Former Beatle Ringo Starr turns 77 today, July 7, 2017. In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I'd gather up five songs that feature some of the best guitar work from 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 name-brand guitarists, including George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Joe Walsh, Stephen Stills, Robert Randolph, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Jessie Davey, Peter Frampton and Laurence Juber.
So, as promised, here are five solo Ringo songs with guitar work that truly stands out.
5. "PRIVATE PROPERTY," Stop and Smell the Roses (1981)
Guitarist: Laurence Juber
This is one of two Paul McCartney compositions that Macca and his crew (including his wife Linda, Wings guitarist Laurence Juber and pedal steel legend Lloyd Green) contributed to Ringo's Stop and Smell the Roses sessions. Juber's brief but brilliant solo starts at 4:16—but be sure to enjoy Green's sturdy pedal steel chops, which start gracing the song around the 39-second mark. Green's playing also can be heard on Wings' 1974 single, "Sally G," and on the Byrds' classic 1968 album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Juber is the featured guitarist on Wings' 1979 album, Back to the Egg.
4. "A DOSE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL," Ringo's Rotogravure (1976)
Guitarists: Peter Frampton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar
There's not much to say about this mini-masterpiece of a solo, except that it's perfect for the song—and maybe a little too brief. Listen to how it starts off all smiley and happy and then swerves into a darker place as it follows the chord changes. A few years ago, I spoke to Peter Frampton about this tune, and it went a little something like this:
You played guitar on Ringo Starr's “A Dose of Rock ’N’ Roll.” But did you play the 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.
Well, Jesse Ed Davis 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.
3. "NEVER WITHOUT YOU," Ringo Rama (2003)
Guitarist: Eric Clapton
This song, a bright spot from Ringo's Mark Hudson era (Hudson was Ringo's not-so-fab producer), is Ringo's tribute to George Harrison, who had died of cancer only two years earlier. It features some fine 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.
2. "$15 DRAW," Beaucoups of Blues (1970)
Guitarist: Jerry Reed
This is one of the killer songs from Ringo's second solo album, Beaucoups of Blues, which he recorded in Nashville with some of the city's finest studio musicians. Charlie Daniels is on the album, as are D.J. Fontana, Pete Drake and Sorrells Pickard, who wrote this tune. "$15 Draw" sums up guitarist Jerry Reed's style to a T. You can hear Reed explore this same sort of picking in most of his own tunes, including "Guitar Man." I've always thought this song could be a hit if someone were record it today. It tells a great story, takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride and has a super-catchy riff.
Since we're on the topic, here's a Guitar World lesson dedicated to Reed's playing style. Enjoy!
1. "BACK OFF BOOGALOO," 1972 single; available on Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr
Guitarist: George Harrison
George Harrison's slide playing is all over this Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) composition, the followup to Ringo's first hit single, "It Don't Come Easy," which also features a tasteful Harrison solo. This song features some fine drumming by Ringo, bass playing by Klaus Voormann and keyboards by Gary Wright. Harrison played several classy solos on Ringo's records throughout the years, including "Early 1970," "Down and Out," "Wrack My Brain" and "King of Broken Hearts."