"As far as rock and roll goes, they're the boys."
The "boys," as Bobby Keys affectionately puts it, are the Rolling Stones, who are four deeply creased men. Keys, a Texas-bred saxophonist, has been part of the band's bottom end since 1970. He arrives in Toronto on Friday for a show at the Sound Academy.
Of course, the shows that Stones fans are talking about are the ones by Jagger and Co. at London's O2 Arena (Nov. 25 and 29) and the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Dec. 13 and 15). "I was aware of the fact that something was brewing," Keys told The Globe and Mail.
Keys has played on records by Joe Cocker, Delaney & Bonnie and John Lennon – that's his solo on WhateverGets You Through the Night – but he is most associated with the Jumpin' Jack Flash band. "It's just math," he drawls. "I haven't had any other gigs that lasted anywhere near as long."
In his recently released memoir (Every Night's a Saturday Night), Keys tells of a coolness that Mick Jagger has exhibited toward him in the past. On the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, Jagger authorized the tour's accountant to pay Keys only $300 a night, an insultingly small amount that was supplemented by Keys's pal Keith Richards. These days, he describes his relationship with the singer as "warm, cordial and musical."
As for participating in the upcoming Stones shows, Keys notes that the live dates are related to the reissue of 1972's Exile on Main St., an album to which he made a strong contribution. "Keith Richards's manager generally contacts me when something's up," Keys says. "I'm pretty sure I'm gonna get a call."