Rockabilly Guitar Legend Recalls Declining The Rolling Stones Audition, Reveals Why He Had to Stop Using Gretsch Guitars

Chris Spedding, who’s one of the best-known guitar players in rockabilly, as well as a very prolific session musician, recently looked back on that one time when he decided to opt out of auditioning for The Rolling Stones. During his interview with Guitar World, he was asked about that one time when his old band Battered Ornaments ended up opening for The Stones back in 1969 in London’s Hyde Park. Chris said:

“The show was put on by Blackhill Enterprises, who also managed Battered Ornaments, so we managed to score that plum gig.”

The Battered Ornaments "Mantle-Piece" Full Album 1969

Going more into the matter, the interviewer asked him about Mick Jagger asking him to audition for the band. This was around the time when Mick Taylor left the band so the period that we’re talking about is sometime in the mid-1970s, most likely 1974.  

Asked if Jagger would have thought of him because of that particular show back in 1969 at Hyde Park, Spedding simply replied “no” and added:

“I doubt whether they were even conscious of me being in that band. I doubt I impressed anybody on that particular show. I think it was just that my name was getting around quite a bit by 1975.”

Chris Spedding - Guitar Jamboree

So why did he refuse? Well, it took a lot of time for them to follow up apparently. Spedding continued:

“It took them about six months to call me, so I wasn’t that flattered anyway. [Laughs] I had a load of work booked at the time, plus I’d just recorded ‘Motorbikin’’, which I had high hopes for – justifiably, as it turned out to be a big hit single in a lot of countries.”

Since Spedding had major success working as a session player, he was also asked about this particular time. Being a studio musician in the 1960s and the 1970s, he was asked about what guitars he used back then. He replied:

“These days I have about 20 guitars; back then I was playing a 1964 Gretsch Country Club.”

CHRIS SPEDDING - Motor Bikin' (1975 Top Of The Pops UK TV Appearance) ~ HIGH QUALITY HQ ~

Not a surprise for a rockabilly musician. However, as he recalls, people at the time apparently weren’t into Gretsch. Spedding continued:

“But I realized people didn’t really want the Gretsch sound, so I part-exchanged the Gretsch for a Telecaster.”

“I didn’t realize at the time that I was really taking a step down there. [Laughs] There was no concept of thinking that maybe I could have both guitars – back in the ’60s you had one guitar. Eventually, I got a Les Paul and a Strat and took those two guitars to every session.”

During the interview, he was also asked to explain what it’s like to deal with a session where he didn’t like the song or the artist he worked with. Chris said:

“You don’t know how something’s going to turn out – it could be the best thing you’ve ever done, you know? Sometimes you’ve never heard of the artist but then they go on to be huge.”

“I’ve also done many sessions where I had really high hopes and they turned out to be disappointing. You just have to go in there with total commitment.”

Chris Spedding : Give Me A Graveyard

In an interview from earlier this year, Chris Spedding recalled the story behind The Rolling Stones invitation and the 1969 show where his band opened for them. As he recalls, that opening slot was far more challenging than expected due to circumstances surrounding the show:

“Battered Ornaments supported the Stones at Hyde Park in 1969. We had an army field ambulance as our bandwagon. It didn’t have any windows in it, so they used it to smuggle the Stones into the Park. And having been managed by Blackhill Enterprises, who were putting the whole thing on, we got to go on just before the Stones.”

“I was suffering from terrible hay fever that day and needed to get out of the sun. I know I was in the prime spot of what was a very historic occasion, but I wasn’t really into what was going on. I needed to get back to that van, but the Stones were in there, much to my annoyance.”

Chris Spedding • Road Runner

Going to the audition invitation, he said:

“Yes, Mick Jagger did phone me after Mick Taylor left the Stones, but it was quite a long time afterwards. All of the music papers were full of speculation. It’s a bit like when the Pope dies and you get pictures of all these people who might succeed him. I was on a list with everyone from Jeff Beck downwards. But they didn’t contact me at all until six months after Mick Taylor had left.”

“By that time I’d recorded ‘Motorbikin’,’ done the album with Roy Harper [HQ], and was working with John Cale. Then suddenly I get a call from Mick Jagger, saying: ‘Y’know, the Stones have got a tour of America coming up next month. Do you fancy it?’ But it was too late. I was already booked up. A week later there was an announcement that Ron Wood had joined.”

Photo: Jean-Luc (Chris Spedding), Gorup de Besanez (Rolling Stones 04)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.