a sweet photo of the couple and their pooch upon news of Watts' death.
When asked by NME in 2018 what the secret to his successful marriage was, Watts had a simple answer.
"Because I'm not really a rockstar," he said. "I don't have all the trappings of that. Having said that, I do have four vintage cars and can't drive the bloody things. I've never been interested in doing interviews or being seen."