Hello, Gary Astridge here and welcome to RingosBeatleKits.com.
In February of 2015, I was involved in a video project that was put together and shown at the beginning of Ringo's 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Watching this video is a great way to set the stage before diving into the world of Ringo and his Beatle Drum Kits & Gear.
Apologies in advance for a few F Bombs.
In all of the years since The Beatles, there has never been an accurate undertaking to document & share the details of Ringo's Beatle kits & gear.
In June of 2013 I had the distinct honor and privilege of handling and documenting two of Ringo's Beatle kits and his Ludwig gold plated snare drum at the Grammy Museum in LA. This included being the first person since Mal Evans, the Beatles roadie, to set up Ringo's Sullivan and Let It Be kits. It was a pleasure having the assistance of Jeff Chonis (Ringo's drum technician), Scott Robert Ritchie (Ringo & Barbara's personal assistant), Jerry Buszek (fellow drummer & Grammy Museum design manager), Jim Elyea (Vox amplifier historian & author) and the entire Grammy Museum staff.
Since that time, I have been involved in numerous other projects and can say that I have now documented all of Ringo's Beatle kits and can report that Ringo does have all the toms, floor toms and bass drums that make up his four Oyster Black Pearl kits and his Maple kit. What I did not know is that a snare drum came with each of his five Ludwig sets and of the five, three are in Ringo's possession. The Jazz Festival snare drum that came with his third OBP kit (the first Super Classic) is missing and the Supraphonic snare drum that came with his Maple kit was improperly stored and severely damaged beyond repair.
With the blessing of Ringo, Myself, Jeff Chonis (Ringo's drum tech) and Scott Robert Ritchie (Ringo's personal assistant) have successfully implemented our plan to photograph, document, organize, preserve and securely store each iconic kit for history and their hopeful future placement in a museum, whether it be short or long term. Our approach is to be certain that upcoming generations will be able to see and enjoy each kit as Ringo used them. This has been the first true undertaking of its kind and I am overjoyed to be part of it.
My interest in Ringo’s kits came at a very young age and my collecting started in an unusual way. I was seven when I first watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Other than riding my bike, I preferred to collect and scrutinize photos from magazines and news papers that I could find. I would use a magnifying to really look at the details of any photo that had to do with The Beatles and I remember sketching and tracing the details of Ringo's drums. Though I didn't have my first real drum kit until 1969 and really new nothing about drums kits, I realized from the photos that Ringo had other drums in addition to the one that he played on the Sullivan show.
When I decided to buy a "Ringo kit" in the 80's, I ended up with a 3-piece Ludwig kit from 1969, I thought I had asked the seller all of the right questions, and since I had nothing to reference I thought I was getting the real deal.It turned out that the Oyster Black Pearl wrap was different from what Ringo had. The shells were covered in the so-called “Bowling Ball” wrap, a change made by Ludwig in 1969. Needless to say not knowing the difference is what sparked my interest in researching Ringo's kits.
I continued spending countless hours reading books and magazines, scrutinizing thousands of photos and contacting anyone with knowledge regarding vintage drums, as well as people with a Beatles/Ringo connection.
In addition to learning from vintage collectors and Ringo drum enthusiasts, my primary source of information has always been photographs until I was blessed with documenting the real thing. Detailed forensic analysis of photos has played a key role in providing information that verifies specific drums and hardware and gives a solid timeline.
When Andy Babiuk's book, Beatle Gear first came out, it confirmed much of what I already knew and gave great documentation of specific dates regarding when each kit was obtained.
That being said, please note that this website is a continual work in progress and kindly know that I have tried to verify every bit of information found on this site to keep things factual. I am always open to additional information and insight on this subject and will always give credit where credit is due.
The go-to-guy for this subject would have been Mal Evans, The Beatles road manager and trusted friend. Unfortunately, Mal passed in 1976. The good news it that I've been able to locate and interview other people that have been able to fill in some of the blanks and offer more insightful and sometimes different versions of events.
Ringo's Six (6) Beatle Kits
# 1: Premier Mahogany Duroplastic Drum Kit
Ringo began his stint with The Beatles on August 18, 1962 using this Premier drum kit.
Drum sizes: 8" x 12" Tom, 16" x 16" Floor Tom, 14" x 20" Bass Drum, 4" x 14" Snare Drum. Date purchased (?)
This kit was used during The Beatles' first initial recording sessions including the famous marathon session. Songs recorded: Twist And Shout, Please Please Me, P.S. I Love You, Baby It’s You, Do You Want To Know A Secret, A Taste Of Honey, There’s A Place, From Me To You, I Saw Her Standing There, Misery, Anna, Chains, Boys, Ask Me Why, Thank You Girl, Love Me Do, How Do You Do It, The One After 909 (early version).
# 2: 1st Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl "Downbeat" Drum Kit
Drum sizes: 8 x 12" Tom, 14" x 14" Floor Tom, 14" x 20" Bass Drum, 5.5" x 14" Snare Drum
Chrome Over Brass (COB) rims
Took possession May 12, 1963
Ringo's first Ludwig kit was purchased from Drum City in London and was actually delivered to Alpha Television Studios in Aston, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. The Beatles were making their first appearance as headliners on Thank Your Lucky Stars. Ringo last used his Premier kit during the rehearsal of this show and used his new Ludwig kit for the performance.
# 3: 2nd Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl "Downbeat" Drum Kit
aka "Sullivan Kit"
Drum sizes: 8" x 12" Tom, 14" x 14" Floor Tom, 14" x 20" Bass Drum, 5.5" x 14" Snare drum
Chrome Over Brass (COB) rims
A 3-piece Ludwig Downbeat (mini) oyster black pearl kit was purchased from Manny's Music Store in Manhattan in NYC just prior to The Beatles' first Ed Sullivan Show performance on February 9, 1964. Ringo brought from England his Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl snare drum, his cymbals & a new Beatles drum head.
Note: The day before the show, Manny's mistakenly delivered a Ludwig white Marine Pearl Super Classic kit. Ringo used this kit for Saturday's rehearsal and the correct kit was delivered in time for Sunday morning's dress rehearsal.
# 4: 1st Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl "Super Classic" Drum Kit
Somebody looks grumpy
Drum sizes: 9" x 13" Tom, 16" x 16" Floor Tom, 14" x 22" Bass Drum, 5.5" x 14" Snare Drum
Acquired May 31, 1964
This kit seems to be the most widely used by Ringo for both recording and touring. In addition, this drum kit shows up in countless photo opp's and promotional movies such as: Hello Good Bye, I Am The Walrus, Hey Jude and Revolution and many more...
# 5: 2nd Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl "Super Classic" Drum Kit
Drum sizes: 9" x 13" Tom, 16" x 16" Floor Tom, 14" x 22" Bass Drum, 5.5" x 14" Snare Drum
Acquired just prior to August 13, 1965, right before their American tour.
What's interesting to me about this kit is that it appears only to have been used for the 1965 US tour. Photo's show that when The Beatles continued touring in the UK after leaving the US, he went back to using his first Ludwig Super Classic kit.
# 6: Ludwig Maple "Hollywood" Drum Kit
aka "Let It Be Kit"
Drum sizes: 8" x 12" Tom, 9" x 13" Tom, 16" x 16" Floor Tom, 14" x 22" Bass Drum, 5.5" x 14" Snare Drum
Note: This kit has Chrome Over Brass (COB) rims. Unique for 1967
Manufactured in March 1967. Took possesion in late 1968.
This kit was used on Let It Be and Abbey Road. Ringo also used this kit when he performed with George Harrison at the Concert For Bangaladesh and for B.B. King Live in London.
Ringo also used this Maple kit when he recorded his Choose Love CD. If you look closely at his 9"x13" tom, just above the blue label strip and Keystone badge, you can see the faint outline of where the Drum City label used to be.
Here's Ringo and Jeff Chonis (world renowned Drum Technician) discussing the Maple kit.
Both the Maple and Sullivan kits were on display at the Grammy Museum in LA (June 2013 through April 2014).
Photo by Rob Shanahan
Oyster Black Pearl / Oyster Blue Pearl
From time to time the topic arises concerning the actual color of Ringo's drum kit. The answer is Oyster Black Pearl. As a Beatle, Ringo always used the kits that he owned and none were ever supplied for him when they toured. If you heard that, it is just not true. Though you may have seen photos showing what looks like a Oyster Blue Pearl kit, it's just stage lighting, the hue of the photo, etc. You can always match the swirl patterns in any photo to one of his four Oyster Black Pearl kits.
ABOUT MAL EVANS
The Beatles Road Manager and Gentle Giant Remembered
It was Evans who punched out a cracked windscreen on a freezing motorway and drove hundreds of miles through the night into howling winds while the group drank whiskey and huddled for warmth in the back. Evans was also frog-marched off the plane alongside Epstein in Manila, and punched by crowds when the Beatles came close to being lynched by a mob in 1966. His duties on the road brought him into close personal contact with the group, and Evans maintained a relationship and trust with all four Beatles which perhaps extended beyond that of their own wives and girlfriends.
He seemed to have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with both Lennon and Paul McCartney. He accompanied McCartney on a European road trip and African safari during the group's career hiatus after ceasing touring in 1966, and he was also known to serve as the group's watchdog when they were dropping acid. As they "turned on," Evans would remain with them to ensure their trips did not go bad or end in disaster.
This relationship was, however, almost completely one-sided. Although Evans was an insider on the rollercoaster that was Beatlemania, he was also often subjected to verbal abuse, becoming the scapegoat for anything that went wrong during a gig. He was subjected to Lennon's wrath many times, particularly for the theft of his beloved Gibson J160E acoustic guitar after a Christmas show in 1963. His role in the group's circle was somewhat accurately portrayed in the 1964 film A Hard Day's Night by the roadie character Shake. Harrison's line "Shake, where's me other boot? And would you get us some tea while you're there" seemed to echo Lennon's supposed trademark bark in Evans' direction: "Mal, Socks!"
Evans not only appears in A Hard Day's Night himself (carrying a cello down a hallway), but he has the distinction of appearing in every Beatles film, Yellow Submarine excepted. He appeared as a lost long-distance swimmer (Help!), a magician (Magical Mystery Tour), and several times as himself (Let It Be).
In addition to movie cameos, Evans also appears on several Beatles recordings despite being unable to play an instrument. The impressive run of credits include "You Won't See Me" (organ, single note), "Yellow Submarine" (bass drum and vocals), "A Day In The Life" (ending piano, clock, and counting voice), "Strawberry Fields Forever" (tambourine), "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite" (harmonica), "Magical Mystery Tour" (various percussion), "You Know My Name, Look Up The Number" (spade in gravel), "Helter Skelter" (trumpet), "What's The New Mary Jane" (possibly handbell possibly), "Dear Prudence" (backing vocals, handclaps), "Birthday" (handclaps), and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (anvil).
The highlight of Evans' career with the Beatles, however, must have been August 27, 1965. The big man never made any qualms about the fact that his idol was the King of Rock 'n Roll, even if his wages were paid by the Beatles. So it must have been the most surreal event of Evans' life to find himself suddenly socialising in the Bel Air mansion of Elvis Presley himself. Evans had worn a suit and tie for the occasion, and was reported to have been totally starstruck after shaking Presley's hand.