A Brief and Hopefully Accurate Summary
of the Life and Times of Ringo Starr. ©
Ringo Starr was born on July seventh, 1940. Named after his father, he was the only child of Richard Starkey and Elsie Gleave. The two had met while working together at a local bakery. They eventually married in 1936. The family resided at 9 Madryn Street, a six-room terrace house in a poor and rough working class section of Liverpool known as the Dingle. Richard Sr. left home when little Richard, now called Ritchie, was three. In 1944 Ritchie and his mother moved to 10 Admiral Grove, a smaller, less expensive terrace house around the corner. Ritchie called 10 Admiral Grove home until he moved to London with the Beatles. Determined to support herself and her child, Elsie went to work as a barmaid, often leaving Ritchie in the care of neighbors or his paternal grandparents.
At the age of five, Ritchie started school at St. Silas Infants School, but his school career hit the first of many snags when, at age six, he developed appendicitis. His appendix ruptured resulting in peritonitis and a ten week coma. Elsie was told on several occasions that her boy would not live, but eventually, to the doctor's surprise, he came round and slowly began to mend. After six months, recovery was within sight, but then disaster struck. Ritchie fell out of the hospital bed necessitating an additional six month hospital stay. When he was finally released, Ritchie found that he was very behind in his school work. He couldn't read or write, so a neighbor child, Marie Maguire, was recruited to help teach him. Ritchie never cared much for school, and the fact that he was so far behind didn't help. He would often play truant, a fact that no doubt influenced his dismal showing on the Review exam. Since he didn't pass the Review, he didn't even take the Eleven Plus exam and, as a result, wound up at Dinglevale Secondary Modern School at age eleven.
In 1953, with Ritchie's enthusiastic blessing, Elsie married Harry Graves. That same year Ritchie developed pleurisy. Complications resulted in another hospitalization, this one lasting two years. Despite all these hardships, Ritchie, by all accounts, remained a contented easy-going individual if somewhat quiet and thoughtful. When he emerged from the hospital at fifteen, he knew that returning to school was out of the question. He had simply missed too much and felt that he could never catch up. After a recouperatory period at home it was time to start thinking about finding a job.
Ritchie took a messenger job with the British Railroad, but had to quit when he failed the medical exam. He next worked as a barman on a boat that traveled between Liverpool and Wales, but he was fired when he turned up for work in an inebriated state and lipped off to his boss. Finally, when he was seventeen, he took a job at Henry Hunt and Son's engineering firm as an apprentice joiner.
It was about this time that the skiffle craze hit. Ritchie and Eddie Miles, another apprentice at H. Hunt and Son, started the Eddie Clayton skiffle group. With Ritchie handling the percussive duties, they and other similarly minded employees would entertain the workers at lunch time. After hours the strictly amateur group played at parties and local competitions. In December of 1957, Harry Graves bought his stepson his first real set of drums. It was second-hand set costing all of ten pounds which Harry hand carried from London to Liverpool by train. This rather ramshackle set was eventually replaced with a new black Premier kit for which Ritchie borrowed half the cost from his grandfather.
Eventually Ritchie joined the Darktown Skiffle group, but it was not uncommon for him to sit in with other bands. One of these was Al Caldwell's Texans with whom Ritchie first drummed in March 1959. In November of 1959 Ritchie officially joined the band, now calling themselves Rory Storm And the Hurricanes and fronted by the charismatic Alan Caldwell.
The Hurricanes and their intrepid leader were known as much for their outlandish dress and exuberant stage performance as for their music and by 1960, they were the top ranked band in Liverpool. 1960 not only brought the band an offer of a thirteen week summer engagement at Butlins in Pwllheli, Wales, but also a big dilemma for Richard Starkey. In order to accompany the band to Pwllheli, Ritchie would have to give up his apprenticeship at Hunt and Son. His parents desperately tried to persuade him to stay with the program as did his fiancee, a lass named Geraldine. However, the lure of twenty pounds a week proved to be too much. The engagement was called off, the day job was abandoned, and Richard Starkey traipsed off to a rather damp summer of adventure with Rory, John Byrnes, Charles O'Brien, and Wally Egmond.
Ever the showman, Rory who had already changed his name, suggested that Ritchie adopt a flashier stage monicker Because of his penchant for wearing rings on his fingers, Ritchie naturally evolved into "Rings" and then quickly morfed into the more Western sounding "Ringo." Starkey became shortened to Starr because it fit better with Ringo and so that his solo offering could be billed as "Starr Time." His big numbers included "Boys", "You're Sixteen," "Big Noise From Winetka," and "Alley Oop."
By the fall of 1960, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were topping the bill at the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg where Ringo made the acquaintance of another Liverpool band, the Beatles. The Beatles had been hired to play at a much less prestigious club, the Ratskeller, but had been forced to change venues when locals had complained of the noise. The Beatles and The Hurricanes shared th grueling dusk till dawn schedule and despite the fact that the Hurricanes were paid considerably more money and had better accommodations, the two groups became friends. Ringo got on well with all the Beatles, most notably George Harrison, and would often stay around during the Hurricane's off periods listening to the Beatles. During this stint in Hamburg Ringo joined Lou Walters, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison at Akustik Studios where the joint members of the Hurricanes/Beatles backed Lou Walter's renditions of "Summertime." After Butlins, Hamburg, and a stint playing US air bases in France, Rory and the band returned to Liverpool and the local rounds. On several occasions Ringo joined the Beatles substituting for their drummer Pete Best.
At Ringo's twenty-first birthday party the small house at 10 Admiral Grove was filled to the bursting point with guests including members of many of the leading groups of the time. However, by 1961 Ringo was growing somewhat disenchanted with Rory and the Hurricanes whose career had begun to stagnate. After the second summer session at Butlins, Ringo made up his mind to immigrate to Texas opting for a factory job in Houston, but the complicated immigration forms put him off. In 1962 Ringo returned to Hamburg to play drums for Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club, but despite the good money, the private flat, and car which Tony offered him, the lures of Hamburg paled after a while and Ringo returned to the Hurricanes in time to join them for their third summer season at Butlins in Skegness. In August, while playing in Skegness with the Hurricanes, Ringo received two promising offers of employment, one form King Size Taylor and the Dominos and the other from The Beatles. Ringo eagerly threw in his lot with the Beatles playing with them for the first time as their official drummer on August 18, 1962, a mere eighteen days before their scheduled recording session for EMI at Abbey Road.
The Beatles, who had recently been offered a recording contract with EMI, had for a variety or reasons, become dissatisfied with Pete Best. When their producer, George Martin, expressed doubts about Pete's drumming ability, they decided the time had come to let him go. Since they had worked with Ringo before and discovered that they all liked his drumming style and personality, he was the natural choice for Pete's replacement. However, even though Ringo showed up for the first official gig with his hair combed into the appropriate Beatle style, it took a while for him to feel comfortable in the closely knit Beatle fraternity. Ringo felt himself something of the newcomer and outsider, apparently not without reason. He was not even told of John Lennon's wedding to Cynthia Powell on August twenty-third. Even more disheartening was the appearance of a session drummer at the September eleventh recording session.
On that day, the Beatles made a second attempt to record "Love Me Do." Andy White took over the drum spot and Ringo was handed a tambourine. That same day White also drummed on "PS I Love You" while Ringo shook maracas. It was, however, the September fourth Ringo version of "Love Me Do" that was finally released as the single and, according to George Martin, after the September eleventh date there was never any thought of replacing Ringo again. Eventually the feelings of newness wore off and Ringo settled in becoming pure Beatle. He fit in perfectly both as a drummer and as a personality.
Ringo served the Beatles well. As a drummer he never tried to overshadow the music, working always with the song and the singer. On stage he seemed content to stay in the background feeding the others with his steady backbeat. Despite his rather sad looking expression, Ringo was a happy and sensitive individual. In interviews and in their movies, his natural wit and wry humor emerged. He could be as funny as John, but without the biting sarcasm. People were drawn to him because of his friendly easy-going nature. He became known to the world as the lovable Beatle. He earned the other Beatles'affection and respect. After they split up, it seemed for a long while that Ringo was the only one who stayed on good terms with the other three.
On February 11, 1965, Ringo married his Liverpool sweetheart, Mary (Maureen) Cox. They had met back in the Cavern days when she had been a student hairdresser. Their love endured the manifestations of Beatlemania, his move to London, the seemingly endless rounds of tours, and the fact that their romance had to be kept secret from the fans. When Ringo had to have his tonsils removed in early December of 1964, Maureen came to London to nurse him. When she discovered that she was pregnant, the marriage was quickly arranged. Zak Starkey was born to his happy and proud parents on September 13, 1965. Ringo, having always longed for siblings himself, wanted to make sure that his baby boy experienced such joys. Zak was followed by Jason Starkey on August 19, 1967 and sister Lee Parkin Starkey on November 11, 1970. To all who knew them, the couple seemed a perfect match. Their divorce in July of 1975 came as a shock to many.
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