Keith Richards, 73, has been delivered to death’s door, by his own estimation, “a dozen or so times,” reports The Bee’s Joe Davidson in a May 7, 2013, story about the Rolling Stones’ “50 and Counting” tour.
Davidson recounts one of Richards’ closest calls, which came at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium on Dec. 3, 1965. On that Friday night, Richards was nearly electrocuted when playing a then-new release titled “The Last Time.”
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
The accident, which has become something of a local legend over the decades, occurred just as the Stones’ popularity was soaring, not long after an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Stones first performed in Sacramento in 1964, twice the following year and in July 1966, all at Memorial Auditorium.
The night that Richards was electrocuted, concert promotional posters read: “The Fabulous Rolling Stones Show.” Tickets ranged from $2.75 to $4.75.
Local bluesman Mick Martin attended the concert, then a star-struck 17-year-old senior at West Sacramento’s James Marshall High School.
A former music critic for the Sacramento Union, Martin recounted the scene that prompted Richards to tell the New York Times while promoting his 2010 memoir “Life” that “my most spectacular (moment) was in Sacramento.”
The Stones were four songs into their second show of the day in front of a reported crowd of 5,000 fans, many of them shrieking teenage girls.
Richards, dressed in brown pants and a white sweater, grazed the neck of his guitar against an ungrounded microphone stand. In a flash of blue sparks, Richards went down. The loud electrical crack left concert promoter Jeff Hughson wondering if it was a gunshot, saying later: “Oh no! Someone shot Keith!”
But Richards had been shocked, not shot, and the electrical surge fried his guitar strings.
Richards was rushed to a city emergency room.
According to the guitarist, a physician suggested that the rubber soles of Richards’ new Hush Puppies suede boots saved the musician’s life.
Richards recovered and the Stones took the stage the next night in San Jose.