Ringo Starr Learned the Truth About His Family When He Was in His 20s and Kept it a Secret During His Beatles Career

Before he became the Ringo Starr we all know and love, he grew up Richard Starkey in working-class Liverpool. Yet the drummer with hall-of-fame talent learned the truth about his family name when he was in his 20s, and he kept it a secret throughout his Beatles career.

Ringo Starr holds a tambourine during a photo shoot. Ringo found out the truth about his family name in his 20s and kept it a secret during his Beatles career.
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ringo Starr grew up in working-class Liverpool

The former Richard Starkey grew up in a working-class section of Liverpool near the River Mersey. At one time, he hoped to join the merchant marines (the closest he got was lying about his sailor status to meet girls), but that changed once he discovered his passion for the drums.

Ringo established himself as one of the best drummers in town and played with Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. Even though he once said he was no good as a drummer (he was dead wrong, by the way), The Beatles came calling, and the rest is history.

Yet the one time Richard Starkey, who branded himself Ringo Starr, learned the truth about his family name and kept it a secret during his Beatles career.

Ringo learned the truth about his family name in his 20s and kept it a secret during his Beatles years

We know him as Ringo Starr, and he started life as Richard Starkey, but his family name was something else entirely.

Ringo’s ancestral last name wasn’t Starkey, a fact he didn’t learn until he was in his 20s. His grandfather on his dad’s side was born John Parkin and changed his name to John Starkey when his mother remarried. John Starkey fathered Richard Starkey, who fathered Richard Starkey Jr., aka Richy, aka Ringo Starr.

The drummer didn’t learn the truth about his family until tracing his family tree in the 1960s, writes Michael Seth Starr (no relation) in With a Little Help. Starr writes that the Starkeys aimed to keep the truth about Ringo’s name hidden from the probing press, so it seems likely Ringo (born in July 1940) found out after 1962 when he was well into his 20s. He joined The Beatles in August 1962, but the band didn’t take off in England until 1963. There wouldn’t have been any probing press before then.

Finding out the truth about Ringo’s family name begs the question: What would have stage name been if he grew up Richard Parkin? Richmond Parr? Ringo Perkins (as a nod to Carl Perkins, who Ringo covered in one of his All-Starr Bands)? It would have been difficult to come close to Ringo Starr, which seems to roll off the tongue.

The truth about the family name wasn’t the only secret Ringo kept as a member of the Fab Four. He and George Harrison worked on a long-lost song for another artist in 1968; it finally saw the light of day in late 2021.

The drummer’s extended family includes another Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member

Related

Ringo Starr Once Explained Why George Harrison Never Joined the All-Starr Band

Ultimately, Ringo learning the truth about his family name changes nothing. It’s not a game-changing revelation, but more of an interesting footnote on a legendary career. His children use the Starkey name, and his immediate and extended family includes some notable musicians.

Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son, didn’t want to be a drummer, but his dad’s genes are too strong — he’s been the timekeeper for The Who off and on for decades. 

George turned down offers to join Ringo’s All-Starr Band, but another Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member didn’t. Joe Walsh of the Eagles, who joined multiple All-Starr Bands, is Ringo’s brother-in-law.

Ringo Starr learned the truth about his family name in his 20s, but it never altered the fact he possessed impressive drumming skills that made him one of the greatest of all time.

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