PHOTO: Vinnie Zuffante | Getty Images
Former Beatle Ringo Starr turns 76 today, July 7, 2016.
I figured I’d celebrate this most joyous of occasions by gathering up five songs that feature some of the best guitar work to be found on Ringo’s solo albums. After all, from 1970’s Sentimental Journey through 2015’s Postcards from Paradise, Ringo’s albums have featured guest appearances by several talented guitarists, including George Harrison, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Joe Walsh, Stephen Stills, John Lennon, Robert Randolph, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Peter Frampton and former Guitar Player columnist Laurence Juber.
So, as promised, here are five solo Ringo Starr songs with guitar work that really stands out.
05. PRIVATE PROPERTY, from Stop and Smell the Roses (1981)
Guitarist: Laurence Juber
This tune, which was written by Paul McCartney, is one of three songs McCartney and his crew (including his wife Linda, Wings guitarist Laurence Juber and pedal steel guitarist Lloyd Green) contributed to Ringo’s Stop and Smell the Roses sessions. Juber’s brief but brilliant solo is near the end of the song. NOTE: The song itself doesn’t start until 1:04 in the video below.
04. A DOSE OF ROCK ’N’ ROLL, from Ringo’s Rotogravure (1976)
Guitarists: Peter Frampton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar
There’s not much to say about the two-part guitar solo on this song (most likely played by Jesse Ed Davis and Peter Frampton), except that it’s dang perfect, although a little too brief. Listen to how it starts off all friendly and happy and then heads off into a menacing place as it follows the solo’s unique chord changes.
You’re credited with playing guitar on a Ringo Starr single from 1976, “A Dose of Rock ’N’ Roll,” from Ringo’s Rotogravure. But is that you playing the actual guitar solo?
I can’t remember [laughs]. It was the Seventies, and I know I was sober for the session, but I’m not sure about right after. I’d have to listen to it again and see. People keep coming up to me, saying, “Is this you on this?” And I have to go listen to it to find out. I did more sessions than I remember doing. There were a lot of things in the Seventies that I played on that people keep reminding me about. [I play the song to him.] Yeah, the first part is me. I forgot all about that! That’s me. And then, I forget who it is that comes in there, but that sounds like I’m playing my Gibson and then a Telecaster or a Strat comes in.
Jesse Ed Davis is one of the other guitarists who plays on that track. [NOTE: Guitarist Danny Kortchmar also plays on the song.]
Oh, yeah, Jesse Ed Davis. That’s probably who it is. [To read the rest of my conversation with Frampton, head here.]
03. NEVER WITHOUT YOU, from Ringo Rama (2003)
Guitarist: Eric Clapton
This song, a bright spot from Ringo’s way-too-freaking-long Mark Hudson era (Hudson was Ringo’s not-so-great producer), is Ringo’s tribute to George Harrison, who had died of cancer only two years earlier. It features some great Eric Clapton riffs, from the solo through to the end of the song. That dude playing the Strat and miming the solo in the video is not Clapton, by the way. You might want to close your eyes during the solo to avoid distraction.
02. $15 DRAW, from Beaucoups of Blues (1970)
Guitarist: Jerry Reed
This is one of the killer songs from Ringo’s second solo album, 1970’s Beaucoups of Blues, which he recorded in Nashville with some of the city’s best studio musicians. Charlie Daniels is on this album, as are D.J. Fontana, Pete Drake and Sorrells Pickard, who wrote this song. Anyway, “$15 Draw” sums up Jerry Reed’s playing style to a T. You can hear Reed explore this same sort of picking in his song “Guitar Man.” He plays on his own version of the song and on Elvis Presley’s version. I’ve always thought this song could be a hit for someone. It tells a great story, it takes you on an emotional roller coaster and it has a super-catchy guitar riff. It might be cool if a young female country artist were to record it. (Please credit me with the idea!)
01. BACK OFF BOOGALOO, 1972 single; available on Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr
Guitarist: George Harrison
George Harrison’s slide guitar playing is all over this Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) composition, the 1972 follow-up to Ringo’s first hit single, “It Don’t Come Easy,” which also features a great solo by Harrison. The song also features some fine drumming by Ringo, bass playing by Klaus Voormann and piano tinkling by Gary Wright. Harrison played several great guitar solos on Ringo’s records throughout the years, including “Early 1970,” “Down and Out,” “Wrack My Brain” and “King of Broken Hearts.”