How We Met: 49. Ronnie and Jo Wood

Melanie McFadyean
Saturday 29 August 1992 23:02

Ronnie Wood, 45, veteran rock'n'roller, was born in Paddington, the son of a barge worker. He was guitarist with the Faces before joining the Rolling Stones in 1975. His fifth solo album, Slide on This - his first for 10 years - comes out next month. He has a son, Jesse, by his first wife and a son and daughter by his marriage to Jo: Leah, 14 and Tyrone, nine. Jo Wood, 36, a former model, has a 17-year-old son, Jamie, by her first husband. She spends most of her time with Ronnie, either on the road with the Stones, or at their homes in Richmond and Co Kildare, Ireland.

RONNIE WOOD: When my father first saw my mother, he said, 'I've got to go for her, she's mine.' That's how I felt when I met Jo. It was love and I did everything I could to get near her. We met at a party and I was married at the time, but my wife and I had drifted apart - though we've stayed friends since.

So I hid behind the fridge at the party until she came past and jumped out at her. Later, I saw her going upstairs, so I hid in the bathroom and called her in. She said, 'What do you mean?' But I gave her a quick kiss.

She told me she worked at Woolworth's and showed me pictures of her and the staff on holiday. She didn't know who I was - she'd been to a Stones concert with her ex-husband, but I was the only one she didn't notice.

The day after the party, I sat outside Woolworth's watching the staff leave at closing time, hoping to find her again. She wasn't there, so I went back to where the party had been and waited. Luckily she came along. That night, I talked my way into her bedroom and she let me lie on the bed as long as I kept my overcoat on. We've been together ever since.

We were supposed to meet up in Paris soon after we met. Keith Richards and I were inseparable at that time. We were flying in from New York on Concorde and an engine blew, so we had to touch down at Shannon. We got to the hotel very late. I asked for Miss Jo Howard, but she'd booked in using her maiden name - Karslake. When I finally found her, Keith and I crashed out on her tiny bed like two puppies, Keith was in a bit of a state - heavily sedated at the time. I wasn't because I was too excited at seeing Jo again. She was accepted by the Stones immediately. We were recording Some Girls, 1977, and Jo didn't realise how long it took - a year in those days.

When we got back from Paris, I took her to my parents' house. I couldn't wait for them to meet her. They live near the airport and I said she'd lost her luggage. They loved her. My dad said, 'I could still give her one, I could give her three.' My dad was a musician, he had a 24-piece harmonica band that toured race-tracks.

We had a spate of rows during the five years we lived in Los Angeles. We were always up all night and hardly saw the kids. People invaded our house, crazies like Sly Stone. There was no privacy, they'd crawl under the electric gates. There were people we hardly knew, we were like strangers in a strange land.

I've reformed my old rock'n'roll ways. In the old days before Aids, you'd sometimes meet a girl on tour and, if she liked you, you could go off for a night. But you can't do that these days - and anyway, since I met Jo, I haven't wanted to. I used to be a dirty stop-out, but she keeps my bad influences away. She looks at some people and she says, 'You] Out]' But I've still got about 10 local pubs. Jo sends Tyrone to fetch me from my favourites.

I don't know when we got married. I proposed to Jo in Jamaica when we were staying with Keith. I'd already asked her a few times before and she'd said no. It was a romantic setting - restaurant with waterfall - so I asked her again and she said, 'Oh, all right then.' We got married in Denham, Bucks. The vicar said, 'There are many stars in the sky, but very few give off light. There are many stars in the congregation, but I don't recognise any of them.' He was implying our marriage wouldn't last. But I'm a romantic, a one-woman man. I've written a song for her on my new album. It's the first time I've actually used her name.

When Jo's not there, which isn't very often, I miss her - but I just get on with what I'm doing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn't live without her.

JO WOOD: It was September 1977, and I was 22. I'd been thrown out of my flat and had been staying with a friend who invited me to his wedding party. I went and this person with black hair came running up to me saying, 'What's your name? What do you do? Do you know who I am?' I said, 'No.' I knew I'd seen the face but couldn't place it. He said, 'Don't you recognise me? I'm Ronnie Wood - this is me on the cover of Black and Blue,' he said, waving the album at me. I thought he was flash, so I told him I worked on the broken biscuit counter at the main West End Woolworth's. I showed him some pictures of my latest modelling assignment and said they were of me and my workmates on holiday. He followed me around all evening. The kiss in the bathroom was just a peck. I was laughing, I thought he was very funny and very silly and I liked him a lot.

On our first date out, he took me to a pub and we had a really awful cheese sandwich. Then we went round to Mick's and watched the racing and placed a few bets. He did spend the night on my bed in his overcoat. But I didn't say there was no hanky panky, did I? I tried my best to keep him off, but I couldn't resist him.

Then Ronnie went off to New York and we arranged to meet in Paris at L'Hotel. I got there and they said there was no Mr Wood booked in and that they had no rooms. I didn't even have enough money to pay for one. Eventually, they gave me a minute room with a tiny bed. At six in the morning, Ronnie was at the door with Keith. I stayed in Paris until Christmas.

The Stones were recording Some Girls and I went to the studio. Jerry was there; she'd recently met Mick who was still officially with Bianca. We weren't the wives, we were the mistresses in those days.

My mother was worried when I first met Ronnie - she'd heard about the Rolling Stones. I remember when I was a kid, my dad turned off the TV when they were on, he said, 'What a disgusting load of lads]'

Our first child, Leah, was born a year after we met. But I've always gone on the road with him. I do his wardrobe, design his jackets. I love it. I gave up modelling when I met him. and sometimes I miss it. The kids join us for part of the time, and when I'm not there, my sister looks after them. We live in Richmond and County Kildare, where we have a Georgian farmhouse with an art studio, recording studio and draught Guinness. Sometimes in London we have an evening in. We watch a movie and I try to get to the door before Ronnie if the bell rings. He finds it hard to say no; he says, 'Just come in for one drink.' These are new friends, not the wild and crazy ones of the past. Ronnie's a very friendly guy. I get rid of anyone I'm not happy about.

I say, 'Finish your drink, it's time to go.' If they don't, I take the glass and pour away the drink. Sometimes, when Ronnie is in one of his two favourite pubs, I walk down and get him. I have a drink and say, 'Dinner's on the table, darling.'

I didn't want to get married. I thought we were happy as we were and marriage might change that. I feared that I would become just the wife. But when he asked me that time in Jamaica he was so miserable. I said, 'Ronnie, what's the matter? Cheer up]' He asked me to marry him. I said, 'Oh all right. What are you having for the main course?' When we got back to Keith's house, he rang our parents. I thought, 'Well, there's no getting out of it now. We got married on 2 January, 1985 - seven years after we first met.

There was once a story in the papers with the headline: 'My bed and bath with Ronnie Wood.' Ronnie and this girl were supposed to have had sex in the bathtub. I was very upset. But the night it was supposed to have happened we were at the Limelight with Bill Wyman. We didn't part company that night. Ronnie said, 'Don't be so stupid - when did you ever let me out of your sight?' Apart from the two years I was ill - I was badly misdiagnosed, but I'm fine now - we've been very happy. Ronnie looked after me when I was ill; he's always looked after me. I talk to him all the time and he still makes me laugh. I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.-

(Photograph omitted)

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