Books and jazz memorabilia owned by drummer Charlie Watts are to be auctioned by Christie’s of London in September. Titled Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz, the auction will be in two parts, one live at Christie’s headquarters in London on 28 September, the other a parallel online auction open for bidding from 15 to 29 September.
Over 500 lots will be offered, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000. According to Christie’s, highlighted lots were on “tour” in Los Angeles from 25 to 29 July and will be shown in New York from 5 to 8 September. There will be a public pre-sale exhibition in London from 20 to 27 September.
Among the items of jazz interest are Charlie Parker’s “Associated Musicians membership card” (perhaps, rather, his American Federation of Musicians card) contracts for the “Alto Break sessions” (perhaps referring to Parker’s recordings for Dial that included the famous alto break on Night In Tunisia) and a pair of Downbeat awards from 1952 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). An annotated printed score for Porgy And Bess by George Gershwin is estimated at £10,000-15,000. Other jazz-related lots include two scores by Irving Berlin – Songs From Top Hat and Songs From Follow The Fleet – inscribed to Ginger Rogers (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and two inscribed piano scores by Bix Beiderbecke (estimate: £6,000-8,000).
Watts, described by his fellow Rolling Stones as “the quintessential English gentleman”, collected rare editions of classic books and Christie’s describe this element of the sale as “the finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years”. Among the books are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, inscribed inside the front cover to Harold Goldman, screenwriter at MGM (estimate: £200,000-300,000), Murder At The Vicarage by Agatha Christie (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (estimate: £4,000-6,000), as well as titles by George Orwell, Arthur Conan Doyle and James Joyce.
Bassist Dave Green told Christie’s: “Charlie was my dearest old friend since early childhood and in our early teens we both developed a lifelong love of jazz. Charlie of course became a member of the greatest rock band in the world but his love of jazz never left him. His collection of jazz memorabilia which he started in his teens and built up during his years with the Stones is truly astonishing; it reflects his enduring love of the music and the musicians who made it.”
More information is at Christie’s website.