Ultimately what’s most impressive about Ringo Starr isn’t what he's been, but rather who he is,” wrote Rolling Stone rock critic David Wild. “The man’s great heart and soul, his wit and wisdom.” Ironically, the story of Ringo’s evolution from former Beatle to successful solo artist is still best told from the beginning.
“When I was thirteen I only wanted to be a drummer”, remembers Ringo, and four years later at age seventeen, he joined the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Band. In 1959, Ringo hooked up with the Raving Texans, which later became Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. In 1962, while playing a summer gig with Rory, Ringo was asked to join the Beatles. Worried that he might cost his bandmates the summer gig if he left, Ringo delayed his departure until after they found themselves a replacement, and on August 18, 1962, Ringo officially became a Beatle.
As everyone knows, the Beatles went on to become the world’s most popular band, but it wasn’t until that chapter of Ringo’s life was ending that his transcendence to the beloved artist he is today – was just beginning.
In 1970, Ringo released his first solo record, entitled Sentimental Journey, which was exactly that – a sentimental record capturing the music he grew up with (he later said “I did it for my Mum”). The following year Ringo released Beacoups of Blues, a country and western album that he recorded with Pete Drake in Nashville in just 2 days. That same year, the Beatles broke up.
Ringo’s passion for creating music continued to propel him forward, and in 1971 he began his unprecedented run as the first solo Beatle to score 7 consecutive Top 10 singles starting with the release of It Don’t Come Easy, with a B side of Early 1970. His second hit single, Back Off Boogaloo/Blindman followed in 1972, and was written with and inspired by T Rex frontman Marc Bolan. Then, in 1973, Ringo released his self titled smash hit Ringo, which yielded 3 Top 10 singles, including the number one hits, Photograph/Down and Out, and You’re Sixteen/Devil Woman. Ringo also marked the first time since the breakup that all the Beatles participated in the same project, though not at the same time.
Between the years 1974-1978 Ringo continued to release more hits, including the top ten singles, Only You/Call Me, and No No Song/Snookeroo, and the albums: Goodnight Vienna 1974; Blast From Your Past 75; Rotogravure 76; Ringo The 4th 77; and in 1978 Bad Boy which included a television special with Art Carney and Carrie Fisher.
In 1981 Starr recorded Stop and Smell the Roses, his most critically acclaimed record since Ringo, followed by Old Wave in 1983 where he teamed up with producer Joe Walsh. Ringo’s greatest hits collection; Starr Struck – Best Of Ringo Starr Vol. 2 – was released in 1989.
The 90’s saw Starr release some of the best records of his career, and he also found consistent success as a live act with his revolving All Starr Band. The concept for the All Starr Band was first presented in 1989. “I got a message from a guy named David Fishof asking if I’d be interested in putting a band together. I had been thinking the same thing – and so I went through my phone book rang up a few friends and asked them if they’d like to have fun in the summer” Those friends included Eagle Joe Walsh; E-Streeters Clarence Clemmons and Nils Lofgren; former Band members Rick Danko and Levon Helm; Dr. John, Billy Preston and Jim Keltner.
The tour met with great success and yielded Ringo’s first live album, released on Rykodisc in 1990 titled simply, Ringo and His All Starr Band. “I’ve said this over and over again, but I love being in a band”, says Ringo.
In 1992 Ringo released Time Takes Time (Private Music) and the New York Times hailed it as “Starrs best: more consistently pleasing than Ringo, it shows him as an assured performer and songwriter.” Later that same year Ringo put together his second All Starr Band which featured Burton Cummings, Dave Edmunds, Nils Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, Timothy B Schmidt, Zak Starkey, and Joe Walsh. This line up also featured Ringo’s son Zak, who joined him on drums, and was the first time Ringo had toured Europe since the Beatles. The 2nd All Starr Band also yielded the release; Ringo Starr And His All Starr Band – Live From Montreaux.
Ringo’s 3rd All Starr Band in 1995 toured the US and Japan, and again featured Zak Starkey as well as John Entwistle, Felix Cavaliere, Mark Farner, Billy Preston, Mark Rivera and Randy Bachman. In 1997 he released Ringo Starr And His Third All Starr Band Vol. 1 – and also assembled his 4th All Starr band: Gary Brooker, Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Simon Kirke, Mark River. They toured the US, Europe, and in 1998 joined Ringo as he became the first former Beatle to play in Russia.
1998 heralded the release of Vertical Man (Mercury), which was recorded with Mark Hudson, and marked the first collaboration with Ringo and “the Roundheads”. It was one of Starr’s strongest records – due largely to his deep involvement as drummer, singer, co-writer and co-producer. This was followed by an appearance at New York’s Bottom Line and then on VH1’s StoryTellers, which saw Ringo and the Roundheads performing an assortment of his greatest hits including It Don’t Come Easy; Photograph; Back off Boogaloo and Don’t Pass Me By. The performance was later released as a CD of the same title, StoryTellers (Mercury).
1999 began with the creation of the 5th All Starr Band (February 12th – March 29th) which consisted of Gary Brooker, Jack Bruce, Timmy Cappello, Simon Kirke, Todd Rundgren.
In October 1999 Ringo released the irrepressibly festive, I Want To Be Santa Claus (Mercury), which was a mix of classics (The Little Drummer Boy) and originals (I Wanna Be Santa Claus).
The 6th All Starr Band was launched in 2000, and was made up of Jack Bruce, Eric Carmen, Dave Edmunds, Simon Kirke, Mark Rivera. They toured the States May 12th – July 1st. The following Spring, (2001), Ringo put together the 7th All Starr Band, which featured the first female All Starr – Sheila E – as well as Greg Lake, Roger Hodgson, Ian Hunter, Howard Jones, Mark Rivera. Then on July 24 2001, Ringo celebrated over a decade of All Starr Tours with the release of Ringo and His All Starr Band The Anthology, So Far….(Koch).
In March 2003 The Roundheads launched the release of Ringo Rama (Koch) with another impromptu performance at New York’s Bottom Line.
"There is a lot of me in these songs," Starr told rock critic David Wild. "As time goes on, my personality is coming out more and more in the music. That’s just what happens. On this album my drumming is more dynamic, I’m more to the front, I think I’m singing better and I believe we’re writing better songs. All the touring helps because then you’re keeping your chops up. I suppose I had a long time off and now I’ve had a long time on."
David goes on to describe Ringo Rama as “a grown-up thrill ride, (it) lovingly and at times movingly celebrates yesterday and today. This is a song cycle that appropriately acknowledges the former Beatle’s illustrious past but at the same time powerfully insists on the paramount importance of living and loving here and now. Ringo Rama would be a fine album without any of its back story. Yet coming from Starr, it feels in a sense like the album of a lifetime.”
Later that same year Ringo and Mark Hudson announced the formation of their label Pumkinhead Records, and signed their first artist, Liam Lynch. Finally, 2003’s 8th All Starr Band hit the road with Paul Carrack, Sheila E., Colin Hay, Mark Rivera, John Waite. This tour resulted in another live CD, Tour 2003 (Koch), and a soon to be released DVD.
“For me it works as a great formula, it’s just really a great way for me to do it,” Ringo said about the All Starr experience. “If you look at all the bands I’ve put together, its an incredible array of musicians, all these different people. Everyone has hit records, hit songs. The show consists of me upfront and then I go back behind the kit and support the others. It’s just good music and I’m having a lot of fun and that’s what it all about – great music and fun.”
In 2004 Genesis books announced a limited edition print run of Postcards From The Boys, the proceeds of which went to the Lotus Foundation Charity. Ringo described the book as a “presentation of postcards John, Paul and George have sent me over the years. What’s incredible about them is that some are actual art pieces that would only ever have been sent to Ringo.”
To date Ringo has released 23 solo records, which includes 14 studio albums, and continues to tour regularly with his All Starr Band. Ringo’s music, as a solo artist and as a Beatle, is permeated with his personality – his warmth and humor, his exceptional musicianship – have given us songs we all know and love: With A Little Help From My Friends; Don’t Pass Me By; Octopus’ Garden; Photograph; It Don’t Come Easy; Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go; La De Da; Memphis in Your Mind; Never Without You. Fans will be happy to know that Ringo is currently back in the studio with The Roundheads, and they can expect a new record and another All Starr Tour in 2005.