(Introduction: This is the second of a series of exclusive eyewitness accounts with exclusive pictures for Beatles Examiner of Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony that honored Ringo Starr. This is from Patti Murawski, with pictures from her, Jane Swenton and Olivia Anne Morris Fuchs. Thanks to Patti for the account and all of them for the images. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction, presented by Klipsch, premieres at 8 p.m. ET May 30 on HBO and will be repeated many times after and also be available on HBO Go and HBO Now.)
Ringo Starr’s portion of the ceremony started with a short film about him which included interview clips with many drummers talking about how he influenced them or about his drumming style his uniqueness, according to Patti Murawski. Among the drummers included in the film were Questlove (from Jimmy Fallon’s house band and the Roots), Dave Grohl, Abe Laboriel Jr. and Tré Cool (of Green Day). Because of the set design obstructing the video screen from her vantage point, she said she could only hear the audio.
“Paul McCartney appeared at the podium closest to us and when everybody’s stood it was hard to see him because he was practically right under us on the far left-hand side of the stage,” she said. “I got up and moved to the railing of my section because I was sitting in the second row to see. Paul did not use a paper speech or the Teleprompter to give his speech. It appeared to be off-the-cuff.”
Paul’s speech, from Rolling Stone and on YouTube:
“OK. Ringo Starr was born in Liverpool at a very early age, and he had a hard childhood. Real hard childhood, but he had a beautiful mom, Elsie, and a lovely stepdad Harry. Both of them had real big hearts, beautiful people, and they loved music. So at some point during this difficult childhood, Ringo got a drum. Ringo got a drum! And that was it. He was now a drummer.
“Later on he joined a group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. And we saw these guys when we were out in Hamburg. We were playing out there. And Ringo was like a professional musician. We were just like, slamming around and doing stuff, but he had a beard — that’s professional. He had the suit. Very professional. And he would sit at the bar drinking bourbon and seven. We’d never seen anyone like this. This was, like, a grown-up musician.
“Anyway, we got friendly with him, and he used to come in late night when we were playing, and he requested a couple of songs, so we got to know him. And one night our drummer then, Pete Best, wasn’t available, so Ringo sat in. And I remember the moment. I mean, Pete was great, and we had a good time with him. But me, John and George, God bless ’em, were on the front line singing, and now behind us we had this guy we’d never played with before, and I remember the moment when he started to play – I think it was Ray Charles, ‘What’d I Say,’ and most of the drummers couldn’t nail the drum part, it’s a little bit [sings a bit of it]. It was a little difficult to do, but Ringo nailed it. Yeah — Ringo nailed it! And I remember the moment, standing there and looking at John and then looking at George, and the look on our faces was like, ‘f— you. What is this?’ And that was the moment, that was the beginning, really, of the Beatles.
“Anyway, then we started this great journey for these four guys from Liverpool who were . . .we just set off on their journey. We did ballrooms and clubs around England, and we got a little work in Europe, and then we eventually came to America. And here we were, we were staying in rooms together. And I wasn’t a sheltered kid, but I just had my mom and dad growing up and my brother. So I was staying in a hotel room with a strange man. This really brought us together. We lived like in each other’s pockets, virtually. But it was a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing.
“Eventually we got on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ and we got really famous. It was just so beautiful. As all the other drummers say, he just is something so special. When he’s playing behind you, you see these other bands, they’re looking around at the drummer, like, is he going to speed up, is he going to slow down? You don’t have to look with Ringo. It’s a great honor for me to be able to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland tonight!”
“Ringo walked up from his table to the stage,” said Patti Murawski. “Once he got on stage, I could not see him at all. So I did not see him and Paul embrace — the photo that made all the wire services. Everybody was standing up and even when I went to the railing on the steps in front of me I couldn’t see them. I was able to see Ringo once he started speaking and many people sat down. Like Paul he didn’t use the teleprompter or a paper copy.”
Ringo’s speech, also from Rolling Stone and on YouTube;
“Thank you. My name is Ringo and I play drums. I want to thank Paul for all the great things he told us. Some of them are true. You know, it’s a great honor to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was doing the press and they’re all saying, ‘Well, why did you wait so long?’ It has nothing to do with me. You have to be invited. But anyway, apparently I’m invited and I love it. I also love that I got lucky that it’s actually in Cleveland, and I’ll tell you why. When I started playing, I was playing in skiffle bands, sort of house party bands, and we had a guitarist and the first band I was in was really great. I had a snare drum and Roy, the bass player, had a tea-chest bass with a hole in it and strings.
“And so we’re playing this skiffle music, playing anywhere we could. And then I joined a couple of other bands and I always wanted to play with great players and I kept moving up a little; up to the next band. Of course, I did end up with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and when I joined them, we were still a bit of a country-folk band, and the guitarists in those days — this is a nice one for all you big-shot guitarists with the big amps — we played the Cavern Club, which was a jazz club in Liverpool. And he brought a radio to plug into so we’d be electric. And we got thrown off. “Get out of here! That’s not quite jazz.” Anyway, we started off with a radio; the first amp we had. Things got going a lot better and we ended up playing a lot in Liverpool and around Liverpool. We never really made it anywhere else, but while that was going on, I was working in a factory. [Responds to Paul McCartney jokingly tapping on his watch] After the things I’ve sat through tonight. Blah blah blah. I got some stories.
“I was working in the factory and playing at night and every Sunday, you know we lived in England, we only had the BBC. There was a small country in Europe called Luxembourg…very small. Population of about six. And for some reason, they had the biggest radio master. And they bought the Alan Freed Rock & Roll show. And for the first time I heard. . .well, I have to backtrack now to ’55. . .Bill Haley was my hero. . .he was like the first one. Elvis came in.
“But anyway, I’m listening to this guy on a Sunday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I hear Little Richard, first time ever. I hear Jerry Lee Lewis. And I heard rock & roll music, because we weren’t getting a lot of that stuff in England, and it came from this very small country. So 4 o’clock every Sunday, Roy and I would go to his house and turn on the radio and Alan Freed would introduce us to so many great rockers. And when I was a teenager, once. . .we played Little Richard, “Shag on Down to the Union Hall.” Means nothing to you but to us, it’s very meaningful. We couldn’t believe we could hear this guy on the radio! Shag on down to the Union Hall! That seems a good place to go!
“Also, I came from a port. A lot of sailors came to and from Liverpool, would bring music from New York and all over America. They’d drink all the money; they’d sell all records. Anyway, I started collecting a lot of records, listening to music, and ended up in this rock & roll band. With Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, we go to Germany, and that’s where I met, you know, the Beatles. I met Paul, John (God bless you), George (God bless you).
“We came back to Liverpool, and there was a knock on my door. The drummer wasn’t well and would I sit in? Sure. Anyway, I was living that life then, I was out of the band, and I didn’t have to get up till noon. So, that was good. So I went and played a lunchtime session with George, John and Paul, and we had a great time. And then I went and showed them some clubs in Liverpool. They’re not around now. I’m sort of part of their downfall. And we became friends, we hung out, and then I would go back to Rory and then come back and play with the Beatles because the other drummer couldn’t make it.
“Then, I got a call. We were playing a holiday in England, three-month gig, couldn’t believe how great that was. Like $24 a week. And I got a call from Brian Epstein. I got a call to say, this was Wednesday, would I join the Beatles? And I said, ‘Well, when do you want me to join?’ And he said, ‘Tonight!’ And I said, ‘No, I can’t do that. I’ve got a band here. We’ve got a job. I’ll come Saturday.’ Because everybody in Liverpool, we were all playing the same songs so, they picked the drums and he could play. That’s when this journey started.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me with these three guys who wrote these songs. I was talking just the other night. Paul had come in, strummed some song to us, and we played it! We would get it done in an hour and a half. We didn’t spend a lot of time. There was a lot of joining. The Beatles, you know, they were so big and so famous, but they shared rooms, you know. Every hotel, when we’d gotten one, or guest houses. But when we’d got to a hotel, we always had two rooms. And it didn’t matter who was with who, what would happen is we hung out.
“But I’m telling every band in the room, you really have to get to know your other players. And another tip I brought for all bands who are starting out: When you’re in a van, and you fart, own up. It’ll cause hell if you don’t own up because everyone will blame everyone else. Make a pact that you’ll own up to it. We did and that’s how we get on so well.
“I wanna tell ya, it’s been a beautiful night, hanging out with a lot of musicians. . .we’re gonna do a few numbers for you next. We gotta follow John Legend and Stevie Wonder for God’s sake. Anyway, we’re gonna start with a number of. . .1960, I did this number. It was a song sung by the Shirelles and it just took my fancy — and it’s called “Boys.”
“He went over to his kit center stage and Green Day joined him to perform boys it was a pretty killer version,” Murawski said. “Billy Joe Armstrong … wow, what a guitar solo. The crew had to change the set up after “Boys,” she said, and this took quite a while. Ringo picked up a hand held mike and started joking around poking fun at Bill Withers. Two women who were at the front asked Ringo for hugs and he obliged. The delay went on and Ringo quipped that he was sorry he had picked ip the mic as he was running out of material.
“Next up Ringo was joined by brother in law Joe Walsh for ‘It Don’t Come Easy,’ Murawski said. “Did I hear him sing the ‘Hare Krishna’ that was on the backing vocals on the guitar solo that was on the demo?,” she asked.
After the song, there was yet another long interval as the crew started setting up for the entire group of inductees and presenters to join Ringo on stage. It was quite a long interval and I think it was at this point when there was one loud pop noise in the audio. Don’t know what happened there but the delay went on. It did take away the momentum of the proceedings. Once everything was set up Ringo introduced Paul and Paul came back on stage. Joe Walsh remained with him on stage.
During one of the pauses, Murawski said Ringo noted he forgot to thank his wife Barbara. He mentioned that they had been married for 35 years and he said “I’m not easy”.
“The next song was ‘With a Little Help From my Friends.’ After Ringo sang the first verse, at the first chorus all the inductees and presenters came onstage to join him,” Murawski said. “Joe Walsh seemed to be having a problem with his foot pedal as we couldn’t really hear his solo and he got down on bended knee and started fiddling it. Billy Joe Armstrong stepped in for the next guitar break. Joe got going again shortly thereafter. Paul sang some vocals with Ringo together at the mic.
“The next number which turned out to be the last song was ‘I Wanna Be Your Man,’ a really killer rendition. At the end Paul made a sweeping gesture towards Ringo then took Ringo’s hand. They held their hands over their heads in triumph. They then took their ‘Beatle bow’ before making their way off stage. As they walked off, Ringo said, ‘Thats the end.’
“What a night! It was so very special to be there,” Murawski said. “How fortunate it was being held in Cleveland. There were 14 of us who all knew each other throughout our history as Beatle fans that were able to share this event.”
(Stay tuned. We’re not done yet. More exclusive coverage to come.)