70 Things You Didn’t Know About Ringo Starr

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Today is the 70th birthday of former Beatle Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr. To celebrate this fact, we thought we’d take a look at 70 other facts that you might not know about the drummer from Liverpool. Click past the jump to read tales about Ringo’s childhood, his experiences with drugs, and his portrayal of the Pope.

1. Immediately after joining The Beatles in 1962, Ringo shaved off his beard and restyled his hair into a mop top. 2. As a schoolboy, other students would get Ringo to talk and then laugh at him because his sentences would often contain malapropisms, later known as “Ringoisms.” 3. In the mid-’80s, Ringo provided the voice for the narrator and Mr. Conductor in the children’s TV series Thomas The Tank Engine. 4. Ringo was naturally left-handed, but played on a right-handed drum set. His grandmother helped him become ambidextrous by teaching him how to write with his right hand as a schoolboy. 5. At The Beatles’ record label, Apple Records, Ringo would sometimes get his receptionist to roll a joint of the best Afghan hash. 6. On Ringo’s first day at the Abbey Road Studios, producer George Martin said he’d prefer using a session drummer and hired 32-year-old Andy White. Ringo was worried about losing his spot with The Beatles. 7. Ringo played the role of the Pope in the film Lisztomania, which starred The Who’s Roger Daltrey. 8. As a child, Ringo was known as Little Richie, while his father, whom was also named Richard, was known as Big Richie. 9. Muhammad Ali once said “My dog plays better drums!” in reference to Ringo’s musical abilities. 10. Before dropping Ringo off at a friend or relative’s place for the day while she went to work, Ringo’s mother would always tuck in his shirt, shine his shoes, brush his hair, and make sure his clothes were clean. 11. One of Ringo’s earlier bands, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, secured a booking at the Cavern, which was strictly a jazz club at the time, under the name the Jazzmen. The owner fined the band ten shillings after they played “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” 12. In 1980, officers at customs strip searched Ringo as he entered Mexico City to begin shooting the film Caveman. 13. Ringo entered rehab after waking up one morning to find his wife Barbara Bach battered and bloody beside him. He had beat her, but couldn’t remember anything from the night before. 14. Ringo grew up watching around three Westerns every week.

15. After John Lennon died, Ringo and his wife, Barbara, went to visit Yoko Ono. When Yoko insisted that she only wanted to see Ringo, Ringo retorted: “Look, it was you who started all this. We’re both coming in.” Yoko relented. 16. On September 17, 1974, Ringo announced that over the next year he was going to campaign against young people taking drugs. 17. Ringo had originally agreed to play another summer with Rory Storm & the Hurricanes for 20 pounds a week, but backed out when John Lennon and Paul McCartney offered him 25 pounds a week to play with them. 18. For a time, Ringo lived as a tax exile in Monte Carlo, only allowed to live at his home in Los Angeles six months per year. 19. Ringo played the wizard Merlin in the musical-comedy Son of Dracula. “It’s not the greatest movie in the world but I’ve seen worse,” said Ringo of the project. 20. In his youth, Ringo worked as a barman on a ferry and delivery boy for British Rail. 21. In 1973, Ringo had two #1 hits in the USA off his album Ringo. The songs were “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen.” 22. On some Beatles’s tracks, it was Ringo’s idea to cover the tom-toms with dishcloths and blankets to produce the desired sound. 23. After replacing drummer Pete Best, Ringo’s first performance with The Beatles at the Cavern was met with scorn. Fans chanted “Peter forever, Ringo never” and “Pete is Best.” Fights broke out, leaving George Harrison with a black eye. 24. On December 25, 1972, Keith Moon dressed up as Santa Claus and surprised Ringo and his former wife, Maureen Starkey, by arriving at their house on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Keith couldn’t afford to pay for the prank, so Ringo ended up covering the bill. 25. Ringo is the only ex-Beatle who hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his solo career. 26. Ringo’s childhood hero was Gene Autrey, “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy.” 27. Ringo was named “Ringo” because he enjoyed wearing rings. The name “Starr” originates from his time playing with Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, where he had his own featured slot called “Starr time.” 28. In May 1980, Ringo crashed his Mercedes 350SL with his then girlfriend, Barbara Bach, in the passenger seat. After the near-fatal accident, the two vowed to never be apart again. Ringo commissioned a jeweler to set broken windshield glass into matching lockets for each of them. 29. After his mother’s divorce, she married a painter and decorator named Harry Graves, whom Ringo referred to as his “step ladder.”

30. Before joining The Beatles, Ringo considered moving to Houston, Texas. He wrote a letter to the Chamber of Commerce and received the necessary forms, but never filled them out. 31. The title of Ringo’s single “Back Off Boogaloo” was derived from a dinner with Marc Bolan of the band T. Rex: “He was an energized guy,” said Ringo. “He used to speak ‘Back off Boogaloo… ooh you, boogaloo. Do you want some potatoes? Ooh you, boogaloo!'” 32. At one point Ringo’s band, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, was bigger than The Beatles. In October 1960, the Hurricanes topped The Beatles on the bill at Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller club, and got paid more, too. 33. At the age of six, Ringo had an inflamed appendix, and eventually fell into a coma for two months. After we awoke he remained in the hospital for several more months. 34. Ringo never felt bad for taking Pete Best’s place on drums right before The Beatles got big. In 1992, Ringo said: “Why should I? I was a better player than him. That’s how I got the job. It wasn’t on personality.” 35. Ringo’s first band, The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group, was formed with four other employees at Henry Hunt and Sons in 1957, where he worked as a trainee joiner. 36. In school, whenever a teacher needed a volunteer to hit a drum or keep a beat, Ringo would raise his hand first. 37. Ringo appeared as director Laslo Karolny in the 1978 film, Sextette, which starred Mae West. 38. Ringo was the last member to record a Beatles’ track when he entered Abbey Road Studios in 1970 to record parts for “Across The Universe,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “I Me Mine.” 39. In 1964, Ringo missed a few concert dates with The Beatles after developing inflammation in his tonsils and pharynx. Once better, a police officer had to piggy-back Ringo through a crowd of thousands to reunite him with the band in their Melbourne hotel room. 40. Ringo’s first solo album was entitled Sentimental Journey, and was meant to be a gift for his mother and the adults who raised him. 41. On Christmas Day 1970, Ringo’s friend and art designer, Robin Cruikshank, gave Ringo’s first wife, Maureen Starkey, a few mercury filled dishes, which got Ringo interested in design. Ringo would go on to form a design company with Cruikshank, called Ringo O’Robin Ltd. 42. Partially because of his constant visits to the hospital as a child, Ringo had a hard time reading, and was forced to sit in classes with students one year his junior in school. 43. In a word-association game Ringo once played, his reaction to the word “Christmas” was “happy times…food and drink…it doesn’t mean anything religious to me.” 44. On his first day of work at Henry Hunt and Sons, Ringo badly bruised his thumb with a hammer and was paralyzed with fear while standing on a high diving board, which his company was installing.

45. In the spring of 1996, Ringo earned 500,000 pounds for uttering one line in a Japanese television commercial for natural juice. 46. The first time Ringo blacked out after consuming too much alcohol was at the age of nine. 47. Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band debuted in 1989 with a concert in Dallas, Texas. 48. While still in the hospital, for his seventh birthday Ringo’s grandfather gave him a bright-red toy bus. 49. From 1975 to 1978, Ringo had his own record label, Ring O’Records. 50. Ringo made his debut as a film director capturing the band T. Rex perform two sold-out concerts at Wembley’s Empire Pool. The documentary was entitled Born To Boogie. 51. When Eric Clapton played solos for George Harrison’s music, Clapton’s record company was upset. It was Ringo’s idea for Clapton to perform under the pseudonym Eddie Clayton, named after Ringo’s first musical group, The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. 52. Ringo was the oldest Beatle. 53. In school, other students gave Ringo the nickname “Lazarus” most likely due to his frequent comings and goings from the hospital. 54. In June 2009, Ringo appeared on stage with Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison, and Paul McCartney at Microsoft’s E3 conference to promote the video game, The Beatles: Rock Band. 55. Ringo nearly lost several items of Beatles memorabilia that he stored in his attic when his house in Los Angeles caught fire. Within half-an-hour the fire department had put out the flames. 56. As a teenager, Ringo considered himself a Teddy Boy and hung out with a rough crowd that would make problems wherever they went, including movie theaters and dance halls. 57. When starting out on his musical career, Ringo bragged about not being able to read a single note. 58. Ringo was always considered the best of The Beatles when it came to acting, because he was the most natural on screen. 59. Ringo’s son, Zak, played drums with The Who at the halftime show for Super Bowl XLIV.

60. Ringo is a vegetarian, but more due to health reasons than ethical ones. 61. At a rather young age, Ringo already had gray streaks in his brown hair and right eyebrow. 62. Ringo has one tattoo on each arm. 63. In 2008, Ringo said he would no longer respond to fan mail or requests for autographs. 64. Some of the Beatles’s songs sung by Ringo, such as “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help from My Friends,” were written by Lennon and McCartney specifically to feature Ringo’s baritone voice. 65. Although growing up Ringo never excelled at academics, he developed an aptitude for mechanics and could dismantle a car engine and put it back together without a problem. 66. For his design company with Robin Cruikshank, Ringo made a doughnut-shaped fireplace and flower-shaped table with adjustable petal seats. 67. Ringo’s first wife, Maureen Starkey, died in 1994 at the age of 48. 68. When Ringo was learning how to swim, he’d be fine until he realized he was in the deep end. At this point he’d yell and immediately get out of the pool. 69. In school, Ringo became solitary and quite sensitive, bursting into tears whenever a teacher scolded him. 70. Ringo released his fifteenth studio album on January 12, 2010, entitled Y Not.