Happy Birthday, Keef!

Today, Keith Richards turned 78 – wow, that’s kind of hard to believe! And that The Rolling Stones are still out there rockin’. In fact, they just recently wrapped up their No Filter Tour in Hollywood, Fla. Based on clips I’ve seen, they still sounded great!

While I suppose the most iconic guitar riff Richards has written is for (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and it definitely remains cool, I’d like to celebrate his birthday with another great riff, which is my favorite: Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The tune was first released as a non-album single in the UK on May 24, 1968. The U.S. release followed a few days thereafter on June 1.

Here’s what Keef told Guitar Magazine about the riff in an interview published in December 2020:

Jumping Jack Flash comes from this guy, Jack Dyer, who was my gardener – an old English yokel. Mick and I were in my house down in the south of England. We’d been up all night; the sky was just beginning to go gray. It was pissing down raining, if I remember rightly. 

Mick and I were sitting there, and suddenly Mick starts up. He hears these great footsteps, these great rubber boots – slosh, slosh, slosh – going by the window. He said. “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, that’s Jack. That’s jumpin’ Jack.” We had my guitar in open tuning, and I started to fool around with that. [singing] “Jumpin’ Jack…” and Mick says, “Flash.” He’d just woken up. And suddenly we had this wonderful alliterative phrase. So he woke up and we knocked it together.

On the record, I played a Gibson Hummingbird [acoustic] tuned to either open E or open D with a capo. And then I added another [acoustic] guitar over the top, but tuned to Nashville tuning [tuned like a 12-string guitar without the lower octave strings]. I learned that from somebody in George Jones’ band, in San Antonio in ’63. We happened to be playing the World Teen Fair together. This guy in a Stetson and cowboy boots showed me how to do it, with the different strings, to get that high ring. I was picking up tips.

And since it’s so much fun, let’s wrap things with a live version from the excellent Sticky Fingers- Live at the Fonda Theater 2015. Released in September 2017 as part of the Stones’ Vault Series, the album, in my view, reaches the iconic Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert from September 1970.

Happy birthday, Keef, and keep on rockin’

Sources: Wikipedia; Guitar Magazine; YouTube

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