The Rolling Stones without Bill Wyman. Sure. Without Brian Jones. OK. Then without Mick Taylor. Alright.

But the Stones without Charlie Watts? Nope. No way.

When it came to image and personality, Watts, who died Tuesday at age 80, was an outlier. An elegant, refined gentleman among street fighting men. A bespoke Savile Row suit among hip Carnaby Street rags and ruffles. A longtime married man among serial womanizers.

I know it's only rock 'n' roll, and we like it. We like the Stones because of Mick Jagger's moves and mouth, Keith Richards' licks and swagger, and Watts' solid, in-the-pocket timekeeping. The drummer played behind the beat, creating a groove that made us dance with joy and abandon decade after decade.

Watts was the glue that held the Stones together. He laid down shuffles and swings with jazzy patterns, allowing the music to breathe, making room for other players. Subtle and steady, he viewed himself as an accompanist. No drum solos, no big drum kits.

Like Ringo Starr with the Beatles, Watts was an efficient and highly effective drummer, an unflashy sideman among flamboyant stars yet a star in his own right.

The Stones knew how essential Watts was to their sound. Just listen to the languid shuffle intro on "Let It Bleed," the jazzy chaos on "19th Nervous Breakdown," the crisp pocket on "Rocks Off," oh we could go through the entire Stones catalog.

As Richards put it in a 1979 interview: "Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn't doing what he's doing on drums, that wouldn't be true at all. You'd find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones."

Or as Ron Wood, who replaced Mick Taylor on lead guitar in 1975, put it in the 2003 documentary "Tip of the Tongue": "Charlie's the engine. We don't go anywhere without the engine."

I saw the Stones in concert many times, beginning in 1972, when Stevie Wonder opened for them at Met Center in Bloomington. I saw the Eagles and Chaka Khan open for them in a Kansas City football stadium in '76. I saw them when Wyman fell off the stage at the St. Paul Civic Center in '78. I saw them at the Metrodome days after my son was born in '89. I saw Taylor join them for their 50th anniversary tour in Chicago in 2013. I stood in the pit for their performance at Desert Trip in '16.

As I reflect on those and other Stones adventures, two images of Watts stand out. In 2015, the jazz-loving drummer showed up at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, the night before the Stones were going to rock TCF Bank Stadium. The Dakota attraction was Band 2, featuring three Stones sidemen and a few Minnesota musicians. From the balcony table usually reserved for Prince, Watts watched the first set.

When the second set began, Watts — nattily attired in a black sportcoat and pink patterned button-down shirt — was sitting behind the drum kit. Bernard Fowler led the band and all 275 clubgoers singing "Happy Birthday" to Watts on his 74th. Then the musicians kicked into "Ruby Tuesday" (on a Tuesday night, no less), with Watts playing as efficaciously as always but with a big smile and jazzy flourish at the end.

And then what would be the last time: June 2019 in Chicago. The first night back after his heart valve procedure, Jagger was on fire, proving he still had it. During "Midnight Rambler," I was transfixed by the wired singer romping down the runway, filling Soldier Field with dread, drama and harmonica. I never looked at the main stage, where a silver-haired man in a plain white T-shirtwas driving this rambler with his propulsive groove.

Three weeks ago, the Stones announced that their No Filter Tour would resume in September (including U.S. Bank Stadium Oct. 24) with Steve Jordan, a capable drummer and kindred spirit of Keith's, because Watts needed to recuperate after a successful medical procedure. When I heard that, I thought a tour by the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band without Watts was unimaginable. In the wake of Watts' death, a Stones tour is unconscionable.

Out of respect, they should postpone the trek, not to mention that COVID is raging once more. And if the Stones decide to hit the road again at some point, call it what it is: the Glimmer Twins, the Mick and Keith Show.

Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719