Tom Keylock: Rolling Stones fixer from the 1960s

Wednesday 09 September 2009 00:00 BST

There have been many dark chapters in the long, tumultuous, history of the Rolling Stones and their chauffeur and "fixer" Tom Keylock witnessed several of them.

In March 1967 he was present in Marrakesh, Morocco when Brian Jones beat his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg after she had left him for Keith Richards. In June 1967, he drove Mick Jagger and Richards to court when they appeared on drugs charges in Chichester following a police bust at Redlands, Richards' home in Sussex, the previous February. In October 1967, and again in September 1968, he accompanied Jones to court after he was arrested on similar charges in London.

Most infamously, Keylock was one of the first people on the scene after Jones drowned in the swimming pool at Cotchford Farm, his home in Hartfield, East Sussex on 3 July 1969. Over the last 40 years, many conspiracy theories have developed around Jones' death, inspiring sensationalised books and articles, as well as Stoned, a film directed by Stephen Woolley, on which Keylock was a consultant. At the time of its release in 2005, Keylock repeated allegations he had made about his friend, the builder Frank Thorogood, on Crimewatch in 1994, and told Classic Rock magazine: "In 1993 I went to see Frank in hospital and he said: 'It was me that done Brian.' He was very tired. I said: 'I'll come back tomorrow, and [you can] tell me more.' But he died during the night. I never found out the specifics."

Born in 1926, Keylock joined the Royal Army Service Corps and saw action at the Battle of Arnhem in Holland in 1944. At the end of the Second World War, he was posted to Palestine as Britain surrendered control of the region and the state of Israel declared independence in 1948. After being demobbed, he worked as a driver in and around London. In August 1965, he was hired to take Jagger and Richards to Heathrow airport and did such a great job protecting the Stones stars from fans and photographers that they proposed he come to work for them full-time. Keylock mulled the offer over and finally agreed a month later.

Keylock's army training came in handy when he was thrown in at the deep end during the group's tour of the UK in the autumn. The Stones had scored consecutive chart-toppers with "The Last Time", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Get Off of My Cloud" and were now likely to be mobbed everywhere they went. Keylock became a key part of their entourage and devised ever more imaginative ways of getting the band in and out of hotels, venues and TV studios by using decoy vehicles and unexpected routes. Not content with driving them and acting as their bodyguard, he also cooked for the group and was nicknamed "Mr Get-It-Together" by Richards.

Keylock chauffeured Bob Dylan around Britain in May 1966 during his controversial electric tour with the Hawks, as documented in the rarely seen DA Pennebaker film Eat the Document, the projected "follow-up" to the director's Don't Look Back Dylan documentary shot the previous year. But the aide was soon back in the thick of things with the Stones, driving Jones, Richards and Pallenberg through France on the way to Morocco when they decided to get away from Britain following the Redlands bust. After Jones became ill and was taken to hospital in Toulouse, Pallenberg and Richards continued their journey through Spain and on to Tangier with Keylock at the wheel, and their relationship blossomed. When Jones rejoined them in Marrakesh, he lost his temper and hit Pallenberg, to the minder's dismay.

"He whacked Anita," Keylock recalled. "I said, 'If you ever do that again, I'll punch your lights out. You don't go round hitting women. It ain't on.' 'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I don't know what came over me.' It was no use putting it down to pills this time. He knew what he was doing." Keylock engineered a clever ruse which enabled Richards and Pallenberg to depart and left Jones to ponder the consequences of his actions.

Despite the simmering resentment and tension, the Stones managed to tour Europe in April 1967 though Keylock was kept busy. In Zurich, he had to punch a stage invader who grabbed Jagger, and he got into a fight with Greek police at the final concert in Athens, days before a political coup. The band spent the next two years regrouping and making the albums Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet with Jones contributing less and less. In March 1968, Keylock drove Jagger to the demonstration against the Vietnam War outside the American Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. The singer asked Keylock to come back for him 30 minutes later, but drew enough inspiration from the occasion to write the lyrics for the epochal "Street Fighting Man".

Following Jones' exit from the Stones in June 1969, Keylock was asked to keep an eye on the musician, who retreated to Hartfield, the former home of A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. It was Keylock who recommended Thorogood to Jones when he needed building work done on the house he had bought the previous year, and it was Keylock who Thorogood called when Jones was found dead in the swimming pool. It was Keylock who told the Stones, then ensconced at Olympic Studios in London recording Let It Bleed with their new guitarist Mick Taylor, that their former bandmate had died. And it was Keylock who took Jones' belongings away and helped to arrange for Anna Wohlin, the musician's girlfriend present at the scene on that fateful night, to go back to Sweden within days. The coroner's report stated "death by misadventure", but four decades on people still speculate about the part that Thorogood and other unnamed persons might have played in Jones' death. Keylock's talk of a bedside confession by his friend has fuelled ever wilder rumours in recent years.

Keylock was in attendance when the Stones played a free concert in London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1967 and helped to release hundreds of white butterflies from the stage as a tribute to Jones. He also arranged his funeral in Cheltenham five days later and clashed with the musician's father Lewis over the arrangements. "I ordered an elaborate bronze coffin," he recalled. "Brian was a star. He lived like a star and he died a star. I got that organised how I thought fitting for Brian, not Lewis Jones."

With the Stones taking up tax-exile status and residency in France in 1971, Keylock's services were no longer required and he went back to running his own transport company. In the Eighties, he secured another prestigious engagement when he worked for the England football team. He came out of retirement to act as adviser on Stoned and was portrayed by David Morrissey in the film.

Pierre Perrone

Thomas Keylock, chauffeur and minder: born London 9 August 1926; married (four daughters); died London 2 July 2009.

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