On Ringo Starr’s most recent release, “Ringo 2012,” there’s a track called “Slow Down” that features Joe Walsh. Starr jokes, “Well Joe has to play now, he’s related.” The gifted and quirky guitarist may indeed be Starr’s brother-in-law, but we’re guessing that’s not the only reason the James Gang/Eagles legend said yes when Starr called.
For nearly 25 years, the former Beatles drummer has been a magnet for great and popular musicians, recruiting a clutch to hit the road intermittently and to play on his solo albums.
Alumnus of the dozen different iterations of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band include two members of the E Street Band, two members of the Band, two Eagles, John Entwistle of the Who, Colin Hay of Men at Work, Sheila E. and the late great “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston, among many others. The concerts are a hit parade as the All Starrs perform their biggest songs and back up Starr on both his beloved Beatles tunes as well as his solo hits.
Starr returns to the Bank of America Pavilion on Tuesday with his latest lineup of hitmakers, including returning All Starrs Todd Rundgren, Richard Page of Mr. Mister, veteran drummer Gregg Bissonette, and longtime Billy Joel sideman Mark Rivera. New to this year’s All Starr team are Steve Lukather, a veteran session guitarist best known for his tenure in Toto and keyboardist-vocalist Gregg Rolie who was a member of both Journey and Santana, and was the singer on hits like “Black Magic Woman.”
We recently caught up with Starr in Niagara Falls where he and the All Starr Band were rehearsing.
Q. Steve Lukather and Gregg Rolie are your rookies this year. How did you pick them?
A. I picked them because — as I pick everybody — I feel this will be a good lineup. Gregg does have that incredibly huge “Black Magic Woman.” I’m playing like this Latin music for God’s sakes! Mr. Pop here! I’m having so much fun with his stuff. You know everybody has to have hits if they’re in the All Starrs, and he certainly has that. And Steve Lukather is an incredible guitar player, with a lot of feeling and emotion. It’s the first time that I’ve met him and I just love him. And Richard Page was in the last band, and Todd was in a couple of bands. We have a lot of fun. We know what it’s about: We get up there, we do the best we can, we entertain, and we love the audience and in return the audience loves us.
Q. When someone has a lot of familiar songs like Todd, do you ask them to play certain tunes?
A. You could say that about anybody. They keep saying it about me, “Why aren’t you doing songs off ‘Ringo the 4th’ ” I’m actually opening with [the Beatles cover of Carl Perkins’s] “Matchbox.” I’ve never done “Matchbox” so you’ve got the scoop! We decided to open with that because it will get everyone in a good mood, including the band. It just rocks.
Q. On your most recent albums you’ve been revisiting your past. On “Ringo 2012” the song “In Liverpool” finds you singing about your pre-Beatles life as an apprentice engineer. You say you had a very clear idea of what you wanted; and elsewhere you’ve talked about life as a dream unfolding. Has the dream unfolded the way you thought it would when you were an apprentice engineer?
A. Mainly my dream was to play drums. And I was playing with the local lads and then I played with better musicians, and that’s what keeps unfolding where I get this opportunity to play with incredible musicians. Because it’s all about that to me, I just love to play and I’ve had a lot of fine players.
Q. You’re about to turn 72 and you do this tour every few years. Do the songs take on different meanings as you revisit them?
A. I think the meaning, especially with the Beatles songs, is I love to do them and the audience loves to see me do them. I feel it’s a lovefest. I’m doing “I’m the Greatest” this year. John [Lennon] wrote that for me.
Q. Speaking of your fellow Beatles, Paul McCartney has been doing a George Harrison song on his recent tours as a tribute. Does that appeal to you?
A. I know. Maybe I’ll do “Yesterday” or “Hey Jude.” (Laughs.)
Q. Steve Lukather has referred to the Beatles as a major inspiration in his life. How does it feel knowing that’s true for a lot for people?
A. We turned it on. I travel around the world and so many people say “Wow, I saw the Beatles and I’ve been a musician ever since.” That’s good to know. We didn’t cause any violence.
Q. What do you know now that you wish you knew in 1962?
A. That’s too hard. I don’t know. That’s pretending I know something. (Laughs.) I’m still learning.