Ringo Starr saw his fortunes change when he succeeded with the Beatles. After growing up in a working-class section of Liverpool, missing years of school due to illness and playing in a handful of middle bands, he became an overnight celebrity. The Beatles eventually inspired at least one cover so good that Ringo once kissed a musician who was playing one for him. Prior to that, Ringo’s Beatles fame generated a $7 million windfall for people who weren’t even in the band.
The Beatles made their mark in the United States thanks to Ed Sullivan
The Fab Four conquered England shortly after Ringo’s arrival in August 1962. They had a top 20 single in the charts two months later (“Love Me Do”), placing “Please Please Me ” in the top 5 singles. chart, and saw their debut please make me happy the album reached No. 1 in the UK.
The Beatles took over the UK, but they were virtually unknown in the US at the time. That changed when they crossed paths with Ed Sullivan.
When he saw the raucous reception the band received on their return to London’s Heathrow Airport after a short tour, he booked them for his show. This lucky break changed The Beatles’ careers and opened America to Liverpool’s top quartet. They weren’t the only ones to benefit. Ringo’s Beatles fame was worth $7 million to a group of very lucky people.
Ringo Starr’s Beatles fame was worth $7 million to Ludwig Drums
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Ringo eventually became wealthy enough to afford any drum kit he wanted and famous enough that almost everyone except George Harrison joined his All-Starr Band. Yet in 1963, Beatles manager Brian Epstein bought the drummer a new kit.
A black oyster pearl kit caught Ringo’s eye, writes Michael Seth Starr (no relation) in the biography With a little help. The kit, unknown to Ringo at the time, was a Ludwig. It quickly became his favorite brand. The drummer made the unconventional decision to keep the brand name on his bass drum skin, meaning the world saw Ludwig’s name on his bass drum when the Beatles performed in front of 73 million Americans on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
Ludwig had annual sales of around $6 million before the Beatles played Sullivan. CBC Radio reports that the Ludwig factory began producing drums around the clock and saw sales double to $13 million after the Fab Four appeared. Simply put, Ringo’s Beatles fame was worth $7 million in sales to the Ludwig Company.
“Ringo put Ludwig’s drumming on the map,” drummer Max Weinberg said, per With a little help. “Before Ringo, playing Ludwig drums in England was very unusual. They didn’t have an ATM there… Ludwig was kind of one of the hottest. And before Ringo, drummers usually didn’t have the name of the band on the bass drum. The name was usually protected by the initials of the drummer. Suddenly, Ludwig had room for publicity.
Ringo’s Ludwig kit sold for $2.2 million at auction
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Ringo eventually traded in his oyster black pearl Ludwig set for a mahogany set. The upgrade gave him a self-centered reason to love the Abbey Road sessions. Still, his first kit Ludwig produced some of the most iconic beats of the 1960s, including Ringo’s self-proclaimed weird drum work on B-side “Rain.”
Reuters reports that it hit the auction block in December 2015 and fetched $2.2 million. Jim Irsay, a music enthusiast and owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, placed the winning bid. It was by far the most expensive item at an auction or Ringo memorabilia which fetched nearly $10 million.
A drum kit helped produce a slew of hit songs and records, plus international exposure, Ringo Starr’s Beatles fame led to a $7 million windfall for Ludwig Drums. And a $2.2 million prize for what might be the most iconic battery in history.
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