Ringer Star: Ringo Starr Tribute Artist

Meet Ringer Star

I was born and raised in Detroit in the mid 50s.  I came from a family of six children. Having 4 older sisters, there was always music on in the house.  45s and LPs of the greatest music were always being played.  I grew up with Motown, R&B, and the latest pop music of the day.  

I credit my mother with the beginning of my musical journey. She attributes it to the fact that, of her six children, she only played piano while she was pregnant with me.

I remember hearing “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley in 1956, and then I saw him performing it on TV. For days after that, I would play air guitar and sing “Hound Dog” and for the next few months, my  father would have me play air guitar and sing in his barber shop in front of the clientele and barbers.  

One afternoon in 1964, my sister was talking to my mother in the kitchen. Molly was asking my mother if she could take me over to her friend’s house, and my mother, with a puzzled look, asked why,  Molly replied, “Kathy Sue just bought the new Beatles album and we want Michael (Ringer) to play drums and be Ringo.”  My mother agreed, and off Molly and I went to Kathy Sue’s house, a block away. At my age I had never been that far so it was, in a way, my first ‘road trip’! We got to Kathy Sue’s, went up 3 flights of stairs to an attic where Kathy had a record player and two guitars cut out of cardboard with sewing thread for strings and a piece of twine for a shoulder strap. Behind them was a coffee table covered in pots and pans. The girls threw on their cardboard guitars, dropped the needle and started singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and I couldn't believe my ears.  They were singing their asses off, and I was holding the beat down on the pots and pans. 

A few years later I decided I wanted to play electric guitar. My parents were not too hip on purchasing one, but when I was 13 they were kind enough to buy me a $30 acoustic guitar and pay for lessons at Capital Music in Detroit. 

My teacher was playing a Fender Jaguar, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. When my dad would take me to Sears/Montgomery Wards, I would always go to the music section and look at Silvertone Guitars and amps. At that point, The Beatles were rising and I was listening to them constantly.  The first time I sat down with my guitar and learned the notes to a Beatles when my sister bought the 45 of “Daytripper”.  When I went back for my guitar lesson, I was barely nailing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” note by note, but I had memorized “Daytripper”.  After class, I asked my teacher if he had heard the song. He said yes, and that it was a great tune, so I played it for him. My teacher said “Wow, teach me that!” and it was then I decided I didn’t want lessons. I wanted to play by ear.

In junior high school I played talent shows with bands, as well as Christmas and Halloween junior high parties, and started seeing local bands in the city.  This was before I had a driver’s license; I would ride a bike to these events.  Or, sometimes, we’d hitchhike from Livonia to the east side of Detroit just to go to the Eastown Theater for a show. I remember seeing Bob Seger for $1.25 in the summer of 1969! I also saw SRC and Ted Nugent, Lee Michaels, MC5, King Crimson and many more, which got me hooked on music. It wasn’t until 1978 that I decided to be a drummer.

Stuart Coplin became my mentor for the next 5 years. I ended up playing drums in multiple bands over the next decade and a half, along with producing and engineering in the studio. In the early 90s a friend of mine, a big Beatles fan, told me he was attending Beatlefest in Chicago.  When I inquired, he told me it was a 3 day Beatle party including a battle of the bands.  He told me that on a Friday night - Saturday morning, I jumped in my car to drive to Chicago and attend my first Beatlefest. 

After attending that first Beatlefest, I said I would never come back without a band. For the next 18 years, that’s exactly what I did. 

The bands that I played in include The Soldiers of Love, The Bent-Back Tulips, Mikey C. Mikey Do, The Shoes, Derek and the Daddy O’s, Give Us A Kiss, Tremblin’ Under The Weight, and as of late, An Early Clue to the New Direction.  These bands would always come in the top 3 of 18-25 bands performing.  We took first place for a couple of years.

I remember after my fourth or fifth year, I was up there on the drum riser, singing and playing drums to Ringo’s song “Boys” and during the guitar solo, I had a flashback to the day my sister and her friend had me playing pots and pans in 1964, and I said to myself, “Oh my goodness, I am still doing this after 35 years!” Now, mind you, I never set out in my music career to be Ringo. My life just started heading in that direction. 

In 2012, two of my bass player’s sons, who were in our bands, moved to Nashville, so we didn’t have a band for Beatlefest.  I had the idea to emulate Ringo Starr, and step out from behind my kit for the first time, and sing “With A Little Help From My Friends.”  We put together a last minute band of past winners to make up my all-star band. It went over really well; I couldn’t believe how the people reacted.  It was the first time in my life I took hundreds of photographs with people.  Right after I walked off stage, a tourism director, Charles Snap, approached me to perform in his town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, emulating Ringo Starr. That’s when the Ringo Starr Impersonating took off. 

People in Walnut Ridge actually thought I was Ringo Starr. I was interviewed by their television station, I was taking photographs, signing autographs as “Ringer Star.” People would head to the local Walgreen’s to get their photos with me blown up so I could sign them. I caused quite a stir in that town, and Charles said that I should pursue being a tribute artist.

So in 2013, being unemployed, I decided to attend all Beatle festivals around the country. My good friend Ed Primeau, whom I met at my very first Beatlefest 18 years ago, asked me what I’ve been up to, and I told him I had just gotten back from Beatlefest in NYC where I met Mark Hudson, Ringo’s producer, and that I would be appearing at Abbey Road on the River in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, this was just market research for me this year to attend the NYC Beatlefest, Chicago Beatlefest, and Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in September. Ed proclaimed that he would like to be my manager, set me up on Facebook, get me a website, and go with me to Louisville to film the 5 days of the event. 

I felt like my musical career, as small as it is, has been preparing me for this time in my life, to join the ranks and be a part of the many great people and Beatle tribute artists who are doing their part to keep the Ringo and Beatles legacy alive for generations to come. 

Ed and I will keep you posted as to the progression of the Ringer Star Tribute Artist Adventure.

Peace and Love

Ringer Star.

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