The Rolling Stones guitarist insists it was the drummer who urged the band to hit the road without him before his death and believes the stickman is now 'smiling down' on them.

AceShowbiz - Keith Richards is convinced late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts is "smiling down" on the band after insisting they should tour without him when he fell ill earlier this year (21).

Watts pulled out of the group's No Filter tour over the summer and told his bandmates to hit the road with session drummer Steve Jordan. Weeks later he died and now his old pal, Keith, tells Apple Music Hits he can feel Charlie's good vibes onstage.

"The last thing I wanted to do was a Rolling Stones tour without Charlie," Richards says. "Charlie said, 'Look, go on with Steve.' Everyone knows that I've worked with Steve for 30 years, and he'd also worked with Mick (Jagger) and me over the last couple of years in the studio. So it was kind of a seamless transition. Steve has brought a new energy."

"I can almost feel Charlie smiling down on us every night. You've got to roll with the punches. This is rock 'n' roll."

Meanwhile, despite fallings out over the years, Richards insists he and Mick Jagger are closer than ever onstage. "When Mick and I are out there working... we both know that, 'Hey, I'm counting on you,' " he says. "And there's a beautiful jousting and also, like, a support. That's where, actually, I feel my friendship with Mick more intensely than at any other time."

"When I see my man out there singing, I think, 'Jeez, look at that cat there. He's out there stark-f**king naked.' I have to support my friend, and he knows that I'm gonna be there. I have his back. He has mine. It's an interesting piece of improvisation goes on every night... This show has no script."

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