30 Years a Starr—Our Exclusive Interview With Ringo

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr

Throughout his more than 50 years in show business, Ringo Starr has seen success in music, film, art and philanthropy. He was first, of course, a member of The Beatles, where he became a rock ’n’ roll icon, and this year he released an ebook, Photograph (available at iBookstore), showcasing personal photos taken from his early days touring with the Fab Four. A signed, limited-edition hard-bound book is planned for December. Select images are on display in Ringo: Peace and Love at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles; the exhibition is the first of its kind to celebrate a rock drummer. Starr is also in the middle of a world tour with his All-Starr Band (stopping at the Palms on Nov. 22-23), a changing lineup of notable musicians that includes Todd Rundgren and Toto founder Steve “Luke” Lukather on guitar, Mr. Mister founder Richard Page on bass and vocals, Gregg Rolie on keyboards, and Gregg Bissonette on drums.

Las Vegas is where you and Harry Nilsson shared the stage for his last live performance. Does this visit make you think about him? 

You know, Harry was my best friend, and I think of him all the time. It was beautiful that he got up with me that night and played with the All-Starrs. His big thing was that he never played live. He’d say to me, “You go on the road, and it’s the best, but not for me.” And I was like, “We’re coming to Vegas; you’ve got to get up,” and he did! That was a beautiful moment to me.

You once said it wasn’t about picking the best musicians for the All-Starr Band but picking the best people. 

They have to learn the songs, and they have to be good musicians. That’s how it works. Over the years, that hasn’t changed, and with this band, I was blessed—from Gregg to Luke and Todd. Todd has been a part of the All-Starr Band a few times, because he’s just great to work with onstage. I mean, he’s just lost it, like we have. Then there’s Richard Page as the voice, so it’s turned out to be one of the best experiences ever of an All-Starr Band with this [group].

Is the All-Starr Band a dictatorship or a democracy? 

They’re the best, but I’m the greatest [chuckles]. Of course, it never looks good in black and white when you write something down like that. It’s called Ringo’s All-Starr Band, and that’s how it is. They get to do their hits, and they have to do their hits. I’ve had some former members who wanted to do obscure stuff, and I was like, “That’s not what this is about. Go do your obscure stuff somewhere else.” We’re there to have a great night and give the audience a great night, where everyone knows at least one song.

What will fans experience in Photograph

They’ll learn about me because it is, in its way, a photographic autobiography, although there is writing and me telling stories about what I remember. They’ll see The Beatles in a much more relaxed atmosphere because it was Ringo taking the pictures. And if you look at some of the photos, there’s John and Paul and George with cameras taking pictures, too. We weren’t doing it thinking we needed to document things. We were just taking pictures. People will see that for the first two years of us visiting the United States, all the photos were from inside a car. We didn’t have much space, we weren’t allowed “out” much, as it were. We slept together, we were always in the same car, and we were shooting out of the same car. It shows a bit of the claustrophobic aspect that was always there.

It seems that appreciation for you as a drummer has only grown stronger over time.

I am being recognized for my part more and more as time goes on. I also think this is coming about because the remastering of the tracks is bringing the drums up. When we started, if anything was going to be lost, it was the drums. [Now] you can clearly hear what [the drums] were adding to the track. That’s what started me on this roll, but it never really worried me because I knew a lot of great drummers, and they were always telling me, “Whenever we go into a session, we get told to play like you.” That’s how it is; the cream is coming to the top.

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band

The Pearl at the Palms, 8 p.m. Nov. 22-23, $70 and up, 944-3200, Palms.com.

This article originally appeared in the November issue of Vegas/Rated magazine. View the issue or download the Vegas/Rated app.