You’d be hard pressed to find a modern drummer who hasn’t been influenced by Ringo Starr‘s unique beats and rhythms. It’s not just that The Beatles are the biggest band of all time, but Starr himself is rightly getting credit for being both the rock that held it all together and an experimental player in his own right.
His unique style, whether it’s the syncopation of ‘Ticket to Ride’, propulsive simplicity of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, the tom-heavy fills of ‘Rain’ or the memorable intro to ‘Come Together’, Ringo is a versatile musician who always served the song first and foremost. While being interviewed by acolyte Dave Grohl in 2019, Starr recalls how his upbringing in Liverpool made it difficult to find an actual set of drums.
“In Liverpool, because we were all teenagers then, I did anything not to go in the army,” Starr remembers. “So to save myself from that, I ended up on the railways. Then I got a job in this factory.”
Adding: “My first band was in the factory with the guy who lived next door to me: Eddie Clayton, who was just a really cool guitar player. And I always wanted to be a drummer since I was 13, and my friend Roy [Trafford] made a tea-chest bass – a tea chest with a stick and a string – and that’s what skiffle was.”
Skiffle used found objects, most notably washboards, to create rhythms that most working class musicians couldn’t afford. It was only after Starr got a gig with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes playing rock music that he fully adopted the drum kit.
“And we would play in the basement for the men at lunchtime. And if you’ve ever played a factory, that’ll make you grow up. It’s ‘Get off!’ There’s no ‘Very nice, boys.’ Yeah, that’s how I started, and then we introduced a few more people to the band . . . and then I moved to Rory [Storm and the Hurricanes], which was out-and-out rock.”
“And that was a great time for me, and it was a big band in Liverpool. In 1960, we got a job for three months in a holiday camp. I left the factory, and the whole family had a meeting to try and convince me that ‘drums are OK as a hobby, son.'”
Try telling the guy who played this that drums are “OK as a hobby”.