12 guitar heroes who almost joined The Rolling Stones

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12 guitar heroes who almost joined The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones guitarist
Words by Christie Eliezer

When a 17-year old Ronnie Wood saw The Rolling Stones at London’s Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival in ’64, he vowed, “Someday, I’m gonna be in that band.”

It would take him another 10 years while he rose to fame with the Jeff Beck Group and The Faces. He was offered The Rolling Stones’ gig on December 19, 1974, began touring with them a year later, and officially became a Stone on April 23, 1976.

The Rolling Stones guitarist

Initially he joined on apprentice rates, paid only when the band went on the road.

Blues Prodigy

In the early ‘70s when blues prodigy Mick Taylor decided to leave – bored and not feeling he was part of them – Keith Richards gasped, “No one leaves The Stones unless they’re in a box!”

In the meantime, here are 12 guitar heroes who almost plugged their amps in with them.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.


When Brian Jones got booted out in 1969 for living on another planet, Eric Clapton was one of the first that Mick Jagger rang.

They were all close friends, and Clapton had played the solo on “Sympathy For The Devil” and later slide on a version of “Brown Sugar”.

But he turned them down:  “the pros and cons of being in a band like that were massively extreme.” 

At the time he was more interested in joining The Band. That stopped when Robbie Robertson drily asked, “Are you suggesting that we could have two guitar players, or did you want to take my job?”

Turned Down

Clapton also turned down The Beatles, on whose “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” he played blistering guitar.

Harrison had left in 1969 on a whim over the growing bad vibes within The Beatles.

John Lennon had shrugged,  “If George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play.”

Clapton went on to form Derek & The Dominoes (“Layla”) and had solo hits with “I Shot The Sheriff”, “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”.

Waited To Call

In 1974 when Taylor bailed, Clapton waited for them to call… and they didn’t.

Richards said: “Eric wanted to jump in after Mick Taylor, but never did say so. But he expected us to call, although I only just found out.

“‘Why didn’t you call me?’ Because you’re too damn good – and your own man.

“There are certain guys that are band players and there’s certain guys that ain’t. If there’s anybody lazier than me, it’s Eric.

“He’s got it all, but Eric’s like Mick Taylor in a way. He needs to hire guys to play with him to kick him up the arse.”


The Californian based virtuoso Ry Cooder, emerged with Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, and was renowned for his love for American roots and world music.

In 1997 he produced a record for elderly Cuban musicians Buena Vista Social Club which made them a global phenomenon and sold a million copies.

Five Weeks

In May 1969, Cooder found himself in London for five weeks at the invitation of Stones arranger Jack Nitzsche to help out on the Led It Bleed sessions.

This was just a month before Brian Jones was sacked, and some thought he’d be a good replacement.

But he found them disorganised, he didn’t hit it off with Keith, and he hated the way Jagger-Richards were treating the fragile Brian.

Messing Around

Cooder told Rolling Stone a year later: “They weren’t playing well and were just messing around in the studio. 

“There were a lot of very weird people hanging around the place, but the music wasn’t going anywhere. 

“When there’d be a lull in the so-called rehearsals, I’d start to play my guitar. Keith Richard would leave the room immediately and never return. I thought he didn’t like me! 

“But, as I found out later, the tapes would keep rolling. I’d ask when we were going to do some tracks. Mick would say: ‘It’s all right, Ry, we’re not ready yet’.”

Without Credit

Cooder claimed some of his ideas used without credit, and how showing Keith to play in open-G tuning saw his riff surface on “Honky Tonk Women”.

But he was credited with his play on “Sister Morphine”, mandolin on “Love In Vain” and slide on Jagger’s solo “Memo From Turner” from the Performance movie.


After Taylor quit, The Stones invited various names to come and jam / record/ audition in studios in various European cities as they worked on Black And Blue in 1974/1975.

Jeff Beck, fiery shredder in The Yardbirds, The Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert & Appice, made the trip but the planets weren’t aligned.

“I’d like to have been a Rolling Stone,” he said. But after a day, he didn’t think they were musically compatible with his new jazzier journey.

Lifestyle-wise, Beck was a vegetarian, interested in wildlife rescue and raced hot rods.

Tremendous Player

Keith said of Beck, “He was a tremendous player. The odd times we got together, I was always amazed by the stuff that he did with his tremolo bar.

“(But The Stones are) all about teamwork. We felt that Jeff had his own furrow to plow and that he was not a team man.”

In 1988, on Jagger’s solo tour of Australia and New Zealand, he enlisted Beck as lead guitarist in his band.

Things never got past early rehearsals. Beck didn’t like the idea of being a hired hand, and demanded that the tour be billed a co-headliner.

He died from a bacterial meningitis infection at a hospital on January 10, 2023, at the age of 78.


By his teens, the psychedelic soul multi-instrumental from Los Angeles, Shuggie Otis had by eleven began playing in his father Johnny Otis’ R&B big band

He was asked by Al Kooper to feature on the second installment of the Super Session album series with Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield.

Shuggie (a nickname for “sugar”) was approached in the mid-70s by The Stones’ touring pianist Billy Preston to join them on a world tour.

Own Music

He said no because he wanted to do his own music, and his albums were hits in America. 

“I’d have made a lot of money but I’d have done them a disservice because my heart wouldn’t have been in it.”

He toured Australia in 2013.


When Jimi Hendrix appeared on TV’s The Mike Douglas Show, the host asked, “What’s it like to be the best rock guitarist in the world?”

With a smile, Jimi replied, “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Rory Gallagher.”

The virtuoso from Ireland who fronted the band Taste, was acknowledged by Eric Clapton, Brian May, Slash, The Edge and Alex Lifeson of Rush as a serious influence.

1am Call

Gallagher was in Ireland at home when he got a call at 1 am. A voice said, “My name is Ian Stewart (long time Stones associate)… I’m looking for Rory Gallagher.”

Rory had a Japanese tour booked but hightailed it to Holland. The Stones’ manager Marshall Chess told him, “I knew you were the man for the job.”

During their sessions, Jagger and Richards had a bust-up and weren’t talking to each other.

What’s Going On

Rory told Mick, “‘Please let me know what’s going on because I’ve got to be on a plane to Tokyo tomorrow.”

The singer responded, “Keith wants to have a good long chat with you. Please go up. He’s waiting in his suite upstairs.”

Gallagher went up, to find Keith comatose in bed. Rory returned to his room every half an hour for the talk, and finally collected his guitar and amp and went to Japan.

30 Million

Through the ‘70s and ’80 he sold 30 million albums with constant touring (including through Australia). 

Beset by health problems, he received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that same year in London at the age of 47.


One of the great British soul singers and cocky Cockney frontmen (Small Faces, Humble Pie) Steve Marriott was a good friend of The Stones.

In 1967 when they were recording Their Satanic Majesties Request at Olympic Studios in London, The Small Faces were next door working on “Itchicoo Park” and “Tin Soldier”.

Brian didn’t make it to the studio one day so Marriott was roped in to play guitar and sing back up on “In Another Land”.

Pop Star

Tired of being a pop star, he left the Small Faces in 1969 to form the heavier Humble Pie with Peter Frampton.

Thunderous albums as Rockin’ The Fillmore made them huge in America, while the abandoned Faces teamed with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and also found great success.

By the time The Stones called him, Marriott had become a bitter angry man, ripped off for millions of dollars, and with a drink and cocaine problem.

Pissed Off

Keith was keen on him joining but he pissed Jagger off at the audition, either by upstaging him or making some unnecessary comments.

He ended his career penniless and in forgettable pub bands. In 1991, he died in a house fire.

He was smoking in bed and too drunk and/or stoned to escape. He was 44 years old.


Roy Buchanan was a guitarist’s guitarist, hailing from Arkansas and growing up in California.

He was a master of the Telecaster and his splendid use of its effects and blend of rockabilly, country, jazz and pop inspired Jeff Beck, Gary Moore (who covered his hit “Sweet Dreams”), John Lennon and Joe Bonamassa.

He tended to embroider his life story, claiming his stock farmer father was a fiddle praying preacher, and that he had an aptitude for guitar because he was “half wolf”.


He also claimed je turned down The Stones in 1969 because he didn’t want to become a druggie (although later he suffered from various addictions).

The story also goes that Keith took revenge. He, Clapton and Wood turned up backstage at a Buchanan show, and pissed in Roy’s beer.


On August 14, 1988, after an argument with his wife, Buchanan went out and got drunk, and was thrown into a cell at Fairfax County jail in Virginia.

They found him hanging with his shirt the next day.


At 16, Detroit-born Chicago-raised guitarist Harvey “The Snake” Mandel (Canned Heat, Charlie Musselwhite, John Mayall, Bob Dylan) made his first guitar, a Harmony acoustic.

He used a phonograph cartridge as pickup, and modified a radio to use as an amplifier.

He earned a reputation as a virtuoso, the  “king of sustain” and controlled feedback, and a modern day flag waver of electric Chicago blues.

Call From Mick

He got a call at home at 3 or 4 in the morning from Jagger inviting him to Munich, Germany. 

“We want you to come play a couple of songs. Leave tomorrow.”

If Jagger had his way, Mandel would have been the replacement for Mick Taylor.

Being English

Keef wanted Ronnie because he was English. But he featured in “Hot Stuff” and “Memory Motel” from Black And Blue.

He later fought cancer and in March 2024 friends launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money after he was hospitalised with a swelling brain.


Declared “the face of 1968” by the pop press when he was in The Herd as an 18-year old, guitar prodigy Peter Frampton’s earliest connection with The Rolling Stones came in 1964 when he was 14.

Bill Wyman produced a single for his band, The Preachers, and became his big brother.

The bassist probably put his name on the table when the Black And Blue auditions began. 

Humble Pie

By then Frampton had left Humble Pie and released a number of great solo albums like Wind Of Change.

In 2016 Frampton told New York DJ Howard Stern he was driving on a toll road in 1975 and heard a news item on the radio “The Stones have narrowed their search to a shortlist of five”. 

His name was mentioned. He recalls shrieking with excitement and having to pull the car off the road.

A Year Later

As it turned out, a year later (1976) he released his double live album Frampton Comes Alive exploded globally selling 8 million in America and going to #1 in Australia where it sold 200,000, and catapulted him into superstardom.

Years later he told Stern, “I would have joined (The Stones) but I would have wanted to be able to make my own solo records as well…But I probably would be dead by now.”


With the pedigree of The E-Street Band, Grin and Neil Young, Nils Lofgren came into The Rolling Stones orbit with “Keith Don’t Go” on his self-titled debut solo album in 1975.

In the song he pleads with Richards to look after his health because rumours were he was soon going to be pushing up daisies.

At that time, friend Ron Wood had initially turned down The Stones because he wanted to stay with The Faces. So he introduced Lofgren to Mick and Keith.

The Glimmer Twins loved Lofgren’s guitar playing at a try-out in Geneva. But when they heard his godawful singing, the welcome mat was yanked.


By 1974, Andy Summer had learned the guitar at 10, playing in clubs in his teens, had his mind blown at a jazz show by Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie in London, and became a hot gun in sessions.

He was on records by Neil Sedaka, David Essex, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Ayers, Joan Armatrading, folk singer Tim Rose and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord.

His name was in the mix to replace Mick Taylor but he nothing came of this.

Stab In Unknown

He went on to take a stab in the unknown with The Police, who quickly became huge.

“We were the biggest tour in the world at that point. We did Paris and did two nights at 80,000 a night, and the Stones had just played there and had 16 thousand.”

But he became close friends with them hanging out with Wyman and Richards in the south of France, and attending each others’ shows.

“We were doing drugs in the dressing room,” Wood told the Los Angeles Times in 2005, “when suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the corners and said, ‘The police are here!’ … 

“We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. And then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in.”


Wayne Perkins was a handsome hotshot player from Alabama who taught himself guitar by 10.

He and his black Gibson Les Paul Custom did sessions at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (Ronnie Milsap, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Jimmy Cliff, Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood).

He was asked to join Lynyrd Skynyrd and auditioned for Bob Dylan’s band.

Catch A Fire

He played a critical role on Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Catch A Fire, and on then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell’s Court And Spark, playing slide on “Car On a Hill” with idol James Burton’s pink paisley Tele

His close friend Eric Clapton introduced him to The Stones while they were in Rotterdam doing Black And Blue.

During sessions, he and Keith stayed together, jammed and clubbed through the night, and were even writing together … which wouldn’t have impressed Jagger any!

Close To 

In his memoir Life, Keith wrote Perkins was very close to being a Stone.

“We liked Perkins a lot. He was a lovely player, same style, which wouldn’t have ricocheted against what Mick Taylor was doing, very melodic, very well-played stuff.

“It wasn’t so much the playing, when it came down to it. It came down to the fact that Ronnie was English! Well, it is an English band, although you might not think that now. And we all felt we should retain the nationality of the band at the time.”

Four Tracks

Perkins left four tracks with them – “Hand of Fate” (featuring his guitar solo), “Memory Motel,” and “Fool to Cry” ended on Black And Blue, while “Worried About You” (where he took a solo) was not released until 1981 on Tattoo You.

Perkins commented how the band could switch from chaotic to sublime in minutes.

“It was like the worst garage band I’d ever heard in my life. Then the engineer turned on the red light [to begin recording] and it’s like somebody reached out with a magic wand and went, ‘Bing!’ 

“All of a sudden, it’s The Stones! Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Brain Tumour

Some time later, Perkins was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours. He retired to a log cabin and lives with his brother, living off his Stones and Marley royalties.

Keep up with Ry Cooder here.