Richard Starkey And Elsie Gleave met at the bakery they both worked in and married in 1936. Four years later, Elsie gave birth to their only child, Richard Starkey Jr. on July 7, 1940, who in time, would be come known as Ringo Starr.
They began their family life in a working class neighborhood in Livepool until the senior Richard left when Richie, the younger Richard, was three years old. Elsie left Ritchie with his grandparents as she went to work in a bar to support the two of them.
At the age of six, Ritchie was struck with appendicitis which turned into peritonitis and left him in a coma for over two months. His mother was told many times during this illness not to expect her young son to survive. While young Ritchie surprised everyone and made a medical turn around, he then had another set back when he fell from his hospital bed.
After the long illness and another six month stay in the hospital from his fall, he was not able to keep up in school, as he had not learned to read or write. His absences from illness only aided his dislike for school and skipping became a way for Ritchie to avoid a place he didn’t like to be.
His mother remarried, Harry Graves, in 1953 and shortly after, illness beset young Ritchie again with pleurisy. Frequent stays in hospitals, once for a two year period. At the age of 15 and much time in the hospital and not in school, he knew that there was no need to return, but instead to join the ranks of the working-class. Between the ages of 15 and 17 years old, Ritchie held a variety of jobs, including a messenger, a barman and an apprentice joiner for Henry Hunt and Son’s Engineering.
While employed at Henry Hunt, he became friends with Eddie Miles, also an apprentice and they formed a skiffle group called Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group,with Ritchie on the drums. The group would play for fellow employees at lunch during the work day and after hours at parties and competitions.
Ritchie created his first set of drums from an old tea chest and some tin cans. Ritchie got his first set of drums from his step-father in 1957, a second-hand set. By then, a percussionist was already in the making. Ritchie wore the set out not only from playing them, but transporting them between London and Liverpool on the train. In time, he would replace this set for a newer set, borrowing money from his grandfather.
In time, Ritchie became a member of ‘The Darktown’, a skiffle group as well as sit in with various bands. One of those bands was Al Caldwell’s ‘Texans and in March 1959, Ritchie sat in as drummer then officially became a member of the band in November of that year. The band’s name was changed to Rory Storm And the Hurricanes and Alan Caldwell, forever the charismatic one, fronted the band.
Recognized by outfits that stood out along with their stage persona, The Hurricanes was soon to be ranged as a top band in Liverpool. The band, growing more popular with each performance, was offered a summer gig of 13 weeks in 1960, and while this was great for the band as a whole, it was a dilemma for Ritchie.
Ritchie was employed and doing well as an apprentice at Hunt and Son, this held promise of a solid job and future. In spite of encouragement from his parents and his then fiancee, Geralgine, Ritchie was lured away by the pay of 20 pounds weekly.
Unfortunately, after quitting the solid job at Hunt and Son to pursue the summer engagement, it was canceled. Ritchie took the let-down and spent the summer with Charles O’Brien, John Byrnes, Wally Egmond and Rory, in whatever adventures the life of musicians would lead him.
His band mate, Rory, changed his name and encouraged Ritchie to do likewise. Some say the name ‘Ritchie’ simply turned into ‘Rings’ and then into ‘Ringo’. Other say that his mother gave him the nickname due to his fondness of jewelry. In time with his last name of Starkey becoming ‘Starr’. And thus the name ‘Ringo Starr’ was created. When he would perform solo, he was then introduced as ‘Ringo Starr’ from that point on.
The fall of 1960 brought Rory Storm and the Hurricanes top position wherever they played. While performing in Hamburg, Ringo was introduced to another band from Liverpool, the Beatles. The Beatles original gig they had booked was canceled at the last moment and forcing them to switch venues due to noise complaints.
So at that point, The Beatles and The Hurricanes shared a schedule. The Hurricanes were paid more and given better accommodations compared to The Beatles, however a friendship was formed between the two groups.
Ringo and George Harrison bonded quickly, as Ringo did with all of The Beatles. When the Hurricanes had down time, it was not unusual to find Ringo hanging around listening to The Beatles. Both The Hurricanes and The Beatles played backup to Lou Walter’s “Summertime.” There were many occasions where Ringo would sit in for Pete Best as The Beatles drummer as well.
Ringo turned twenty-one and celebrated with several bands that were in hot demand at the time. Ringo became disenchanted in playing with Rory and the Hurricanes, feeling his career was turning stagnate. After two summers playing with the group, he decided to immigrate to Texas and took a job in a Houston factory. However, after deciding the required paperwork for immigration was not worthwhile, Ringo went back to Germany in 1962. There be became drummer at the Top Ten Club for Tony Sheridan.
Even though he was making a decent pay there including a car and a private flat, Ringo was bored and joined The Hurricanes for a third summer gig. That August, King Size Taylor and the Dominos and The Beatles both made Ringo an offer. Without hesitation, Ringo joined The Beatles and became the official drummer of the band. Eighteen days later, the group had a scheduled recording session at Abbey Road for EMI.
The Beatles, were offered a recording contract with EMI about the same time their producer, George Martin, made it known he had doubts about Pete Best’s drumming. The group had let Pete go and Ringo was the replacement. They all felt that it was a natural fit.
It took Ringo some time to become accustomed to the already famous Beatles style of combed over hair style and feel as a comfortable fit with the group. This wasn’t helped any when he discovered he wasn’t invited to the wedding of John Lennon to Cynthia Powell and a session drummer was called in for September session.
When The Beatles brought Andy White in to try and record “Love Me Do” for the second time, Ringo was given a tambourine and for “PS I Love You” he was given maracas to play. When he played his own version of “Love Me Do”, it was decided then by the other band member, Ringo was their drummer, hands down, from there forward. In time, for both the group and Ringo, the new, awkward feelings disappeard and the group’s new drummer settled in as part of the group, making a perfect fit not only as the drummer but his personality too.
Ringo never overshadowed the group as their drummer. He appeared to be content in the background giving the group their beat. His wit and humor would finally emerge in the movies they made and the interviews they gave. Missing the sarcasm of John, he was just as funny and was an easy going guy that people seem to be drawn to. While Paul was know as the cute Beatle, Ringo was the lovable Beatle. He had the affection and respect of the group’s member and stayed in good with each member even after the group disbanded.
Back in earlier days, Ringo had met Maureen (Mary) Cox while she was learning to bea hairdresser. Their relationship had stuck together through Ringo moving to London,the group’s touring schedule, and the need to keep their relationship quiet during the years of Beatlemania. When Ringo had his tonsils removed, Maureen was there to care for him.
It was during that time that Maureen realized she was expecting Ringo’s child and their marriage was arranged quickly. On September 13, 1965, Zak Starkey was brought into this world. Ringo desired a large family so that his child would not live as he did, an only child. In 1967 Jason Starkey came along and in 1970, Zak and Jason would gain a little sister, Lee Parkin Starkey. While everyone that knew them thought that Ringo and Maureen were the perfect couple with a wonderful family of three children, it was a surprise to all when they were divorced in 1975.
The Fab Four secured their place in the annals of music during the 1960s, making them one of the high seats in popular culture. Just as Elvis Presley did years before them, The Beatles became a social force for the youth with their representation of energy and romance, while adults considered them dangerous and perhaps an evil indulgence of America’s youth.
Years later, as a member of one the biggest bands in history, Starr would confess that he was terrified. Many saw Ringo as the lesser of the Beatles. His talent as a musician was overshadowed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Even though he was the back up genius drummer of the group, cute and witty with a mop top, he was still seen as a sideman.
When the Beatles broke up in 1970, Starr became directionless. While Lennon, McCartney, and even Harrison were able songwriters, Starr’s creative outlets were more limited. Ringo would find it hard to join another band as he would be the famous one already thanks to the status of The Beatles.
Backed into a career as a solo artist, in 1970 Starr recorded “Sentimental Journey”. For some, the success of this album was given to the Beatles glow that was still lingering. The following year though, Starr self-penned “It Don’t Come Easy” was released and went to Number Four on Billboard. With over 500,000 singles sold, it became gold.
Being at the top didn’t last long for Ringo. With occasional releases, one album, “Old Wave”, was unforgettable. The world was still under the influence of the band from Liverpool and rumors of a reunion would surface from time to time.
Clean of addictions and finally enjoying self-confidence, Ringo started to make real music again. He was looking forward to his future with optimism, no longer looking back with resentment. In 1988, Starr assembled an All-Starr Band, consisting of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemmons, Dr. John, Joe Walsh and others. For the first time this x-Beatle would finally tour. A second tour would following with a modified version of the previous ensemble, With no new material, Starr was still able to get the audiences standing with his signature song,“With a Little Help From My Friends.” among other songs.
In retro sight, Starr saw how vulnerable he was in the earlier years, succumbing to self-destructive trappings that stardom can bring. In 1991, after the murder of John Lennon, Starr released “And Smell the Roses”,which was said to be his farewell to Beatledom.
No doubt about it, their music is what created and sustained the lure of the Beatles. However, their time on the big screen of films didn’t hurt either. In America, Starr was the favorite Beatle. From his roles in their movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help”, Starr was the Beatle with acting talent with his court jester ambiance.
In time, their signature modified page-boy hairdos gave way to the long hair and from jackets and trousers,their costume turned to bell-bottom jeans. Through all the changes though, Ringo Starr would maintain his consistent beat and keep the group’s music grounded while the members of this group ventured through drug-induced times.
With the group and solo, Ringo Starr has thrilled music lovers for decades and from what this writer and the music world can see, will continue to do so for many more years.