Get to Know the Beatles: Ringo Starr

To complete the iconic band that changed the world through its music, and has lived on through Beatles tribute bands, was the group’s notorious drummer, Ringo Starr. He was born Richard Starkey on July 7, 1940, to Elise and Richard Starkey, in Dingle, Liverpool, England. Starkey was an only child, whose parents, prior to his birth, were active in swing and ballroom dancing. After his birth, his mother embraced an overprotective approach to parenting, that bordered on fixation. As a result, his father lost interest in the family, and would spend long hours drinking and dancing at local pubs, sometimes for days on end. In 1944, in an effort to reduce housing costs, the family moved to a cheaper neighborhood in Dingle. Not long after the move, his parents separated; later divorcing that same year. After the divorce, Starkey saw very little of his father, who made minimal effort to have a relationship with his son. Due to the lack of income, Starkey’s mother took to cleaning houses before she was able to secure a position as a local barmaid, which she held for twelve years. At the age of six, Starkey developed appendicitis. After a routine appendectomy, he contracted peritonitis that resulted in him being in a comma that lasted for days. Because of his illness, Starkey’s recovery spanned a twelve-month period, which he spent at Liverpool’s Myrtle Street Children’s Hospital, away from his family. After his release from the hospital in 1948, Starkey remained at home, causing him to fall even farther behind in school. At the age of eight, Starkey was illiterate, and had a poor grasp on mathematics. With the help of his surrogate sister and neighbor, Marie Maguire Crawford, Starkey was able to catch up to his peers academically. In 1953, Starkey contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to a sanatorium, where he remained for the next two years. It was during his stay at the sanatorium, where Starkey was first introduced to percussion instruments—a makeshift mallet that was made out of a cotton bobbin that was used to strike the cabinets next to his bed. This sparked his interest in drums, and he never looked back. Also in 1953, Starkey’s mother married Harry Graves, who had relocated to Liverpool from London. Upon his release from the sanatorium, Starkey did not return to school, instead preferring to stay home, listen to music, and play along by beating biscuit tins with sticks. After his return home from the sanitorium, Starkey entered the workforce, with a lack of motivation and discipline, his attempts at finding gainful employment were futile. After working a few odd jobs to get by, Graves was able to secure Starkey a position as an apprentice machinist at a Liverpool equipment manufacture in mid-1956. While working at the facility, Starkey befriended Roy Trafford, and the two quickly bonded over their shared interest in music. Trafford was the first to introduce Starr to skiffle music, which he quickly became a fan of. In fact, Starkey became such an admirer or skiffle music that he and Trafford would rehearse songs in the manufacturing plant’s cellar during their lunch break. Trafford would play the guitar, while Starkey would either slap biscuit tins with keys, or slap the backs of chairs. The duo was later joined by Starkey’s neighbor, and fellow co-worker, Eddie Miles, who also played the guitar. The three formed the Eddie Miles Band that was later renamed Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares after a Liverpool landmark. Christmas 1957, Graves gifted Starkey with a second-hand drum kit that consisted of a snare drum, bass drum, and a makeshift cymbal, that was fashioned from an old rubbish bin lid. With the assistance of an actual drum set, Starkey was able to progress as a musician, all while increasing the commercial potential of the Eddie Clayton band. The Eddie Clayton band booked several prestigious local gigs before the skiffle craze died out due to the increasing popularity of American rock and roll in 1958. In November of 1959, Starkey joined Al Caldwell’s Texans skiffle group. The group was searching for a drummer who could take their music from a skiffle act to a full-fledged rock and roll band. The group had used a couple of different names before deciding on Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, just before recruiting Starkey to join their group. It was around this same time frame, that he adopted the stage name of Ringo Starr. By the early 1960s the Hurricanes were one of Liverpool’s leading bands. They were offered a highly coveted residency in Hamburg in October of the same year. It was while performing in Hamburg that Starr first met The Beatles. During the Hamburg residency, Starr was able to perform with The Beatles during a few stand-in engagements. August 14, 1962 John Lennon formally asked Starr to become a member of The Beatles, which he accepted. Starr’s first official performance as a member of The Beatles was on August 18, 1962 at a horticultural society dance at Port Sunlight. During his years with The Beatles, Starr experienced much success and fame due to his numerous contributions to the band. In February 1968, Starr was the first group member to sing on another artist’s show without the rest of the group. Later that year, Apple records released The Beatles, more commonly known as the White Album. During the recordings for the White Album, relations among the group members became openly divisive. As time went on, their collective group dynamic started to decay; resulting in only one or two Beatles recording a track at a time. Starr had grown weary of McCartney’s ever increasing overbearing approach, and Lennon’s passive-aggressive behavior. After one particularly difficult recording session, where McCartney had harshly criticized Starr’s drumming, Starr quit the band and went on a two-week holiday with his family in Sardinia. Upon returning from his holiday, Starr returned to the studio, to find that Harrison had decorated his drum set in flowers as a welcome back gesture. Despite returning to congenial relations during the remainder of White Album, The Beatles fourth feature film, Let It Be, and the accompanying LP, strained the already tenuous cohesion within the group. On August 20, 1969 the Beatles gathered for the last time at Abbey Road Studios for a missing session for “I Want You”. During a business meeting on September 20th, Lennon informed the group that he had quit the Beatles, although the groups break up did not become public knowledge until McCartney’s announcement of leaving The Beatles on April 10, 1970. In February of 1965, Starr married Maureen Cox, who he went on to have three children with—Zak, Jason, and Lee. The couple remained married until their divorce in 1975. Starr later met actress Barbara Bach on the film set of Caveman and the couple was married on April 27, 1981. The couple remains together to this day. In the years following his time with The Beatles, Starr has gone on to have a successful solo career, including playing drums on Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Ono’s Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band in 1970. On July 7, 2017, his 77th birthday, Starr released a new single entitled “Give More Love”, which was followed by his nineteenth studio album by the same title that was released on September 15, 2017. To continue enjoying and reliving the wonder years of The Beatles, a Beatles Tribute Band is what you need! From the iconic costumes to the instruments being played, Britishmania is the real deal!

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