Life before, during and after Rolling Stones rocker Ronnie Wood, by Jo Wood
- Credit: PA
Meeting Jo Wood - organic queen, healthy living ambassador and all-round lovely lady - it’s hard to believe she took part in some of the exploits she’s chronicled in her autobiography, Hey Jo: A Rock And Roll Fairytale.
Drug-fuelled all-night parties, brushes with the law, five-star treatment and trashed hotel rooms were all part of life on the road in the early days of the Rolling Stones, she reveals.
Kids were left with nannies while parents partied, girlfriends tried to deter groupies and everyone was too high and drunk to take much notice of hangers-on anyway.
“At the time it was all quite normal,” says the former model, who was married to Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood for 23 years (although they were together more than 30) before he dumped her for a young cocktail waitress in 2008.
“It may sound crazy but I actually have quite fond memories of those nights we stayed up killing ourselves laughing and being really stupid. I don’t regret any of that. It was a rock and roll life.”
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As Ronnie’s PA on tour, Jo looked after him, organising all the essentials from his clothes to making sure there was healthy, organic food on tap.
They had two children together, Leah and Tyrone, and also brought up the sons they each had from earlier relationships, Jamie and Jesse.
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In the early Eighties, Jo and Ronnie were freebasing - taking an early form of crack cocaine - and she admits that she relied on her nanny to look after the kids for much of the time during this period.
“We never did it in front of the kids, but sometimes we’d still be high when they woke up, and I would try to sneak off to bed so they didn’t see me.”
But a seizure while freebasing proved the wake-up call she needed and she stopped, just like that.
“I don’t regret doing freebase. It was part of rock and roll at that time. But I certainly do regret wasting 18 months in the bathroom when I should have been spending more time with my kids.”
Her experience of drugs fuelled some controversial ideas about the drugs education she gave her children.
“They’d see people smoke joints openly. There were times when they were quite small when they saw people doing lines of coke. We were a rock and roll family and I was open and honest.”
She offered Leah a puff of a joint when she was 15 - her daughter was horrified. When Ty was 16 and Jo found a packet in his room which looked like grass but was actually dried herbs, she made sure he tried the real stuff so he’d know what he was buying next time.
“I also gave him a small packet of coke to try one evening. Irresponsible? Perhaps. But I would much rather he learned about these things under my roof, where I could keep an eye on him, rather than in some dodgy club taking God knows what.”
Her son Jamie was expelled from school, got in with a bad crowd and discovered heroin, she reveals in the book. To stop him, they lured him away from his “friends” and gave him a job working backstage on a Stones tour, which seemed to work. He now runs a furniture hire business for concerts.
Jo, who went on to launch her own organic beauty range and “pop-up” organic restaurant, says she hopes her memoir gives hope to all women who go through a break-up.
“There are so many people out there who go through heartbreak. If I can pick myself up, then anybody can.”
Jo was raised in Essex, the daughter of a South African mixed-race secretary who joined her sister in Surrey in 1951 and married Jo’s father, a handsome architectural model-maker.
From her early years, their eldest daughter was a rebel. She hated her convent school and as a teenager had aspirations to look like Twiggy. By 15, Jo was modelling for the national press.
A brief marriage at 18 to clothing boss Peter Greene, with whom she had her first child, Jamie, left her feeling old before her time. She had several affairs before they divorced and she continued modelling while her parents looked after her son.
Mixing in arty, affluent circles, she partied with the likes of Bryan Ferry, dated Dodi Fayed and George Best and experimented with cocaine and LSD, although alcohol was her main stimulant. Then she met Ronnie at a party - and the rest is history.
In the later years of their marriage, she says he was not a good husband, going off with other women and then flaunting them to her face, turning up drunk or on drugs, buying a Rolex with the money earmarked for their children’s private school fees.
Why did she stay with him for so long? “I believed that I could get him straight and couldn’t imagine my life without him. He lied to me all the time about what was happening. I needed to know the truth so I became like a detective.”
When he left her for Russian cocktail waitress Katia Ivanova, Jo was left dazed and humiliated. The first months without him were incredibly hard, she says.
“I would wander from room to room, looking at pictures, photos and furniture - every item a testament to our life together - wondering how on earth we were going to disentangle it all.
“I’d gone from my family to my first husband to my second husband and I’d always had people around me. I found it quite traumatic to be totally on my own.”
But she picked herself up and soon realised that there was life outside the golden bubble of the Rolling Stones. Selling Holmwood, the family mansion, she moved to a luxurious north London townhouse.
“As time went on I started to learn to love myself and really love being on my own now. I never thought I’d say that but I enjoy my own company and pottering around the house. I’d never done it before but now I really appreciate it.”
She says she’s made her peace with Ronnie, 65, who married theatre producer Sally Humphreys, 34, in December.
“I saw him last week. These days, I look at him and think, ‘God I know that man so well’. But it’s like it’s another lifetime.
“But I will always love him. He’s the father of my children. But I don’t feel my heart race and my stomach turn when I see him any more. He’s like an old friend I’ve known for years.”
- Hey Jo: A Rock And Roll Fairytale by Jo Wood is published by HarperCollins, priced £16.99. Available now