Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr was The Beatles' drummer and occasional singer. He was the oldest member and the last to join the band.

Ringo Starr, 1963

Ringo's a damn good drummer. He was always a good drummer. He's not technically good, but I think Ringo's drumming is underrated the same way as Paul's bass playing is underrated...

I think Paul and Ringo stand up anywhere with any of the rock musicians. Not technically great. None of us were technical musicians. None of us could read music. None of us can write it. But as pure musicians, as inspired humans to make noise, they're as good as anybody!

John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The early years

Ringo was born Richard Starkey on 7 July 1940, at 9 Madryn Street in the Dingle area of Liverpool. His parents split up when he was three, and his mother Elsie remarried a man called Harry Graves. Graves got on well with Richard and encouraged the boy's passion for music.

A sickly child, Starkey spent long stretches in hospital. Among his afflictions were a coma caused by appendicitis, a cold which led to pleurisy, and various allergies and intolerances to certain foods. His illnesses made him fall behind academically, and he didn't return to school after a stay in hospital which began at the age of 13.

Known as Ritchie as a teenager, Starkey became infatuated with the skiffle craze which swept Liverpool and elsewhere in the 1950s. He co-founded the Eddie Miles Band, which later became Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares, and in 1959 joined the Raving Texans - backing band for local singer Rory Storm.

It was while playing in these Liverpool bands that he gained the nickname Ringo Starr - the first part due to the rings he wore, and the second because his solos - which Ringo performed reluctantly - could be billed as 'Starr Time'.

With The Beatles

Ringo StarrRingo met The Beatles in Hamburg in October 1960. At the time he was performing with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, but stepped in on a number of occasions when Pete Best was unavailable. At the time there was a sense of solidarity among the British groups in Hamburg, and The Beatles got to know Starr well.

When George Martin demanded that Best be replaced in the summer of 1962, The Beatles insisted that Ringo was the best drummer for them. The decision was controversial among the group's fans, who demanded "Pete forever! Ringo never!" at the Cavern, and fights broke out.

However, Starr didn't play drums on The Beatles' first single, Love Me Do. Martin brought session drummer Andy White in for the session, relegating Starr to tambourine on Love Me Do, and maracas on its b-side PS I Love You. From then on Ringo played on virtually all The Beatles' recordings.

Ringo Starr quickly established himself as a rock-steady drummer, whose open hi-hat and four-to-the-floor bass drum helped energise The Beatles' sound. He was a reliable performer who made only a handful of mistakes during the band's recording career.

A left-handed drummer who performed on a kit conventionally set up for a right-handed player, Ringo formed a distinctive sound - not least his 'backwards' fills which were created by leading with the 'wrong' hand. As Ian MacDonald noted, "Starr would, during fills, come off the snare onto the tom-toms with his left hand leading so that he could only progress 'backwards' from floor tom to small tom or from small tom to snare.

His droll variations on this, including rolling off the hi-hat, delighted orthodox drummers and added to the newness of The Beatles' sound.
Ian MacDonald
Revolution In The Head

Examples of his characteristic fills can be found on A Day In The Life, Hey Jude, and the Paperback Writer b-side Rain - which Starr considers to be his best drumming.

'Ringoisms' - expressions coined by Starr and adopted by the band - were used by John Lennon for the titles of A Hard Day's Night and Tomorrow Never Knows. He also contributed the line "Darning his socks in the night" to Eleanor Rigby.

He became the central character in the films Help! and Yellow Submarine - which were a testament to his popularity as a band member. A Hard Day's Night, too, showed his natural ability as an actor, though he subsequently downplayed his performance, claiming he was hungover on the shoot.

Ringo Starr and Ewa Aulin on the set of the film CandyStarr walked out during the recording of the White Album, after becoming tired of The Beatles' in-fighting. Away for two weeks, Paul McCartney played the drums on Back In The USSR and Dear Prudence.

Starr spent two weeks with Peter Sellers on his yacht, where he wrote Octopus's Garden. The others urged him to come back with telegrams and phone messages, and upon his return George Harrison decorated the studio with flowers saying "Welcome home".

Ringo sang on at least one song on The Beatles' studio albums, with the exception of A Hard Day's Night and Let It Be, and his vocal spots became particular live favourites for the group's fans. In the early days he was given a mixture of cover versions or Lennon-McCartney originals - often ones they did not want to sing themselves.

He composed two original songs during his time with The Beatles: Don't Pass Me By and Octopus's Garden. He also established a co-credit on What Goes On from Rubber Soul, which was listed as being written by Lennon-McCartney-Starkey.

The Magical Mystery Tour instrumental Flying, and Let It Be's Dig It, were group compositions credited to Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starkey, as were Free As A Bird, 12-Bar Original, Los Paranoias, Christmas Time (Is Here Again), Suzy Parker and Jessie's Dream.

27 responses on “Ringo Starr

        1. Joe Post author

          I agree. I think it was Ben Harper’s mistake though. and Ringo just agreed with him. Ringo probably doesn’t even remember whether he was on the album, bless him.

      1. Joseph Brush

        Hey Larry.
        You are the one that is totally wrong!!!

        The credit list of musicians was featured on the record sleeve of the Imagine LP when it was released and there is also a credit list for the CD.

        Ringo may have been unavailable at that particular time in spring 1971 as he was making a western entitled “Blindman”.

        Alan White, Jim Gordon AND Jim Keltner (not John Bonham as I mistakenly listed before)
        shared the drumming chores.

    1. jim mcguire

      after listening to back inthe ussr dear prudence martha my dear and wild honey pie this is some else its not ringo ringo had a unique sound and this drummer assuming paul mc cartney was different

  1. StarrTime

    Yeah Dear Prudence is the only Paul drum song that is even close to what Ringo could do. Paul’s an incredibly talented musician, but as a drummer he couldn’t touch Ringo.

  2. D

    I think it’s Mark Lewisohn who lists Paul as the drummer on Dear Prudence, isn’t it? To be honest, Ringo has the greatest drumming style ever, and I love him – but the closing bit of the song is nothing like Ringo’s ever played. (but then, neither is “Rain” or “She Said She Said,” so that’s not much of an argument.)

    1. Joe Post author

      I think we need to move this discussion on; it also clogs up the Dear Prudence page’s comments section. I won’t publish any more about Ringo/Paul and Dear Prudence on this page, though feel free to talk about anything else to do with Ringo.

  3. Joseph Brush

    John Lennon wrote “Cookin'(In The Kitchen Of Love)” for Ringo’s 1976 album Rotogravure and JL played piano on the track as well.
    On Stop And Smell The Roses George Harrison wrote Ringo a song entitled “Wrack My Brain” which was Ringo’s last top 40 hit single.

    1. Joseph Brush

      In the late seventies or early eighties there was an article in Goldmine about Bernard Purdie who claimed to have played drums on early Beatles tracks. Goldmine was a source of info on how and where to obtain golden oldies, as well as interviews with real stars such as Gary U.S. Bonds. Of course I didn’t believe Purdie.

  4. apple_jam

    Ringo’s great! Steve Smith, Journey’s much-celebrated drummer, has high praise for him: “Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo’s popularity brought forth a new paradigm in how the public saw drummers. We started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect. One of Ringo’s great qualities was that he composed unique, stylistic drum parts for The Beatles songs. His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song.”

  5. Jim Ferris

    I’d like to know if Ringo played the drum roll at the beginning of “All you need is love”. It’s very accomplished on the recording and any film I’ve seen of Ringo from the period, shows to my mind, a lack of technique capable of that roll.

  6. Carmine Strollo

    You might want to give Geof Emerick’s book a going over. It shows that Paul did some tracks for the Beatles. And even when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John even noted that “Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” Don’t get me wrong, I dig Ringo’s playing and he did bring drums to the forefront along with guys like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, but Ringo is not some powerhouse…

    1. jim mcguire

      the only other drummers used where andy white(love me do – ps i loveyou- and please please me) and jimmy nichol on the austrailian tour paul mc cartney also did some drumming on tracks ( back in the ussr) and a couple more lesser known songs

  7. jim mcguire

    ringo starr recorded backin the Ussr, but what people dont realize is that Paul realized it needed more effects so paul recorded it on him playing the drums. when ringo heard the song ringo he was very upset and stated that not me and quit the band for a short time and came back. Paul played on Dear Prudence, Martha my dear,Wild Honey Pie–

  8. jim mcguire

    Beatles love me do documentry 1962- GEORGE MARTIN wasnt happy with either pete best or ringos drumming so he brought in session drummer andy white who recorded all 3 love me do-please please me-ps i love you. Ringos version of love me do released in 62-63??? went to #17 on the british charts- george martin not being to happy about ringos version released andys white version in 1964 it went to #1 world wide, george martin preferred all 3 of andys version please please me was andy version as well.

  9. GEOFFREY MOSS

    Ringo was a merseybeat drummer and was one of a number of merseyside drummers that had a new attitude and passion for musical drumset playing.The great merseybeat drummers were the roots and reason that the 500 Innovative groups on merseyside, up to 1965, were considered unique in GB and why so many had great success in Europe, USA afterwards.Merseybeat drummers composed drum solutions to suit the other players in the band to optimize the group sound.Some were better at this than others ie. Ringo replacing Pete Best .Pete played better with other merseyside bands that suited his groove.Merseybeat drummers were expected swing in any music genre as the groups at that time played anything from jazz, to songs from broadway musicals,rock&roll, r&b and skiffle.We didn’t have the Cliff Richard and the Shadows format and often had sax players in our bands like Boots who played in the Undertakers with Jackie Lomax.

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