1986 – Introduction to Bobby Womack and Ronnie Wood.
Within seven months of my arrival in London, I landed on my feet, playing drums with Bobby Womack. My friend, Trevor, contacted me and asked if I could cover his rehearsal date with Bobby Womack. Trevor introduced me to Bobby and I took over the drums. Trevor, gave me his blessing, he was double booked to play with Anita Baker.
The rehearsal was a success, I felt terrific, like walking in out of the cold. Sessions like these are like Fridays, to (9 -5) workers, you’re feeling nice and relaxed, knowing the weekend is here. Bobby is a charismatic guy, he was very warm, I liked that. I gave him some good grooves and kept his mojo working!
He insisted I wear this little captain’s hat, he said, ‘you’re in charge Jo, you drive the train.’ Afterwards he said ‘I play with a lot of brothers, and I’ll tell ya, you got it sister!!’
With that, I went straight into my bass rhythm, the foot playing quarter notes on the one and three and after eight bars I went to the eighth note breaks, an eight note shuffle between the snare and hi hat.
It was a deal breaker! Bobby booked me for the drum chair. To be successful in the music biz you need to have a strong personality. How you carry yourself and work with the guys is important, you have to be part of the team. Sounds easy, but you’d be surprised how important these skills are for getting the gig.
I was 25 years old, a young woman in a man’s world, trying to find my way on the London music scene. Bobby introduced me to Ronnie and Jo Wood. I was Bobby’s new prize and he was determined to show me off to Ronnie. Ronnie loves a steady groove and he has a great admiration for Chuck Berry. Chuck was my mentor in a way, and this fascinated Ronnie at the time.
My first impression of Ronnie was that he was a great big teenage kid, he has a real impish personality, and lights up the room with this mischievous spirit!
Back then, he wanted to laugh, party, make music, he was a forty-year old guy with an 18 year old outlook! I felt like I was back at high-school, and I liked both him and Jo right away.
Jo and Ronnie complemented each other, Jo with her stylish looks and lively personality. I felt very comfortable hanging out with them at their luxurious home on Moysten Road, Wimbledon.
Walking into their grand, bohemian house was fun, wall to wall sketches, drawings of Chuck Berry , Fats Domino, the Rolling Stones and of course Ronnie himself! The place was full of character, they even had an oak tree growing in the middle of the living room, covered with little twinkling white lights. I think this was Jo’s idea. At the time the Stones were on a break from touring.
Ronnie’s irresistible personality got me hooked. It didn’t take much to persuade me to back to his recording studio for a jam session. The recording studio was housed in an airtight space at the end of the garden.
Walking through the garden was a nightmare, it was in pitch black and there were kids toys lying like booby traps throughout the grass, and around the swimming pool. It was like walking in a minefield.
Bobby was yelling and calling Ronnie all the names under the sun. Ronnie had trouble finding his keys, he searched his pockets for ages, and Bobby got fed up. I think Ronnie had had a few. Bobby’s shouting, “Hurry up Woody, I’m freezing my balls off!” You could hear Jo Wood’s voice in the distance, “Are you alright dear?” I was in stitches.
Ronnie found his keys after what seemed like ages, he flipped the light switch and we stepped inside. To my amazement, there was a beautiful 1960’s Gretch drum kit waiting to be played! It belonged to Charlie Watts, Ronnie was taking care of it. I was in heaven!
Ronnie picked up his guitar and struck a few chords, while I laid down a shuffle on Charlie’s kit, accompanied with the syncopated ghost notes. Between us we packed a mighty sound, like an engine to a freight train. When my bass foot landed the occasional triplet Ronnie’s face lit up like the fourth of July.
He said you’re a ‘lady John Bonham’ which made my day! It was funny he should say that because Melody Maker said the same thing two months previously. John Bonham was one of my inspirations, he played a strong part in my development as a drummer.
Everything seemed so perfect. Ronnie and Jo, were perfect, and fabulous hosts, the King and Queen of Wimbledon!
Then back at the house, Ronnie told me a story, which gave me a more realistic view.
He said, he and Mick and Keith were eating at a fancy Chinese restaurant in Soho, New York. He was living there at the time, and sessioning for the Stones. He’d been with them eight years, and was nudging his way into the band.
Mick and Keith insisted on ordering Dom Perignon, followed by vintage bottles of 150 year old brandy, and Cuban cigars for desert. When the bill came Jagger – who is known for his frugal ways – took out a calculator and carefully worked out the cost of each share.
Ronnie was gobsmacked, he was expecting the boys to treat him. He complained bitterly.
“ Was this some kind of joke? Jagger is a freaking tight wad and Richards got off watching me opening my wallet, the *******.
He went on.
“ I’m only a poor session player. All I make is £250 per tour.
I couldn’t believe my ears, here’s Ronnie Wood, a Rolling Stones Session player making peanuts! It didn’t sound good. What was Jagger thinking of?
I said, ‘Ronnie, that’s ridiculous! I know it’s the prestige and all .. but ..
He said, ‘Yeah, I know’.
It was later I found out he meant a quarter of a million per tour. I was amazed. Here’s this guy, raking it in, and he’s moaning about paying for his own dinner?
I looked at my surroundings. Pretty neat, for such a poor boy!
The following year, I was hired by Paul Weller, of Style Council. I went on to play drums and percussion on their seminal album, ‘Confessions of a Pop Group’