KEITH RICHARDS: My granddad Gus was a musician. He was the one who turned me on to music. He had some daughters too, so he was always looking for guys to hang with. [laughs] But this book didn’t come from me. It was put forward as an idea that some other guys had come up with about certain chapters in Life [Richards’ 2010 memoir]. They said, “These would make a great kids’ book.” So I said, “Yeah.” I was about to become a grandfather for the fifth time, and I had a daughter who likes to do illustrations, and I felt I could keep it in the family, and I did also want to bring Gus to life again.
Theo has always been a little illustrator, and she did a lot of research. She also wanted to know more about her great-grandfather. She would call me up frantically some nights saying, “What hat did Grandpa wear?” and “Where the heck is Primrose Hill?” So it sent her on a little journey. I suppose there’s a ref ective part of it—although my life and career hasn’t really lent itself to much refl ection. But, you know, I’ve done my gig, and you get to live to the end of the string as far as I’ve got, and certain other things take on more importance than they did when you were younger. The parenting is real hands-on stuff , but as a grandparent you are greatly removed—and once the kids start to realise that you’re actually their daddy’s daddy, you sort of rise in their estimation. [laughs] But grandkids and grandparents can be connected in a special way. Gus kicked me into music, and I found out what I loved to do. He let me hold the guitar and showed me the notes to “Malagueña.” So I thought this story was something to pass on, maybe turn a few kids on—and a few grandpas on.
Now I search for talent in my grandkids—and some of them have got some. They probably listen to what most kids listen to because I don’t influence them in any way. Maybe only through their parents because their parents still play some good soul music and some blues. They play that to keep them grounded. But I am not there to judge musical tastes or anything. I just observe.
THEODORA RICHARDS: I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. I’m also named after my great-grandfather— Theodore Augustus Dupree. That’s why it was so wonderful that my dad asked me to do this book. I literally stayed inside for months doing drawings of London and dad’s face and his grandpa’s shoes and the dogs and armchairs and cakes and the landscape… In the beginning, my drawings were really, really dark. I drew a woman with a baby in her arms and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. They were like, “Darling, this is a children’s book. We can’t have that.” Also, the English smog where you couldn’t see two feet in front of you—I had to fl uff up ’40s England a bit. It was a challenge, but I loved it, and I loved that it all was coming from my head and dad’s words.
I love seeing dad now with his five grandkids. You know, 10 years ago my dad would never have watched a musical. He’d make such fun of them. You’d think that somebody who is so into music would love musicals, but he’d be like, “That guy’s asking for directions and the other person just bursts into song?” But now he’ll watch Frozen and all the Disney stuff with his grandchildren.
It wasn’t like that when I was a kid. The way I was brought up, it was classical music in the morning, reggae in the afternoon, and rock ’n’ roll all night. It was the Everly Brothers, Anita O’Day, Louis Prima. When I started to fall in love with Justin Timberlake, my dad definitely let me know that he had a stink about it. He was like, “It sounds so ‘tinny.’”
It wasn’t his style. So I would either lower it or I wouldn’t listen to it around him. Then, of course, I was a teenager, so I’d stand up for myself and I’d be like, “You’ve got to get with the times, dad.” [laughs] But I think he’s simmered down now to the grandfatherly ways of being like, “Oh, I’m going to see what the kids are interested in… ” poke his head in. It just makes me smile because my dad has become the ultimate grandfather, sitting there with a pipe—although, it’s not a pipe, it’s a cigarette.