Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Drums: Ringo Starr (1963)

Ringo Starr--the last to join the Beatles. A drummer of real ferocious efficiency. Shortest (at 5 ft. 8 in.) in the group; also the lightest (9 stone 6 lb). The only blue-eyed one of the four. A happy-go-lucky type . . . but who still remembers with horror his first appearance at the massive Liverpool Empire, when the curtains swirled back to reveal Ringo still in the process of setting up his drum kit!

Ringo is also the only Beatle to have changed his name for show business purposes. Starkey is the family name--and his parents, Elsie and Harry, gave him the first name Richard, soon shortened to Dick. "Ringo" came about because he wears a minimum of three highly colourful rings on his fingers.

An expressive face has Ringo. Expressive hair, too, dark brown in colour and flop-happy as soon as he starts belabouring his drum kit. It crinkles down towards his eyes--eyes which mirror the excitement of the music he pounds out.


At school age, RIngo journeyed from Saint Silas Infants' School, to Dingle Vale Secondary Modern, to Riversdale Technical College. His school interests? "Not so many," he admits. "I was pretty good at handicrafts--any sort of thing just so long as I could make something, use my hands to create.

"Don't talk to me about the more usual subjects. I was terrible at maths and English. Sporting things didn't really appeal to me. Even now I don't find myself following any special club or team. I don't even bother to read the results. The thing is that music is a full-time business and I wouldn't change it for the world.

His Secret Ambition

"I would have been an engineer, I think, I learned enough at that to be able to return to it should this music business ever fold up on me. And yet I also nurse this crazy ambition to become a motor racing driver.

"I'm crazy about driving--especially night-driving. Would I be good enough to make the grade as a professional? I dunno. All I can say is that I haven't had any convictions yet . . . !"

Ringo, 23 on July 7, is a thoroughly experienced drummer. Once upon a time he appeared in the Liverpool area with the Darktown Skiffle Group, then for three years he went round with Rory Storm and the ever-popular Hurricanes. Three seasons at Butlins' Holiday Camps, where he had to cope with anything and everything, added to his experience.

A Full Professional

Watch him at rehearsals. When he's not actually playing, his hands and sticks are seldom still. He taps out incessant rhythms on his knees, on his snare-drum rim--on anything that doesn't make too much distracting noise. A full professional, able to pick up a cue instantaneously, able to improvise at the drop of a rim-shot.

Yet he says: "I've built up my confident over most things to do with drumming. But my main ambition now is to be able to play everything with either left or right hand. It's hard . . . needs plenty of practice . . . but it's coming along."

Ringo first met the other Beatles in the Jacaranda Club in Liverpool. He doesn't remember much about them individually, except there was a certain sadness about the occasion because their original bass guitarist, a talented young man named Stuart Sutcliffe, had died tragically earlier that year--1962. "I recognised immediately that they were all good musicians and that I'd be more than happy with them," he says now.

Ringo--Business Man

Now the money is pouring in and Ringo is a star. He can think in terms, perhaps, of investing some of his loot in a business. He would go for a ladies' hairdressing salon, he thinks. His parents always thought that would be a good and profitable line for him, despite his own unruly locks. Or perhaps he'd dabble in a car hire firm. That love of cars and driving is never far from his mind.

Relaxation? Ringo admits: "Sometimes I find it hard to unwind, especially after a series of one-nighters. I don't go mad with my free time, though. Maybe I'll just stay at home and listen to records or watch TV. Musically, I go for Rhythm 'n' Blues or Country 'n' Western--I get a great kick out of listening to singers like Brook Benton, or Dinah Washington, Della Reese or Patsy Cline. I collect discs by the Shirelles, too--they've got a very fine feeling for their sort of music."

And so has Ringo Starr for HIS sort of music.

1 comment:

Chynna said...

Ringo is the favorite in our house. He's just an incredible person and so, so nice. I had the chance to see him and his All Star Band in Calgary and got to meet him. It was a dream come true. Here's the link to my blog post about it:

Thank you for this post.