Although the band didn't form until 1962, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were childhood friends in the early 1950s until their families moved. They re-connected in 1960 in a chance encounter at a train station, which partially led to the formation of the band.
The band played their first show in 1962 billed as "The Rollin' Stones," named after a track from a Muddy Waters LP.
Decca Records signed the band in 1962. After failing to sign The Beatles, Decca gave The Rolling Stones an incredibly favorable deal in order to make sure they signed. The group received three times the typical royalty rate for a new act, full artistic control of recordings, and ownership of the master copies of all recordings.
Their debut self-titled album was a success in the UK, reaching #1 in the charts, but received little success in the US. Their subsequent US tour was described by bassist Bill Wyman as "a disaster" due to their relative anonymity in the States.
Guitarist Brian Jones was originally the frontman of the band, but was soon overshadowed by the songwriting partnership of Jagger and Richards. This led to his estrangement from the other members, as well as a gradually worsening drug problem. He officially left the band in early June, 1969, and he died just three weeks later, drowning in the pool at his house.
Their 1971 album Sticky Fingers was their first album to reach #1 in both the US and the UK. It was also the first in a run of eight consecutive albums to reach #1 in the US.
Jones' replacement, Mick Taylor, left the group in 1974. A combination of financial advice (which advised the group to leave Britain to avoid high taxes) and legal barriers (due to drug charges against Jagger, Richards, and producer Jimmy Miller) created complications on when and where the group could record and tour, and Taylor quit in frustration.
For much of the 1980s, Jagger and Richards feuded over creative control, as well as the group's drug use. It was rumored that the two were never in the same room, with the exceptions of when the group was forced to appear together (such as for recordings, performances, and press appearances).
The band went on hiatus after Wyman's departure in 1991, with each other member recording solo albums over the next few years. They reunited in 1994 with the album Voodoo Lounge.
The band continues to record and tour, and have no apparent plans to retire. In 2010, Richards released his autobiography, Life, in which he details his years with the band and his relationship with Jagger.