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The name `Ringo Starr’ is rarely associated with country music. The man behind the name is best known as the drummer with the most famous pop group of all time - The Beatles. However, even while playing with The Beatles, Ringo had a penchant for country music. During his career Ringo has recorded the works of such noted country artists as Buck Owens and Carl Perkins, as well as his own country music compositions. Ringo’s involvement in the genre came at a time when the countrypolitan style was in vogue. Consequently, `countrypolitan’ comprises a considerable part of Ringo’s work in country music.
Richard Starkey Jnr. was born in the English city of Liverpool on 7th. July 1940. Richard’s childhood life was marred by illness. He completed his schooling at Dinglevale Secondary Modern School although his time there was hampered by hospitalisations due to his suffering from pleurisy.
Leaving school, Richard found various means of employment. Amongst other things, he worked as a messenger, and a barman on a boat before gaining an apprenticeship as a joiner. However, Richard loved music so he became a founder member of The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. Richard was the drummer. The group used to entertain their fellow workers during the lunch break, play at parties, and they even entered local talent contests.
Richard also used to sit in as drummer with other bands. He next joined The Darktown Skiffle Group but then, in 1959, moved to a band with which he had previously filled in as drummer, Al Caldwell’s Texans. The band by this time, however, had become one of Liverpool’s best known bands and had since changed their name to Rory Storm and The Hurricanes.
Richard had a number of solo spots with the band which included: `Big Noise From Winetka’, `Boys’ and `You’re Sixteen’ - the latter two later becoming hits for him with The Beatles and solo respectively. However, the band’s popularity meant they were constantly `on the road’, a fact which eventually forced Richard to give up his apprenticeship and also led to him breaking his engagement to a local girl. It had become Richard’s practice to wear rings; this became his trademark and he changed his stage name to `Ringo’. `Starr’ sounded better to Richard than `Starkey’, so Richard Starkey became known as Ringo Starr.
At that time, many British pop groups earned their stripes in the nightclub scene of Hamburg, Germany. In 1960, Rory Storm and The Hurricanes gained a spot at the Kaiserkeller on the same bill as another Liverpool group called The Beatles. Ringo became friendly with the members of that band, particularly lead guitarist, George Harrison.
Back in Liverpool, Ringo occasionally played drums with The Beatles, filling in for regular drummer, Pete Best. In 1962, Ringo once again traveled to Hamburg as drummer with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, also playing with another British act, Tony Sheridan. However, the same year, The Beatles were having their problems. Their producer, George Martin, and some of the group members were not satisfied with the work of drummer Pete Best. They fired him and enticed Ringo over from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
The legend began. The Beatles first hit was `Love Me Do’, followed by their first No.1 hit on the U.K. charts, `Please, Please Me’. They appeared on British TV show, `Thank Your Lucky Stars’ and followed their recording success with more No.1 hits, `From Me To You’, `She Loves You’ and `I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.
By 1964, news of The Beatles’ success had spread to the USA. They traveled to the USA, and took the country by storm when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show’. `I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ went straight to the US No.1 spot and, by April that year , their recordings held the top five places on the Billboard Top 100. The Beatles were later to turn their talents to the movies, starring in the box office hits, `A Hard Days Night’ and `Help’.
1965 was a memorable year for Ringo and the Beatles. The Beatles were awarded MBE’s by Queen Elizabeth for their services to British industry, while Ringo married his girlfriend, Maureen Cox. The couple were to have three children from the union: Zak, Jason and Lee Parkin.
Although The Beatles were distinctly rock and pop, Ringo’s musical tastes definitely included country music. With The Beatles, he recorded -`Matchbox’ , `Honey Don’t’ and `Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’(lead vocal - George Harrison), written by rockabilly legend Carl Perkins - `Act Naturally’, written by country music legend Buck Owens - and his own country flavored composition, `Don’t Pass Me By’.
The pop world, however, was now entering its `psychedelic’ era as drug influenced music began to dominate. The Beatles were at the forefront with their albums `Rubber Soul’ and `Revolver’ but their related success culminated in the best known album of that era, `Sgt, Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. In 1966, Ringo was lead singer on The Beatles No. 1 hit `Yellow Submarine’.
At this time, the first signs of The Beatles future demise were beginning to emerge. They were tiring of constant public appearances and, on 29th. August 1966, gave their last live concert - at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. On 27th. August the very next year, The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, died of a drug overdose. Nevertheless, the Fab Four continued together for another 3 years. The hits continued as did the movies: `Magical Mystery Tour’ in 1967 and `Yellow Submarine’ in 1968. By 1970 all band members had become involved in their own solo projects as the group recorded their last single `Let It Be’.
Ringo continued in the fields of both recording and movies. 1970 was a busy year for Ringo; he played the drums on the recording projects of two other former Beatles: George Harrison’s `All Things Must Pass’ and John Lennon’s `Plastic Ono Band’. The same year he starred in two movies: `The Magic Christian’ and `Candy’, but his individual recording was definitely not neglected. Ringo recorded two albums: a collection of standards entitled `Sentimental Journey’, and a collection of country songs entitled `Beaucoup of Blues’.
`Beaucoup of Blues’ was recorded at the instigation of producer, Peter Blake, whom Ringo met whilst recording George Harrison’s `All Things Must Pass’. `Countrypolitan’ was the current trend, so the album was recorded in Nashville and included a number of songs with a `countrypolitan’ flavour. These included: `Love Don’t Last Long’, `Without Her’, `I’d Be Talking All The Time’, `I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way’, `Waiting’, and the title track `Beaucoups of Blues’. The album combined the talents of many notable Nashville musicians, producers and arrangers: Jim Buchanan, Charlie Daniels, D.J. Fontana, four Jordanaires, Buddy Harmon, Chuck Howard, Roy M. `Junior’ Husky, Ben Keith, Jeannie Kendal, Jerry Kennedy, Dave Kirby, Grover Lavender, Charlie McCoy, Sorrells Pickard, George Richey and Jerry Shook. The album reached No.65 on Billboard.
The hits continued for Ringo. In 1971 `It Don’t Come Easy’ topped the US charts and, in 1973, both `Photograph’ and `You’re Sixteen’ did the same. `It Don’t Come Easy’ sold over one million copies.
On the personal side, Ringo divorced Maureen in 1975 and moved to Monte Carlo for tax reasons. Furthermore, he had formed a friendship and working relationship with Harry Nilsson in both movies and recordings. However, Ringo’s health was still a problem. In 1979 he collapsed and was consequently subject to an intestinal operation. 1979 was not a good year for Ringo, as fire also destroyed his Los Angeles house and the Beatles memorabilia inside. Nevertheless, life did have it’s upside; Ringo joined George Harrison and Paul McCartney to play at Eric Clapton’s wedding.
Ringo continued his career and, in 1980, planned to record with John Lennon, however that did not eventuate as John was cruelly murdered on the 8th. December that year. Movies, once again, took prominence in Ringo’s career. Ringo met Barbara Bach on the set of the movie `Caveman’, in which they both starred. The pair married in 1981 and, once again, Ringo joined George and Paul to perform at the party to celebrate the wedding.
By 1983, although once again hampered by ill health as well as an alcohol problem, Ringo’s career took a slightly different tack. As well as playing drums with The Beach Boys on several occasions, Ringo became the narrator for the children’s series `Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends’. Furthermore, Ringo had become involved in outside enterprises. His ventures were in furniture design in 1970’s, a cable television company in 1981 and in 1987 he opened a restaurant in Atlanta - `The Brasseire’.
1988 was a mixed year for Ringo. The Beatles were deservedly inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, however Ringo was admitted to an alcohol rehabilitation center in Tucson, Arizona in an effort to overcome his advancing alcoholism. The treatment was successful. A sober Ringo Starr re-recorded `Act Naturally’, this time with Buck Owens, and formed the All Starr Band. The band toured the USA and Japan and, the very next year, released a live album. Ringo, however, continued to diversify his talents: his voice was used in an episode of `The Simpsons’.
In 1994, Ringo once again teamed with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. This time they added their collective talents to a song John Lennon had previously recorded on tape - `Free As A Bird’. This was to be the first Beatles recording in a quarter of a century. This `single’ coincided with the release of an album of 52 previously unreleased Beatles’ songs from their early years. The album was entitled `Anthology’. The album sold extremely well and The Beatles were once again in the top echelon of chartists. The album was to precede the later releases of Anthology 2 and Anthology 3 which also charted well. `The Beatles Anthology’ book was released in 2000.
Ringo continued his solo career. In the following years the All Starr Band toured the USA a number of times, as well as visiting Europe and Japan. Additionally, Ringo was inducted into the Modern Drummer Magazine Hall of Fame. In 1999, The Beatles album sales had reached 106 million, a fact which confirmed them as the most successful recording act ever in the USA. Ringo’s voice kept The Beatles’ recordings to the fore with a remastered version of `Yellow Submarine’. These days Ringo sustains his musical involvement with continued television and band appearances, travelling from his homes in Monte Carlo, Los Angeles, and Colorado.
Ringo Starr - recording star, movie star, and star of the concert stage - a member of the most successful pop group of all time - The Beatles - and a noted musician and entertainer in his own right. Ringo’s involvement with country music, both as a solo artist and with The Beatles, has been considerable. His related involvement with the `countrypolitan’ style most definitely places Ringo’s music `On The Fringe’ of that sub-genre. Ringo Starr - `countrypolitan.com’ thank you for your contribution to the musical style we love so much.
Written by Michael D'Arcy. December 2001, Countrypolitan.com.
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