Richard Starkey was born 7 July 1940 in the section of Liverpool
, called "the Dingle." This was a very poor section of town; his father was a dock worker. The Starkeys broke up in 1943
and Mrs. Elsie Starkey supported her son by working as a barmaid while neighbors or her parents babysat. In 1953
, she married Harry Graves, who
was really the only father "Ritchie" was familiar with.
An attack of appendicitis and then a ruptured appendix, at age 6 sent the boy into a coma for two months, and then falling out of the hospital bed hurt him more and kept him in the hospital six months longer. The missed school set him back quite a bit. Pleurisy at the age of
thirteen meant more hospital time and missed school, and supposedly at the age of fifteen he could only barely read and write. As soon as he could, he started looking for a job rather than staying in school.
After stints as a bartender and an apprentice joiner, he joined a skiffle group in 1957. His stepfather bought him his first set of drums. His second group, the Raving Texans, eventually changed their name to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Alan Caldwell ("Rory Storm") was a charismatic
performer and this band was a lot more professional than most of those around Liverpool. Ritchie Starkey was nicknamed "Rings" because he wore so many on his hands, and then that was changed to "Ringo" because it sounded
more "cowboyish." He shortened his last name to "Starr" so that his drum solos could be announced as "Starr Time."
"Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. Ringo was a professional drummer who sang and performed and was in one of the top groups in Britain, but
especially Liverpool." -- John Lennon. The Hurricanes hung out with the Beatles when both had jobs in Hamburg, Germany, and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison got along better with the cheerful Hurricanes drummer than they did with their own moody Pete Best. But
both groups left Hamburg with their own drummers. By 1962, though, the Hurricanes didn't seem to be going anywhere, and when Ringo got two job offers -- one from King Size Taylor and the Dominos and the other from the Beatles -- he didn't hesitate to accept the latter. He did, however, insist on giving the Hurricanes time to find a substitute drummer so that they wouldn't lose their gig at Butlins Holiday Camp.
Ringo was given a few requirements for joining the Beatles: he had to shave the beard he'd always worn while with the Hurricanes. (He complied, but several years
later, when fashion allowed, grew it back and has worn one almost all the time since.) The Beatles' producer originally didn't think Ringo was much better than Pete Best, and session drummer Andy White played on "Love Me Do," their first single. (Ringo was apparently annoyed enough by this to record the song on one of his solo albums with his own drumming.) After the newness wore off, though, Ringo fit in very well with the band -- when he had tonsillitis during a tour in 1964 and had to miss dates, the fans' clamor over his absence helped Ringo feel popular.
Ringo usually sang one song per album (see the Ringo phenomenon), and did not write songs that were recorded by the Beatles until very late in their career. Ringo married his long-time girlfriend, hairdresser Maureen Cox, on
February 11, 1965; she was already pregnant with their first child, a son who would be named Zak. Ringo had always wanted siblings, so he made sure Zak would have them: a brother, Jason, and a sister, Lee.
In addition to playing and singing with the Beatles, Ringo appeared with the rest of the band in their movies A Hard Day's Night and Help!. He got good enough reviews to continue working as an actor on occasion. He also served as a mediator of tensions in the band, being sent as an ambassador to whichever member had gotten angry and walked off in a fight. He wasn't immune to fights though; one time in 1968 Ringo got angry enough (some say at the general fighting, other versions of the story at Paul having recorded his own drum tracks to replace Ringo's) that he quit the band. The others lured him back a few days
later and draped his drumkit in flowers to welcome him back.
However, the Beatles finally broke up in 1970. Ringo recorded his own solo work (and also drummed for John Lennon and George Harrison's projects). Ringo's solo work was successful in the early 1970s, and he also acted, and even directed a documentary about glam-rock band T. Rex. However, his marriage to Maureen was breaking up. (Peter
Brown and Steven Gaines' The Love You Make says she and George Harrison had an affair.) They divorced in
1975 and Ringo spent a lot of his time in Los Angeles with John Lennon, then in his "Lost Weekend" period, and other partying friends. His alcohol use got worse and his music wasn't as successful. By 1979 his health was acting up again -- an operation removed several feet
of intestine because of problems related to his childhood appendicitis.
In 1980 he appeared in the movie Caveman, where he met actress Barbara Bach. The two got married the next year. In the 1980s Ringo's life was quieter than before, but his alcohol dependence continued. In October 1988 he and Barbara went into rehabilitation. Clean and sober, he
started touring with the "All-Starr" band and recording music again. He's spent most of the 1990s alternating recording and touring with various lineups of the All-Starr band, and seems happy with his life.
"Paul has been recently quoted as saying that Ringo Starr is still his favorite drummer, much to the amazement of the
drumming community and the world at large. McCartney's worked with Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro--he can have the pick
of anyone, just about, but he still loves Ringo." --- Deborah Parisi
Ringo Starr solo albums:
He's appeared as an actor in these non-Beatles projects (list gleaned from the IMDB