Ringo's Beatle Kits
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Any text in this color is information discovered from my personally documenting Ringo's gear. Updates done on a continual basis.

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(Historian & curator Gary Astridge with Ringo Starr and his first Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl drum kit)

Apologies in advance for a few F Bombs.

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. Enjoy!


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 glass 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 start with the Beatles on August 18, 1962 using this Premier 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.


Look closely at the front and back hoops and you will see small areas of missing black paint.
You can also see a missing section of inlay near the top of the front hoop.

The day before the show, Manny's delivered a used Ludwig White Marine Pearl Super Classic kit. Ringo used this kit for Saturday's rehearsal and Ringo's new Oyster Black Pearl kit was delivered for the Sunday morning 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.



The Beatles Road Manager and Gentle Giant Remembered

Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012

There are many contenders for the coveted title of "Fifth Beatle." Some qualify due to their brief yet influential period as a fifth musical component of the Beatles' early career. Candidates include Stu Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums) and to a lesser degree Chas Newby, who temporarily replaced Sutcliffe on bass, and who declined John Lennon's request to join the group permanently in Hamburg in favor of returning to University.
Others qualify due to their business relationship with the group, Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall spring to mind. Then you have production candidates: Geoff Emerick, Norman Smith and of course Fifth Beatle extraordinaire, George Martin. There is one candidate however who fits almost all criteria as Fifth Beatle, and who spent more time with the group than possibly anyone else in his short professional career. Road manager, bouncer, minder, nursemaid, travelling companion, loyal friend, session musician, talent scout, producer and general dogs body: step forward, Mr. Fixit, otherwise known as Mal Evans.
Born in 1935, Malcolm Evans was already married with a young family, a mortgage and a steady job as a communications engineer with the Post Office when he stumbled into a lunchtime Beatles session in 1962, altering his fate forever. After quickly befriending the group, George Harrison recommended Evans to Cavern owner Ray McFall as a bouncer at the chaotic underground entrance of the busy Liverpool music venue. This was a job that fit naturally with his calm demeanour and intimidating 6'6" hulking frame. In August 1962, just before Ringo Starr replaced Best and the group's career began to take off, Evans was hired by Brian Epstein to assist Aspinall in roadie duties. He soon became the default van driver, the man who patiently set up the group's backline equipment, tested it, stood by prepared for all disasters, and packed the van up again after the show had ended.

As Beatlemania emerged, Evans fulfilled a pivotal role beyond stage duties by serving as the royal guard, protecting the group from hordes of fans while also performing the discreet role of minister of selection for female companionship. In other words, Evans would be sent out from hotel rooms to find suitable groupies to party with the boys. Evans has the unique distinction of being present at every Beatles concert from the time he started working with them. From the ballrooms and clubs of early 1960s Britain to the baseball stadiums and orchestral bowls of the world's finest cities, if there was a fly on the wall, it was Mal Evans.

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.

e 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.


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