Friend of late Rolling Stones drummer 'surprised' with rise to fame

Charlie Watts with The Rolling Stones

Charlie Watts (far left) attended the same school as John Armstrong in Kingsbury, north London Pictured: Charlie Watts with Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. - Credit: PA

A former school friend of the late Charlie Watts said he was surprised to see how his career unfolded but should be “congratulated” for his rise to stardom. 

John Armstrong attended Tyler’s Croft Secondary Modern School for boys in Kingsbury, north London between 1954-58, when he met The Rolling Stones drummer. 

John, who moved to Ely 11 years ago, was born in London and became friends with Watts while at school. 

“I knew Charlie at the school for around two years,” he said. 

“He was a quietly assumed young man, not big-headed in his approach to life and nice to talk to; he came from a similar background to me.” 

John recalled the positive relationship he had with Watts, who was heavily interested in art and graphic design. 

Charlie Watts in action for The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80 in August. - Credit: PA

In fact, despite being younger than his school friend, John sometimes ended up in the same class. 

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“I was sometimes called upon so students could paint me or use me for sculptures for their school work, including for Charlie,” said John. 

I was called from my lessons to do various things in art.  

“I didn’t know Charlie was going to turn out like he did. I thought he was going to do artwork and did not expect to get to The Rolling Stones.” 

John said Watts, from a working class family, had “no musical background”. 

Charlie Watts of Rolling Stones drummer

John Armstrong said Charlie Watts (pictured), who went to the same school as him, was a keen artist at school and was surprised by his rise to fame. - Credit: PA

To remember Watts, who died aged 80 in August, John has been in touch with his former school about creating a memorial garden or naming a music room after the musician. 

“The school want me to go there so they can take a photograph of me next to a photograph of him in one of the corridors,” he said. 

“But the school hasn’t got back in touch yet.” 

John, who attended the same school as the likes of former Wham! star George Michael, believes Watts’ rise to fame in music was unexpected because of his interest in art and design. 

But as well as his career, John praised his school friend’s personal qualities. 

“He is a name to be congratulated as coming from a working family to stardom is very unusual,” John added. 

“It was poignant to find out a former colleague got to that stage as nobody in school got to that level; they had ordinary jobs. 

“He was a normal person with the right attitude to life and he deserved the accolades he had.”