When Ringo Starr 1st Felt Like an Equal Member of The Beatles

The day John Lennon met Paul McCartney in 1957, they didn’t talk about starting a band together. The 16-year-old John already led his own band (The Quarrymen). Yet the 15-year-old Paul impressed him enough for John to offer him a spot in the group. In short, The Beatles started with John Lennon.

Early the following year, The Quarrymen added an even younger guitarist named George Harrison. Over the next two years, the key addition was drummer Pete Best, who stayed aboard from 1960-62. Best’s run ended when the band decided Ringo Starr should be their man on drums.

Looking back on those days, everyone agreed replacing the popular Best didn’t go over smoothly. There was something of a fan revolt, in fact, at the first show Ringo played. (George went home with a black eye that day.)

Nonetheless, the lineup that would be known as the Fab Four had fallen into place. However, it would take some time for Ringo to feel like he was an equal partner in The Beatles.

Ringo joined The Beatles for a chance to make a record

Ringo Starr in Miami, 1964
Ringo Starr is besieged by schoolgirls as he strolls on a beach in Miami, Florida, 18 February 1964. | Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

RELATED: Why Paul McCartney Said The Beatles ‘Couldn’t Get Behind’ Some Ringo Songs

When Ringo came aboard, The Beatles had just about the biggest act going in Liverpool. However, Ringo’s band at the time (Rory Storm and The Hurricanes) had a sizable following of their own. For Ringo, the difference was in the record deal.

“The Beatles […] had done some tracks, they were going to EMI and were getting a recording deal!” he said in the Anthology book. “A piece of plastic was like gold — more than gold. You’d sell your soul to get on a little record. So I said, ‘OK.'”

Over the next two years, Ringo would settle in with the group. But it wasn’t always a smooth ride. On the first recording dates, Ringo had to deal with the fact George Martin hired a session drummer to play on “Love Me Do,” the band’s debut single.

By 1964, when The Beatles had risen to the top of U.K. music scene, Ringo was feeling good about himself. Yet he still didn’t feel like he was on the same footing as John, Paul, and George. That came in America.

Ringo said he 1st felt like an equal in The Beatles on the ’64 US tour

Beatles in 1964
1964: The Beatles stand in the Paramount Theatre at Times Square where they gave a benefit performance for charity. | Frank Russo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Whether it was being the last man to join The Beatles or some lingering, Best-inspired grudge in the group’s hometown, Ringo continued feeling like a supporting player into the first weeks of ’64. But it all changed with the band’s historic trip to the U.S. that February.

“America was the best,” Ringo said in Anthology. “It was a dream coming from Liverpool. I loved it. The radio was hip and bopping, the TV was on, we were going to clubs. And they loved Ringo over there.” [Editor’s note: You have to love Ringo’s use of the third-person here.]

Ringo saw the love everywhere the band stopped in that first U.S. trip. “When we got to America, it wasn’t JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, and Ringo; half the time it was RINGO, PAUL, GEORGE, and JOHN or whatever. Suddenly it was equal.

RELATED: The ‘Cosmic’ Beatles Song Ringo Starr Wrote After Getting Fed Up With the Band