Last week, after posting my story about Willie “Little Beaver” Hale, I noticed that there were several readers that found their way to this site not from Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit but rather from an obscure four-lettered website – www.iorr.org. It turns out that this is the official website for the Rolling Stones Fan Club; the acronym “iorr” stands for It’s Only Rock-n-Roll.
I like it, I like it, yes I do.
A little more digging brought me to the site’s fan forum where one inquisitive Stones fan, under the heading Willie Hale – Little Beaver – almost a Stone? had posted that he once read that Little Beaver had been approached to join the Rolling Stones after guitarist Mick Taylor left the band in the 70s. The fan closed with, “Does anybody know anything about this?”
A few years back on the same fan club site, there was this exchange about Little Beaver’s iconic guitar playing on the 1971 Betty Wright hit song ‘Clean Up Woman.’
Rolling Stones Fan 1: “I always thought that the Stones studied the way the two guitars work together on Wright’s hit. There are two interlocking guitar parts on that record that are fun to play. I might be wrong, but I think one of the parts was played by Little Beaver who was supposedly considered for the M. Taylor slot.”
Rolling Stones Fan 2: “You’re right about Little Beaver playing on Clean Up Woman… Great Miami funk… I also heard he was considered to replace Mick Taylor.”
Over the course of the more than 5 hours, over two days, that I spent with the legendary Miami guitarist at his home in Opa-locka, this topic never came up. I did my fair share of prep work for the interview. Did I miss something this big?
I called Beaver the other night and asked him about it.
No, he said, he was never actually approached to join the English rock band but, …
There was a concert or a tour and I did hear that it was a toss-up between me and Stevie Wonder performing with them.
Was it a concert or a tour? I asked.
I think it was a tour.
Let’s pause for a second and reflect on this.
In the summer of 1972, the Rolling Stones, upon release of their album Exile on Main Street, embarked on a tour across the U.S. and Canada. The opening act night after night? Stevie Wonder.
Wonder, then 21 years old, was just hitting his stride with the release of his LP, Talking Book, which contained the classic hit ‘Superstition.’ On the tour, he would join the Stones on stage during their encores on songs like ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.’
Willie Clarke, a producer and composer who oversaw the production of ‘Clean Up Woman’ as well as many of Little Beaver’s R&B records at TK said he didn’t have much recollection of the Stones/Beaver story but he said it wouldn’t surprise him that Beaver received consideration.
Beaver won guitarist of the year around that time so he was very popular.
The Stones 1972 American Tour remains one of the most famous concert events in music history and the subject of countless published works including documentaries and photography books. The tour is credited with elevating the band to the very top of the rock-n-roll world.
And Stevie Wonder? With the wider visibility and exposure to a rock audience gained during the tour, his career flourished, cementing him as one of the most celebrated musicians of our time.
Here’s Little Beaver again:
The fact that it was between me and Stevie Wonder… Man, just to be in the company with Stevie Wonder, that’s all I need.
That was great to me.
Stevie Wonder & the Stones, 1972:
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