Young Keith Richards Troublemaker--and Choirboy

Keith Richards is known today as the wild, husky voiced member of the Rolling Stones who shook up rock 'n' roll with his edgy guitar riffs. As a preteen, however, Richards was a gifted soprano and soloist in his school choir Dartford Technical Boys. In fact, he was so talented that he was asked to sing before Queen Elizabeth II on Christmas. That night, he and two fellow peers sang Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus at Westminster Abbey, wearing tight jeans underneath their choirboy robes and thinking the concert was the perfect excuse for getting out of physics and chemistry classes. Richards had not yet discovered rock 'n' roll.

The trio, known as troublemakers at school, sang a few more times at the Royal Festival Hall in London, until hormones kicked in and Richard's voice broke during one performance. He was kicked out of the choir the following day. Shortly after his dismissal, Richards was inspired by the music from the movie Blackboard Jungle (featuring the song "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley), and he became obsessed with rock 'n' roll. Richards was given his first guitar (an acoustic one) as a birthday present from his mother at age 15, practiced "getting down on his moves" repeatedly in front of the mirror, learned a few chords from his grandfather, and mainly taught himself to play.

In 1960, Richards reconnected with Mick Jagger (an old friend from his youth whom he had lost touch with) and began playing guitar with other musicians, including Jagger, for the first time. Richards made up his mind to focus solely on his music, even refusing to take his high school final exams or work any other job. By 1962, Richards, 19, and Jagger formed the Rolling Stones and were on their way to claiming major fame. As for his choir boy days, Richard has said that the day he got kicked out was the day "he stopped being a good boy."