Roderick David Stewart was born in Highgate, North London, the youngest of five children of Robert Stewart and Elsie Gilbart. His father was Scottish and had been a master builder in Leith, Edinburgh, while Elsie was English and had grown up in Upper Holloway in North London. Rod was born at home during World War II.
The family was neither affluent nor poor; Stewart was spoiled as the youngest, and has called his childhood “fantastically happy”. His father retired from the building trade at age 65, buying a newsagent’s shop on the Archway Road when Stewart was in his early teens and the family lived over the shop. Stewart’s main hobby was railway modelling.
Stewart’s father had played in a local amateur football (soccer) team and managed some teams as well. One of Rod’s earliest memories were the pictures of Scottish players that his brothers had on the wall. He was the most talented footballer in the family, combining natural athleticism with near-reckless aggression, he became captain of the school football team and played for Middlesex Schoolboys as centre-half.
Rod’s introduction to rock and roll was hearing Little Richard’s 1956 hit “The Girl Can’t Help It” and seeing Bill Haley & His Comets in concert. His father bought him a guitar in January 1959; the first song he learned was the folk tune “It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song” and the first record he bought was Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”.
Stewart left school at age 15 and worked briefly as a silk screen printer. Spurred on by his father, his ambition was to become a professional footballer. In summer 1960, he went for trials but he was never signed to the club and that the club never called him back after his trials. Stewart concluded, “Well, a musician’s life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can’t do that and play football. I plumped for music … They’re the only two things I can do actually: play football and sing.”
All in the Name of Rock ‘N’ Roll