The Beatles Were ‘Frightened’ of Ringo Starr Before He Joined the Band: ‘He Looks Like Trouble’

Ringo Starr intimidated his Beatles bandmates before they knew him. They spoke about why they were worried about him.

Ringo Starr’s affability made him well-loved amongst The Beatles and their fans. Before Starr was a part of the group, though, the other Beatles found him more than a little intimidating. He was slightly older than his future bandmates, but his reputation was the point of concern for them. Even John Lennon admitted that he had been afraid of Starr before he knew him.

Ringo Starr was the final person to join The Beatles

Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison had been working together for several years by the time Starr joined The Beatles. They had been playing in Hamburg alongside bass player Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Pete Best. At the same time, Starr was performing in the city with his group, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. The Beatles got to know Starr, and they all had a similar first impression.

“We started hanging out with them,” Harrison said, per The Beatles Anthology. “I think we’d met Ringo once before, in England. I know we all had the same impression about him: ‘You’d better be careful of him, he looks like trouble.’”

In Hamburg, Starr would watch The Beatles perform and drunkenly shout requests to them.

“I was still a Teddy boy and I only found out later from John that they were a bit scared of me,” Starr said. “John told me, ‘We used to be a bit frightened of you — this drunk, demanding slow songs, dressed like a Teddy boy.’”

Once they began talking to him, though, they realized he fit in well with them.

“They would do their show and Ringo was the cocky one at the back; and with the way he looked, with that grey streak in his hair and half a grey eyebrow and a big nose, he looked a real tough guy,” Harrison said. “But it probably only took half an hour to realise it was actually… Ringo!”

Their worry is surprising given the drummer’s public image

Starr replaced Best in 1962, becoming The Beatles’ official drummer. They rose to success soon afterward, and Starr became known publicly as the Funny Beatle. Many see him as the most affable member of the band.

“Ringo was the most approachable of all of the Beatles,” musician Todd Rundgren told Louder Sound. “I have met each of the band in turn. If you grew up on A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and watched the Beatles’ antics, to actually meet them in person was often a let-down.”

Given Starr’s reputation as the friendly and warm Beatle, it’s surprising that his bandmates found him so intimidating. It’s a testament to the way Beatles manager Brian Epstein cleaned up the band’s image before they hit it big.

Why did Ringo Starr almost leave The Beatles?

Starr generally got along well with each of his bandmates, even as The Beatles’ interpersonal relationships were crumbling. Even he had a breaking point, though, and he temporarily quit the band.

Starr and McCartney got into an argument in 1968 that triggered his exit from the group, but he had been feeling like an outsider for some time.

“I knew we were all in a messed-up stage,” he said. “It wasn’t just me; the whole thing was going down. I had definitely left, I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no magic and the relationships were terrible. I’d come to a bad spot in life. It could have been paranoia, but I just didn’t feel good — I felt like an outsider.”

Starr left to go on vacation with his family but eventually returned to The Beatles after receiving pleading letters from his bandmates.

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