Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have had a longstanding friendship and a professional partnership that has spanned the better part of 62 years.
They met when both were struggling musicians. Paul was a member of The Silver Beatles with John Lennon, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe, and Pete Best. Ringo, a drummer for Liverpudlian favorites Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
It was 1959 when Ringo first made Paul’s acquaintance. He would occasionally sit in with The Beatles when Pete Best could not make a gig, and he understood the way Paul and The Beatles interacted with one another. They, too, grew to rely on Ringo’s steady backbeat and innovative drumming style.
Although Pete was the drummer who helped the group grow its fan base, including several trips to Germany, as they honed their skills as live musicians, Richard Starkey, a.k.a. Ringo, was who they found fit the best.
So how did Ringo and Paul’s friendship develop? What do they bring out in one another? Are they still as close as they once were? Let’s get you up to speed.
Ringo fell in love with drumming while hospitalized
Ringo was hospitalized at the age of 13 and admitted to a sanatorium for two years after catching a cold. That developed into chronic pleurisy. In his second year in the hospital, Ringo Starr fell ill from tuberculosis. As a way to keep the hospital residents entertained, they had a group of people that visited patients once a week to give them lessons on knitting, modeling, and music (via DrumLessons.com).
Ringo would reportedly not play music with the other patients as a band unless he was allowed to play the drums.
At the age of 16, Ringo purchased his first bass drum for a total of $3, which he would bang on with drumsticks. He then built a drum set out of tin cans (via DrumLessons.com).
“Flat tins were cymbals, and a big biscuit tin with some depth in it was the tom, and a shallow biscuit tin was the snare drum, and so forth,” said Ringo in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine.
How did Ringo join The Beatles?
There was a discussion with the band’s producer, George Martin, to let Pete go as the group recorded their first album at EMI Studios. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein asked Cavern DJ Bob Wooler if he believed it was a good idea to cut the handsome percussionist loose. While Pete did have skills as a drummer, he was also very popular with fans. Brian feared backlash, but on George’s recommendation he made the decision to fire Pete from his post.
“They don’t think you’re a good enough drummer, Pete,’ Brian said (via The Beatles Bible). “And George Martin doesn’t think you’re a good enough drummer.”
Pete asked if Ringo knew about the switch, to which Brian replied he was joining the group immediately.
Ringo spoke about what his reception was like during those early gigs as the newest member of The Beatles.
“There were riots. It was okay when I just joined in and played a gig and left, but suddenly I was the drummer. Pete had a big following, but I had been known for years in Liverpool, so I had quite a following too. So there was this whole shouting match, ‘Ringo never, Pete forever,’ and ‘Pete never, Ringo forever.’ There was this whole battle going on, and I’m just trying to drum away. But they got over it and then we went down to make a record,” he said to Modern Drummer magazine.
Ringo gave Paul the security he needed as a bassist
As a drummer who could constantly be relied on to deliver a steady backbeat, Ringo became a central figure to Paul as a musician.
Paul explained that the first time he heard Ringo play, he knew the group was now complete and onto something special.
“The first few minutes that Ringo is playing, I look to the left at George and to the right to John, and we didn’t say a word, but I remember thinking, ‘S**t, this is amazing. Look, I love Led Zeppelin, but you watch them playing and you can see them looking back at John Bonham, like, ‘What the hell are you doing? This is the beat,'” he told “Rolling Stone” (via The Paul McCartney Project).
Paul admitted, “You could turn your back on Ringo and never have to worry. He both gave you security and you knew he was going to nail it.”
How many albums did Ringo drum on with The Beatles?
Ringo Starr drummed on all of The Beatles 12 studio albums. These included the songs written for “Please Please Me” (1963), “With The Beatles” (1963), “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964), “Beatles for Sale” (1964), “Help!” (1965), “Rubber Soul” (1965), “Revolver” (1966), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967), “The Beatles” (also known as “The White Album”) (1968), “Yellow Submarine” (1968), “Abbey Road” (1969), and “Let It Be” (1970).
There were some tense moments for Ringo in the band, particularly when during recording for “The White Album,” Ringo began to believe he was an outsider in the band and quit the group. He went on vacation with his family, leaving the remaining three Beatles to pick up his slack on “Back in the USSR.” Paul McCartney played the drums on the rhythm track, George Harrison played lead guitar, and John Lennon played bass. After a few days, Ringo returned to Abbey Road Studios to find his drum kit covered in flowers as a way for the remaining Beatles to show their love for their bandmate.
After The Beatles breakup, Ringo and Paul continued to record with one another
Ringo and Paul appeared on the following albums together following The Beatles’ disbandment in 1970. Paul played on Ringo’s 1970s album, “Sentimental Journey,” 1973’s “Ringo,” 1976’s “Ringo’s Rotogravure,” 1981’s “Stop and Smell the Roses,” 1997’s “Vertical Man,” 2009’s “Y Not,” 2017’s “Give More Love,” and 2019’s “What’s My Name.”
Ringo played on Paul’s solo releases, including “Tug of War,” “Pipes of Peace,” “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” and “Flaming Pie.”
Ringo said of playing with Paul, “He’s an incredible musician. He’s incredible at singing, too, and as a writer, but for me, as a bass player, he is the finest and the most melodic. It’s always fun when we’re playing together. I’ve played on several of his records, mainly in the 90s. People keep saying, ‘Oh, it’s been so long.’ It’s not been that long” (via Smooth Radio).
Ringo and Paul remain close friends to this day
“It’s family,” said McCartney to Rolling Stone (via The Paul McCartney Project). “Sometimes we get pissed off at each other. I’ll want something from him, and he won’t give it to me, and I’ll get pissed off. But then it passes. Brothers fight sometimes. There’s this revisionist history that it was all John and Paul. But it was four corners of a square; it wouldn’t have worked without one of the sides. Ringo was the right angle.”
“We don’t hang out with each other a lot. But if we’re in the same country, and if we’re in the same town, we always have dinner, and we say hi or he comes over here, or I go over to his house,” said Ringo (via Far Out magazine).
“I love that, getting up with him. We did it at the O2 in England [in 2018]. And then he called me and he said, ‘I’m doing Dodger Stadium, if you want to do a few numbers.’ So he picked three numbers, and I got up and went down there. And it’s magic for the audience as well as us. I love playing with him. The audience is like, ‘Oh, there’s two of them! Wow’. It lifts everything, in a joyous way,” said Ringo of playing with Paul (via The Irish News).
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