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Classic Drummer Magazine Vol. 17 Issue 1 : Page 20

Right Here, On Our Stage . . . Ringo’s Legendary Ed Sullivan Kit By Gary Astridge Photo: Gary Astridge “They Loom Large in His Legend.” E George Harrison ditor’s Note: On Sunday evening February 9, 1964, at 8:00pm 60% of America’s TV’s were tuned to the Ed Sullivan Show and experienced a 4-piece combo from Liverpool who were destined to change everything. Unlike previous Sullivan performances by Elvis with D.J. Fontana on drums, and Buddy Holly with Jerry Allison behind the kit, the drummer for the Beatles wasn’t relegated to a spot on the floor, but rather towered over the group from a dramatic drum riser. From this perch Ringo Starr’s joyful playing gar-nered the instrument’s proper respect and its fair share of camera time. To young drummers (and drummers to be) everywhere, this was rock and roll’s first nod to the “star” drummer. Sure Krupa and Rich had gotten the star treatment, but that was our parents’ music. Ringo was playing our music and the girls were screaming for him too. Drumming had never seemed cooler. Seared into America’s collective memory of that show is an iconic drum kit. It was an unusual color that was unlike the big band standard White Marine Pearl sets of Krupa and Rich, or even the Silver Sparkle that Joe Morello had made familiar. Those who were curious enough to ask their local music store discovered it was called Oyster Black Pearl. Of course, everyone viewing the performance could read the oversized Ludwig logo on the Beatles front bass drumhead, providing Ludwig with untold advertising value. 20

Ringo’s Ed Sullivan Kit

Gary Astridge

Right Here, On Our Stage . . . Ringo’s Legendary Ed Sullivan Kit

“They Loom Large in His Legend.”

George Harrison

Editor’s Note: On Sunday evening February 9, 1964, at 8:00pm 60% of America’s TV’s were tuned to the Ed Sullivan Show and experienced a 4-piece combo from Liverpool who were destined to change everything. Unlike previous Sullivan performances by Elvis with D.J. Fontana on drums, and Buddy Holly with Jerry Allison behind the kit, the drummer for the Beatles wasn’t relegated to a spot on the floor, but rather towered over the group from a dramatic drum riser. From this perch Ringo Starr’s joyful playing garnered the instrument’s proper respect and its fair share of camera time. To young drummers (and drummers to be) everywhere, this was rock and roll’s first nod to the “star” drummer. Sure Krupa and Rich had gotten the star treatment, but that was our parents’ music. Ringo was playing our music and the girls were screaming for him too. Drumming had never seemed cooler.

Seared into America’s collective memory of that show is an iconic drum kit. It was an unusual color that was unlike the big band standard White Marine Pearl sets of Krupa and Rich, or even the Silver Sparkle that Joe Morello had made familiar. Those who were curious enough to ask their local music store discovered it was called Oyster Black Pearl. Of course, everyone viewing the performance could read the oversized Ludwig logo on the Beatles front bass drumhead, providing Ludwig with untold advertising value.

Thus, perhaps the 20th Century’s most famous drum kit was born. Classic Drummer is honored to work with the Ringo Starr group’s Beatle era drum historian Gary Astridge to share this fascinating story and these never-before-published images . . . Enjoy.




Steve Bryant, Classic Drummer



Out of the six drum kits that Ringo used during his career with the Beatles, his 1964 Ludwig Downbeat kit was the second least used and yet the most famous. An estimated 73 million people saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show as Ringo was having a blast behind that drum set. In addition to that, millions more would see this kit co-star in the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in which George’s timelesss line on Ringo was more true than he knew, “He’s very fussy about his drums, you know. They loom large in his legend.” He was right, this kit loomed very large in Ringo’s legend.

1964 was primed to be a very busy year for the Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein and he was determined to stay one step ahead of the curve. You see, Brian knew that after returning from the United States on February 21st, the band would face an aggressive schedule. They would need to intertwine recording sessions with the filming of the motion picture, “A Hard Day’s Night”. As a result, an idea was floated to have a second identical drum kit available to avoid having to continually breakdown, transport and setup Ringo’s gear from the filming location to the recording studio and vice versa.

The decision was made, and with the help of Drum City in London (the store that provided Ringo with his first Ludwig kit), they placed an order for a Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl Downbeat kit. Arrangements were made to have it shipped to Manny’s Music Store in Manhattan. In addition to the bass drum, ride tom and floor tom, the kit included a matching Jazz Festival snare drum, stands with additional hardware and a set of cymbals, including hi hats.

On February 5th, after the Beatles concluded their three-week run of shows at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, they flew Back to London. Two days later, on the 7th, The Beatles and Beatlemania arrived in New York City and the media hype for the Ed Sullivan Show began. Saturday found John, Paul and Ringo at CBS Studio 50, preparing for the following day’s show. George stayed behind at the hotel to rest up from the flu. Both road manager Neil Aspinall and production assistant Vince Calandra, stood in for George while the director arranged camera positions for the following day’s show.

As of the day before the Big Show the new kit hadn’t arrived at the studio yet, so Ringo rehearsed on a Ludwig White Marine Pearl Super Classic model kit, which was a studio rental. He also borrowed a Ludwig Timpani stool from the theater and used it during his stay.

Knowing that he’d have a new Ludwig kit waiting for him in New York, Ringo, as most drummers would, brought with him a few familiar comforts from home. He packed his trusty 1963 Jazz Festival snare from his first Ludwig kit, his cymbals which in all likelihood Through research and talks, appear to have been a 20” Zyn with four rivets, an 18” Zildjian and a set of 15” Zildjian hi hats. Also, along for the ride was a new “Beatles” logo bass drum head.

Ringo took possession of his new “Sullivan” kit the following morning and photos from the rehearsals show that the Beatles logo drumhead was not yet installed. It should be noted that when Manny’s Music Store prepared the kit, they ink stamped in blue on each tom head their store emblem. Interestingly, when the rack tom was mounted, it was mistakenly placed upside down and was used that way for all performances.

The drums and specifications included in Ringo’s Ed Sullivan kit are as follows:

• 14” x 5” Jazz Festival snare drum (Keystone badge # 6734 and a red stamp date of January 3, 1964).

• 12” x 8” Tom (Keystone badge # 6677)

• 14” x 14” Floor Tom (Keystone badge # 6642)

• 20” x 14” Bass Drum (Keystone badge # 7321).

It is interesting to note that when I went through Ringo’s gear for cataloging and documentation, I was surprised to discover that the Jazz Festival snare drum actually came with this drum set. Regardless, Ringo never wavered from using his trusty ‘63 Jass Festival.

The Beatles first US visit consisted of 4 performances at the following venues:

• CBS Studio 50 in New York – February 9

• Washington Coliseum, Washington D.C. – February 11

• Carnegie Hall, New York – February 12

• Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach – February 16

Upon returning to England, the Beatles had recording sessions scheduled at EMI starting on February 25 and the shooting of the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” was scheduled to begin on March 2nd. Prior to the first recording date, Ringo’s new kit was gone over by Drum City. The Ludwig rail-style consolette tom mount was replaced with a Rogers Swiv-o-matic, all of the drum heads were replaced and a new Beatles logo drumhead was installed for the movie.

This “Sullivan kit” as it is most commonly known was used just prior to The Beatles first world tour, which began June 4, 1964. On May 31, Ringo took possession of his third Ludwig kit, a Super Classic model which was used for the world tour and became Ringo’s goto kit thereafter.

It’s a noteworthy piece of history that Jimmie Nicol, who was the replacement drummer when Ringo became ill with tonsillitis the day before the scheduled tour, rehearsed for a few hours with John, Paul and George at EMI using the Sullivan kit.

In 1969, Paul McCartney borrowed a combination of the Sullivan kit and Ringo’s first Downbeat kit in for use in his own recordings. The snare and floor tom used were from the Sullivan kit with the bass drum and ride from the first kit. This combo set up was in Paul’s possession through 1985, at which time it was returned to Ringo.

As of this writing, Ringo still owns this three-piece kit. In fact, it was on display along with Ringo’s maple kit and other memorabilia at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles from June 2013 through April 2014.

On December 4, 2015, the Jazz Festival snare drum from the Sullivan was sold at auction through Julien’s Auctions of Beverly Hills for $75,000 to a confidential bidder. The “Sullivan” bass drumhead had already been sold at auction a month earlier to Jim Irsay, billionaire owner of the Indianapolis Colts for $2,050,000.

Read the full article at http://mydigitalpublication.com/article/Ringo%E2%80%99s+Ed+Sullivan+Kit/2690065/376887/article.html.

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