Tag Archives: Ringo Starr

Stuff Riffmaster Knows: The Beatles & Their Gear

Riff Banner28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nI’ve been playing in a rock and roll band with Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner since the very early 1980’s. Not only is Pete a gifted shredder of the Fender Stratocaster, he knows more about rock and roll than it’s probably healthy to know. Especially where it concerns The Beatles — who, Pete will happily tell you, he actually saw live at Shea Stadium. (Pete was also at Woodstock. Yeah. That Woodstock.)

Young Riffmaster with axe.

Young Riffmaster with axe.

Over the years, my band mates have exchanged thousands of Emails in an informative and entertaining chain of rock trivia, history and lore that is sometimes staggering in its detail. Never more so than when our own guitar hero, Riffmaster Pete Van Wagner, drills down into the details of the equipment used by The Fab Four.

What follows is an Email that Riffmaster recently sent. Riff’s response was prompted by a photo of The Beatles in the studio, Emailed to the band by our brilliant drummer, Rockin’ Ronny Crawford.

From the Riffmaster:

What’s got me going a little bit crazy is the tan Vox amps in the September 1962 Black Eye studio photos. Prices for these amps have gone through the roof on the vintage market. But what’s the story with The Beatles’ tan Vox amps? I’ve always seen them with black Vox amps. When I first saw these photos I thought that maybe the amps were Abbey Road studio amps.

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In earlier 1962 photos The Beatles are seen at the Cavern playing Gibson and Fender tweed amps.

This is April ’62:

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That’s George’s Gibson GA-40 amp on the left behind John. That’s John’s Fender Deluxe amp on the right behind Paul. That’s Pete on the drums.  Also note John’s Rickenbacker guitar, that he bought in Hamburg, is still it’s original Natural tan color.  More on this later.

But here they are at band practice at the Cavern with Ringo in August. Pete’s out, Ringo’s in. The old Fender and Gibson amps are gone and the tan Vox amps are in. Hmmm. So I guess they are The Beatles’ amps, not Abbey Road’s.

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Here they are at the Cavern not long after the September recording session. Black Vox amps. Also shirts, vests and ties.  Brian Epstein’s been here. Note Ringo’s drum head still reading “Ringo Starr.” My brain is starting to hurt. The happy faces indicate how happy the Boys were with their free new Vox amps — and with Ringo Starr on skins.

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Luckily I have the book, The Beatles Gear.  Hopefully I’ll find answers there.

Here’s the story:

d1343f6b36d6a7d549fb9996a2adad91The Beatles came into EMI’s Abbey Road studios to record “Love Me Do” and three other tunes using their old Gibson, Fender and Paul’s TruVoice amp with what’s been called a coffin speaker cabinet. The TruVoice hummed a lot and the other amps weren’t much better. George Martin told Brian Epstein that The Beatles would need professional gear if they were going to continue to be recording artists. George also told Brian at this time that for the next session he, George, would provide a drummer as Pete wasn’t up to the task.  

Brian went out to buy new amplifiers but was told that the Beatles still owed money for the TruVoice amp.  Brian payed off the Beatles’ unpaid loans to Hessy’s Music shop in Liverpool and bought the tan Vox amps for George and John.  Paul continued to use the Coffin speaker cab (on the far right in the picture above) with an unknown amp powering it.  Hessy’s suggested to Brian the he contact Vox and try to work out a deal with Vox direct.  Brian did and was given the black Vox AC30 amps in exchange for free use of The Beatles in any Vox promotion.  And so it was that The Beatles were given free Vox amps for their entire career and Vox got to use the Beatles as free endorsers for years to come.

Note below: John’s Rickenbacker has now been refinished in black.

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Shea Stadium 1966.  Their last tour.  I’m sitting over on the first base line with my cousin Michelle.

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Penny Lane: Then & Now

My daughter Emilia is traveling in Liverpool, the home of John, Paul, George and Ringo:  The Beatles.

Getting Free

The monumental Beatles fan I am, the moment I got to Liverpool, England, was the moment I made sure I got myself to all IMG_0716the Beatles’ landmarks: Paul McCartney’s childhood home, John Lennon‘s childhood home, Strawberry Fields, St. Peter’s Church, and, of course, Penny Lane. I, of course, know all the lyrics to Penny Lane (as any halfway-decent Beatles fan should), and all the while I roamed the Lane, the lyrics were bopping through my head. How does the Penny Lane of today hold up to the Penny Lane McCartney immortalized in song? Well, let’s have a look at the lyrics.**

Verse #1:
In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

Now, in my travels on Penny Lane, I found 2 barbershops, neither…

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It Was 49 Years Ago Today…

Beatlesbanner1101934-004-CD2C8F59I was just a young, working class Cleveland boy — two months shy of my 6th birthday — and what happened on this day, 49 years ago, at 8:00 pm ET on Sunday February 9, 1964 became an unforgettable moment in my life.

2e76b29da002e58a18b357d85a67a91ae0a2392aOn that incredible, magical, epochal day, The Beatles – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — made their first live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York City. There were just three TV channels in those days – and most televisions in America had their rabbit ears tuned in to the Sunday night broadcast that marked the U.S. debut of the rock n’ roll band that would soon transform international pop culture.

Beatles_399x400Upon their arrival in New York and in the months to follow, I was besotted by The Beatles. My older brother Peter and I would hang out beneath our neighbor Dino Zaccardelli’s bedroom window on West 33rd Street, listening to the glorious, transformative album that Dino’s mom had just bought for him: Meet the Beatles.

I vividly remember how Peter and I listened to that thrilling album over and over, playing passionately along on badminton rackets posing as guitars. Unfortunately, we rocked out while standing on his older brother’s car – and that got is in trouble. (We left a lot of jubilant, rocking footprints on his hood and fenders.)

220px-IntroducingtheBeatlesAt the time, I had no clue that Meet the Beatles was actually the second Beatles’ album released in the United States. Ten days before the release of Meet the Beatles, Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records released the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles.

As far as my brother Peter, Dino and I were concerned, Meet the Beatles was where it all began – and The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS 49 years ago was our introduction to full blown Beatlemania.

usa_meet-the-beatlesFrom those indelible days in February 1964, my life was changed in ways I am still learning to appreciate. To have grown up during Beatlemania is a formative, fundamental  blessing that subsequent generations cannot possibly understand or fully appreciate. (Because they take rock & roll for granted.)

My daughters learned to love The Beatles.

RR0910_603_lgBut I was grew up with The Beatles.

49 years ago – my brother Peter and I got lucky.

All us kids got lucky.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

YEAH!

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