Saturday, June 15, 2013
“Life is weird,” said Ringo Starr, who will turn 74 this July, at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles for the launch of “Ringo: Peace & Love” — the first major exhibit ever dedicated to a drummer and the first time Ringo has shared memorabilia from his private collection.
Calling Ringo, “the most significant drummer in the history of rock and roll,” Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli said the exhibit was in keeping with the museum’s mission “to present the greatest music of the past for people today.”
Starr, dressed in a stylish dark suit and black sneakers, seemed fit, trim and very much in the moment. Although he has been generally reluctant to look back, putting together a collection of photos and items from his personal archive for “Photograph” (Genesis Publications, www.RingoPhotograph.com) spurred his recollections of individual moments and fond memories, as well as the idea of having an exhibit at the Grammy Museum.
“I’m a musician. That’s what I do,” he said. “And the Grammy Museum is the right place for this.”
Ringo explained that he’s fortunate that his assistants preserved many items, such as the outfit he wore on “Help” or his uniform from the cover of “Sgt. Pepper” or the shiny red coat he was wearing the day the Beatles were filmed playing songs from “Let It Be” on the roof of the Abbey Road Studios, their last public performance.
“I found so much stuff I didn’t know I had,” Ringo said.
Also, when his mother passed away, he found several boxes that he took from her house — but didn’t look through until recently. It was, in his words, “like Aladdin’s Cave,” a treasure trove of documents and mementos from his childhood, many of which are displayed at the Grammy Museum for the first time.
Born Richard Starkey in Liverpool, England, his childhood was plagued by several life-threatening illnesses. Hospital records, as well as ticket stubs and other keepsakes from his first trip to London with his parents, are on display. There’s a business card from his band, the Eddie Clayton Skiffle, and also a letter from Rory Storm, who fronted the band that Ringo joined next, telling him when their next gig was. As Ringo explained, Rory had to send him a letter because his family didn’t have a phone. There’s also a wonderful poster from the Ratzkeller in Hamburg that features in bold letters the upcoming performance of “Rory Storm und die Hurrican,” and in much smaller letters, the opening act: the Beatles. It was in Hamburg that Ringo really got to know the Beatles and sit in with them. In 1962, he joined the band, replacing Pete Best, and you know the rest of the story.
The exhibit also features the drum kit Ringo played on The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as the one used on “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be,” as well as interactive features allowing visitors to sing “Yellow Submarine” and/or take a drum lesson from Ringo. There’s also a 17-minute film by Brent Carpenter that will be shown continuously in the Grammy auditorium.
Reflecting on his years as a Beatle, Ringo said, “I’m proud of the music we made.” And he’s gratified that it’s still being played today. “It’s still going on. How great is that?”