Keith Richards’ Most Keith Richards Moments
His name is synonymous with the rock and roll lifestyle. Keith Richards, the 78–year-old multi-millionaire Rolling Stones’ guitarist must be mentioned in every discussion of rockstar lore. Born on December 18th, 1943, he’s lived a life of excess in every aspect. He’s been hell-raising since childhood and though that has slowed with age, he’s still touring with the band in 2022.
Since forming the band in 1962, Keith and vocalist Mick Jagger are still giving audiences around the world precisely what they expect from the band that changed the rock music landscape sixty years ago. It’s an outrageous feat that seems to defy the human condition. Richards has been busted for drugs in more countries than many people could even point to on a map. He’s done every drug under the sun and shared them with some of the most well-known musicians and celebrities of the last several decades. He’s even partied with political figures, causing public scandal.
Heroin, cocaine, LSD, Mandrax, car crashes, ski trips, guns, the Boy Scouts, electrocution, nine days without sleep, babysitting children, the Playboy mansion, shepherd’s pie, Chuck Berry’s guitar, snorting his father’s ashes, and, of course, women have all been themes of the seemingly endless tome of stories that have been told about Richards over the years. It would be almost impossible to mention them all, but here are a few of the crazy stories from the life of Keith Richards:
Expelled from the Boy Scouts
Keith was kicked out of the Boy Scouts during his teen years in the 1950s. He was already well on his way to becoming the man who had to experience it all. He brought a bottle of whiskey to an event and got into a couple of fights. He recalls the ruckus was kept out of the prying eyes of the superiors until “...I went to slug one guy but hit the tent pole instead, and broke a bone in my hand.” A few weeks later, not paying heed to the warnings of his leaders, he “punched out some dummo recruit” and was expelled from the Scouts.
Electrified on Stage
Playing in front of 5,000 fans in Sacramento, California in 1965, he leaned into the microphone stand during “The Last Time,” and was electrocuted by the microphone cord. He flew through the air before lying unconscious on the stage. Medical personnel fitted him with oxygen tubes and he was rushed to the hospital. Stones’ promoter Jeff Hughson thought Keith had been shot. Fan Mick Martin commented, “I literally saw Keith fly into the air backward. I thought he was dead. I was horrified. We all were." Keith claims he heard a doctor say, “Well, they either wake up or they don’t.” The coin landed the right way for Richards, I guess.
Keith at the Playboy Mansion
Hugh Hefner had invited Stones’ saxophonist Bobby Keys and Richards to stay the night at the mansion during a 1972 tour stop in Chicago. A fire broke out in the bathroom while they were getting high. No one was hurt, and the house was unscathed, but it was a close call. In a 2010 interview Richards recalls:
“There’s all these bunnies all over the place; don’t throw that lot in front of the Stones, you know. We had a tour doctor we used to love to raid. We’d get him stoned and take his bag…Bobby and I stashed ourselves in this john and were trying everything from the doctor’s bag. Somewhere a fire started. There’s bells ringing and people running down the corridor. As we left the bathroom, it burst into flames.”
He also referenced the incident in his 2010 autobiography, ‘Life’:
“I wonder what these do?’ Bong. And at a certain point… talk about hazy, or foggy, Bobby says, ‘It’s smoky in here.’ And I’m looking at Bobby and can’t see him. And the drapes are smoldering away; everything was just about to go off big-time… There was a thumping on the door, waiters, and guys in black suits bringing buckets of water. They get the door open and we’re sitting on the floor, our pupils very pinned. I said, ‘We could have done that ourselves. How dare you burst in on our private affair?”
Rolling Stones Australia Tour 1973
Touring Australia in 1973, Keith’s need for a good drug fix became a domestic affair. He met a woman with access to pharmaceutical-grade cocaine and moved into her suburban Melbourne home with her and her infant son during the band’s stay there. From his memoir:
“Living in the suburbs of Melbourne for a week with a mother and child was kind of weird…Within four or five days, I was like a right Australian old man. Sheila, where's my fucking breakfast? … It was like I'd been there forever. And it felt great…There's somebody in a suburb in Melbourne who doesn't even know I wiped his ass."
Keith Richards or Keith Moon?
In 1976, the guitarist crashed his Bentley into a tree on his way home from a show in Knebworth. His seven-year-old son was in the backseat - along with five other passengers - when the police showed up and arrested him after finding tabs of acid in his jacket pocket. The official story is that Richards fell asleep at the wheel. In his autobiography, he brushed it off by saying:
“I mean, nobody’s perfect...All I hear is [London restaurateur and club owner] Freddie Sessler in the back going, 'Jesus fucking Christ!' But I managed to get it off the road and into a field, which is after all the sensible thing to do. At least we didn’t hit anybody. We didn’t kill anybody; we didn’t even hurt ourselves."
Taking Acid with John Lennon
During his 1967/68 “psychedelic phase,” Keith and John Lennon embarked on a not-so-memorable “acid-fueled road trip” to Torquay and Lyme Regis. Kari Ann Moller, a friend who accompanied them, admitted that she couldn’t remember exactly what happened; only that they drove around in circles, with or without a chauffeur, back to Lennon’s country house where they said ‘said hi’ to Lennon’s wife Cynthia. Lennon claims to have no recollection of what happened during the trip.
Arrested in Toronto, Canada
Toronto Police found an ounce of heroin in Richards’ hotel room during a Canadian tour date in 1977. He was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. Because he promised to undergo “special treatment” to help kick his addiction, he was granted a visa to enter the US. In October of 1978, he was found guilty but was sentenced to no prison time. He was ordered by the judge to perform a benefit concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and put on probation for one year. This isn’t surprising, since while out on bail Richards and his bandmates were seen partying with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s wife, Margaret. There were “five to six hundred people outside chanting, ‘Free Keith! Free Keith!’” when he arrived for his court dates, he claims. Keith singled out one devoted fan in his 2010 memoir regarding putting on the benefit show for the blind:
“She hitchhiked to our shows. The chick was absolutely fearless…The love and devotion of [fans] like Rita is something that still amazes me."
Snorting His Dad's Ashes
If you’ve heard one Keith Richards story, it’s likely this one: In 2002, Keith’s 84-year-old father, Bert, passed away, and his remains were cremated. During a drug binge, Richards claims to have snorted some of his ashes. There are different versions of this story, but they all end with Keith admitting to having done it. The amount that he snorted and the vigor with which he did it fuel the current myths. I tend to believe his official story since he’s never shied away from the raw, almost incredible details of so many of them. Bashful, he isn’t. According to Keith in a 2007 interview with New Musical Express:
“The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. He was cremated, and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow…My dad wouldn't have cared; he didn't give a shit."
The wilder versions of this story start and stop here, making it sound crazy, even for Keith. However, his manager has toned down the narrative, saying that the statements were made “in jest,” and Richards has confirmed that it’s not as sensational as some would like to believe. Keith provided some teasing details in his autobiography:
"As I took the lid off of the box, a fine spray of his ashes blew out onto the table…I couldn't just brush him off, so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue."
That’s much more reasonable than suggesting he was snorting mountains of his father’s ashes, right?
Punched by Chuck Berry
Richards told Rolling Stone that Chuck Berry once punched him in the face because he touched the rock and roll legend’s guitar, and made a joke about it being his “greatest hit.”
“Chuck Berry once gave me a black eye, which I later called his greatest hit...As I’m just plucking the strings, Chuck walked in and gave me this wallop to the frickin’ left eye…I realized I was in the wrong. If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my axe, it would be perfectly all right to sock ’em, you know?”
Waking Up in a Pool of Blood
In 1978, during the recording of the ‘Some Girls’ album, Keith binged on cocaine for five straight days while he was recording the song ‘Before They Make Me Run ’claiming to have been awake right through the nine days it took to record the album. In a 1992 interview, he suggested: “Adrenaline is the most amazing thing we have,” and went into more detail in his biography, stating:
“One [engineer] would flop under the desk and have a kip, and I'd put the other one in and keep going…Nine days without a wink…I fell asleep standing up, eventually … I was just putting another cassette back on the shelf, and I was feeling great, and I turned 'round and fell asleep. I fell against the edge of the speaker. Woke up in a pool of blood, wondering, ‘Is that claret?’”
Anita Pallenberg in Laurel Canyon
Keith stayed in Laurel Canyon for a night in the late Seventies with one of his girlfriends, Lil Wergilis. She woke him in the middle of the night after she noticed there was a fire in another room of the house - a fire that Richards admits he “accidentally” started. They had to jump out a window to save themselves. She was naked and he was wearing only a T-shirt. A family member of ex-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg picked them up and got them out of there. The homeowner stuck a sign in the front yard of the burnt house that read: “Thanks a lot Keith,” the guitarist claims. He said the only things that survived were his passport, his favorite cassettes, jewelry, a gun, and five-hundred rounds of ammunition. His response when asked about that night:
“So what am I supposed to gather from my life? That I’m blessed?”
Indeed, you are, Mr. Richards; indeed you are.