New York Times
Ron Wood, An Artist in 3 Media
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By Robert Palmer

“In the back of my head I always knew I’d be a musician first and an artist later,” begins a recently published book of paintings, drawings and informal autobiography, “Ron Wood by Ron Wood: The works.” But after spending five years playing with Jeff Beck Group, Seven years with Rod Stewart and the Faces, and 12 years as a member of the Rolling Stones, Mr. Wood, a British guitarist, decided it was time to get back to his original career as an artist. So last week, he interrupted the tour that he is currently co-headlining with Bo Diddley to show up for the opening of his first one-man art show, in a gallery that is part of the Peabody Hotel here. Mr. Wood and Mr. Diddley will be playing in New York City at the Ritz tonight

Mr. Wood sat at a table at the Memphis art-show opening with his wife, Jo, autographing copies of his book and making small talk while curious Memphians perused his pictures. “I liked the one of the New Orleans trumpet players, especially the way you captured Bunk Johnson,” one visitor remarked. Mr. Wood broke into a grin. “Yeah, Bunk Johnson,” he said. “Most people who look at the pictures say, “oh, there’s Mick Jagger, there’s Rod Stewart, but when they see Bunk Johnson they   Billie Holiday and Bessy Smith by Ronnie Wood
wonder, who is that” Some people even ask who the woman in the Billie Holiday picture is. Can you imagine, people who don’t recognize Billie Holiday?”

Mr. Wood knows more about jazz than his career, as a rocker would lead one to expect. When he was growing up in London, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, his older brothers played traditional jazz and collected records. He heard the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and other early jazz figures throughout his childhood, and experimented with the trumpet, the banjo and other instruments his brothers kept around the house. Ted Wood remained a jazz purist, but Art Wood developed a fascination with early blues and rock. Once Ron Wood heard records by Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, he knew he wanted to play rock.

Mr. Wood’s tour with Bo Diddley fulfills his long-standing ambition to play with one of his original musical heroes. “Bo introduces me as Mr. Ron Wood, of himself.

Sitting in his Memphis hotel suite the evening after his art show opening, Mr. Wood entertained visitors with tapes of one of his recent concert with Mr. Diddley. The two guitarists sounded like old friends “Is that Ronnie playing?” asked a Memphis blues fan who had found his way into Mr. Wood’s suite. “I thought maybe it was an old-time blues man, like Muddy Waters.” An inspirational Effect Buoyed by this praise, Mr. Wood put on tape from previous visit to Memphis, when he performed with Jerry Lee Lewis, his earliest rock-and roll influence. Mr. Wood has always been a somewhat self-effacing player, content to let musicians like Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger stand in the spotlight. Working with his childhood idols seems to have an inspirational effect on his playing.

Late that same evening, Mr. Wood took an elevator to the Peabody Hotel’s rooftop nightclub to make a guest appearance with the Coolers, a powerful, musicianly Memphis band that includes Duck Dunn, a bassist celebrated for his 60’s soul-music recordings as a member of Booker T. and the M.G’s and for more recent collaborations with Eric Clapton and the Blues Brothers.

“The Rolling Stones aren’t finished yet,” Mr. Wood insisted after the show. “But while we aren’t doing anything together, I’m finding that I can play with the people I’ve always wanted to play with, and work at my art again. And,” he added grinning this time from ear to ear, “I’m having a lot of fun.”

 
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