There’s a certain energy inside the Stern Show studio whenever a member of the Beatles is due to drop by. On Tuesday, Howard, Robin, and Fred were on the edge of their seats to see the return of Ringo Starr who last visited the show in 2003. The legendary drummer is celebrating the 50th anniversary release of the Beatles’ famed “White Album.” He also has a new coffee table book “Another Day in the Life,” including never-before-seen shots taken by Ringo himself, available for pre-order now.
Howard’s interview with Ringo took a few surprise turns along the way, including some new Beatles stories and an unexpected visit from Ringo’s brother-in-law Joe Walsh.
Check out all the highlights from the memorable appearance (below).
The Beatles Say Hello, Goodbye
Not being a drummer was never an option for Ringo. He told Howard from the time he was a teenager he knew he wanted to be behind the kit, sticks in hand and ready to make music.
“I love being in a band. I always have,” Ringo said.
But before he got his big break with the Beatles, Ringo recalled nearly everyone in his life trying to talk some sense into him and suggesting he choose a different career path other than drumming.
“My whole family came up to dissuade me,” Ringo remembered of the meeting that took place after he announced he was going to play at a holiday camp for three months with one of his early bands, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. That gig led to other opportunities for the band, including the Hamburg residency that would introduce him to three other musicians named John, Paul, and George who were in their own band at the time called the Beatles.
After filling in on a few sessions with the Beatles, the band decided Ringo was a better fit than their original drummer Pete Best and invited Starr to take his place. Ringo recalled getting the call to join the band on a Wednesday and becoming a full member of the Beatles by that Saturday.
The success Ringo and the Beatles soon saw was unprecedented in music up to that point with countless fans found all over the world. But as big as the band had become, Ringo told Howard they were hardly living large while out on the road in the early days.
“We only ever had two rooms while we were touring and we all slept with each other. Not literally,” Ringo said with a laugh. He also addressed the story Paul McCartney revealed early this year about masturbating beside his bandmate John Lennon. Ringo made it clear he wasn’t around for any of those shenanigans.
“I wasn’t in the band then,” Ringo said. “I missed out on all that early stuff.”
Though there were ups and downs in Ringo’s relationships with his fellow Beatles, he told Howard there was no one bandmember he ever felt closest to – they were all brothers from start to finish. Even at the height of their tensions while recording “The White Album” in 1968, Ringo recalled how similar each of them was, including in their own insecurities. After feeling like the odd man out in the group, Ringo revealed he went to talk to John about how close the other three seemed to be. John supposedly replied, “I thought it was you three.” Ringo confided in Paul next who said the same thing, assuming he was the one being excluded.
Though they came together and finished “The White Album,” the band decided to call it quits following 1970’s “Let It Be.” When Paul McCartney visited the Stern Show in September, he told Howard how Ringo showed up at his house with a letter demanding McCartney not to release his solo album ahead of “Let It Be.” According to Ringo, however, that never happened.
“I was never sent with a legal letter,” Ringo said, adding Paul must be misremembering what actually occurred. “I wouldn’t do it anyway. But if anyone could, it would have been me because I am so charming,” he continued with a laugh.
Ten years after the Beatles broke up, Ringo recalled vacationing in the Bahamas when he received a phone call from his stepdaughter Francesca Gregorini who rang to tell him something horrible had happened to John Lennon. Ringo then saw the news that Lennon had been assassinated in New York. He and his wife Barbara immediately got on a flight to offer support to John’s widow Yoko Ono and his son Sean.
“We didn’t know what we could do, we just knew we had to go,” Ringo explained.
Lucky to Be Alive
That Ringo Starr lived to see age 7 (let alone age 78) came as quite the surprise to his childhood doctors who thought the peritonitis he contracted following a routine appendectomy would surely kill him.
“They told my mother three times ‘he’ll be dead in the morning,’” Ringo recalled.
Miraculously he did not die. However, at around 13 he was stricken with tuberculosis and readmitted to a hospital for the next two years. Not only did Ringo once again fully recover, he also learned two new skills: knitting and playing the drums.
“They gave me a little drum and that set the dream off. And then, I just wanted to play,” he told Howard. “That’s what’s great about life … you never know when you’re going.”
It wasn’t just the illnesses Ringo had to survive as a child, either. Growing up he also ran with a street gang in his hometown of Dingle. “You had to. It was that sort of neighborhood. You had to be affiliated with some group of guys which we called a gang,” he explained to Howard.
By Ringo’s own admission, rarely was there a photo taken of the Beatles where each member didn’t have a drink or a cigarette in their hand. By the 1970s, amidst his successful solo career, Ringo’s drinking had spun out of control. He told Howard he spent a lot of time in those days with fellow musicians Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson, both who had their own troubles with drugs and alcohol. And while Ringo admitted it was fun back then to be “crazy together” with those guys, he knew he had to get sober in order to hold onto the things that mattered most to him, mainly Barbara Bach, his now wife.
“I stopped because my life was impossible,” Ringo said. “I was about to lose everything I loved.”
It wasn’t necessarily Barbara who sat him down and told him he needed to seek help but rather Ringo explained he and she both had “a moment of clarity” and decided to check him into a rehabilitation treatment center. “I didn’t know what was going to happen really and I drank all the way to the rehab,” Ringo told Howard.
“Things changed. It showed me I can have a great life without it,” he continued. “You quit on a daily basis, that’s how it works.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Joe Walsh
As it turned out, Ringo wasn’t the only rock icon in the building Tuesday morning. His brother-in-law Joe Walsh also stopped by the Stern Show studio to chat with Howard and Ringo about music, family, life, and everything in between.
The guitar legend, prolific solo artist, and longtime Stern Show guest has been a part of some of rock's greatest bands over the years, including James Gang, Eagles, and even Ringo's very own All-Starr Band. On Tuesday, he recalled an early encounter with Ringo before they were bandmates, family, or even friends—it was 1965, and Joe’s high school girlfriend had gotten him tickets to see the Fab Four’s now historic performance at Shea Stadium. Coincidentally, Marjorie and Barbara Bach—Joe and Ringo’s eventual wives—were also among the 55,000 fans in attendance.
“All four of us were at Shea Stadium inside half a football field from each other,” Joe told Howard, adding “I was screaming along with the rest of the girls. I was screaming at the top of my lungs.”
Joe has now been married to Marjorie for nearly a decade, and he said life’s been good to them so far. “She was the part of me that was missing,” he told Howard.
Additionally, their relationship has led to some productive family get-togethers with Ringo. Howard wondered how and when the two rock icons write music together. “We don’t jam at dinner,” Ringo told Howard. “We were jamming just last week because I’m doing a record. We do it in his guest house and Joe comes over and we hang out. We actually play and then we write the song.”
Joe later expounded upon his music-making process. “I play [guitar] every day just to play,” he said. “I sit down, and I play, and every once in a while I play something that I didn’t think about playing or mean to play, and I trip on it, and I go, ‘What was that?’ And every time I do that, it’s part of a new song and when I’ve got 10 of those, that’s how I write music.”
“I’m always recording,” he continued.
“But he has a great memory,” Ringo cut in, before sharing a story about a recent collaboration that began while they were out to dinner. “We’re sitting around and I said something like, ‘Well, you gotta get up to get down.’ He calls me the next day ,‘That’s a great line!’ So, now we’re writing that song.”
Ringo, for his part, revealed he doesn’t practice drums every day. “I never did. I never wanted to practice on my own. I can’t stand it,” he told Howard, adding, “I have no pleasure in sitting there on my own — ‘boom, boom, bang.’”
“You don’t need a lot of strength … The sticks aren’t that heavy,” he continued.
Ringo and Joe Pick Their Favorite Concerts
In addition to creating music together, Joe and Ringo also enjoy seeing it performed live. The brothers-in-law attended Monday night’s Bob Dylan concert at New York’s Beacon Theater and raved to Howard about Dylan’s performance.
“It was profound,” Joe told Howard.
“He was great,” Ringo agreed, adding “I’ve seen Bob 100 times and you get what you get, and you still love it.”
But what were their all-time best concertgoing experiences, Howard wondered. “One was Bonnie and Delaney [Bramlett],” Ringo told him. “And I saw Bob in the ‘60s when he first came, and he played the Albert Hall … A lot of people in sweaters stood up screaming at him, ‘Traitor! Traitor!’ because he’d gone a bit rock.
Ringo revealed he also enjoyed seeing Jimi Hendrix work his guitar magic in the clubs of London before he was a star. He said the entire music community—including Beatles bandmates and Eric Clapton—came out to experience Jimi’s early performances at places like the Saville Theatre. “He was great,” Ringo said.
Ringo credited Clapton for putting on one of his all-time favorite concerts, too. “I saw Clapton years ago in L.A. and … Carlos Santana got up—it’s just one of those beautiful musical moments. They’re both soloing and jamming, and Carlos was just on, and Eric just took his hands off the guitar and gave it to him. I thought, that’s big,” Ringo recalled. “I get tingles thinking about that night.”
With Peace and Love
Ringo went viral in 2008 after publishing a video message begging his fans to stop sending him mail. He ended the message by saying “peace and love,” a salutation which has since been played countless times on the Stern Show.
“That was one angry moment,” Ringo explained on Tuesday, saying he decided to stop signing merchandise for fans after learning his signature had been attached to a “crappy guitar” selling for $3,000. “I only sign for charity now, and mainly my charity and Barbara’s charity,” he said.
Howard ended the interview with his own heartfelt message of peace and love directed at Ringo. “Look, you mean a lot to me,” he said. “Like you, with high school, it wasn’t fun. There was nothing fun about it. The joy that I got when I was 13 [and] I heard ‘Sgt. Peppers.’ The joy when I saw your films, when I saw all the innovation. What you brought to my life, I can’t thank you enough. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart—I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again—but I love you for it.”
“Thank you for everything,” Howard concluded. “And I say that with peace and love.”
“Thank you, Howard, and I say that with peace and love back to you,” Ringo responded, adding “This has been a great morning.”
For more info on Ringo Starr's upcoming tour dates and to pre-order his new coffee table book "Another Day In The Life" visit RingoStarr.com.