Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, was born on 7 July 1940, at 9 Madryn Street, in the Dingle, Liverpool. He was the only child of confectioners Richard Starkey and Elsie Gleave. In an effort to reduce their housing costs, his family moved in 1944 to another neighborhood in the Dingle, Admiral Grove; soon afterwards his parents separated, and they divorced within the year. Starkey later stated that he has “no real memories” of his father, who made little effort to bond with him, visiting as few as three times thereafter.
At age six Starkey developed appendicitis. Following a routine appendectomy he contracted peritonitis, causing him to fall into a coma that lasted for days. His recovery spanned twelve months, which he spent away from his family at Liverpool’s Myrtle Street children’s hospital. Upon his discharge in May 1948, his mother allowed him to stay home, causing him to miss school.
At age eight, he remained illiterate, with a poor grasp of mathematics. His lack of education contributed to a feeling of alienation at school, which resulted in his regularly playing truant at Sefton Park. After several years of twice-weekly tutoring from his surrogate sister and neighbor, Marie Maguire Crawford, Starkey had nearly caught up to his peers academically, but in 1953, he contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to a sanatorium, where he remained for two years.
During his stay the medical staff made an effort to stimulate motor activity and relieve boredom by encouraging their patients to join the hospital band, leading to his first exposure to a percussion instrument: a makeshift mallet made from a cotton bobbin that he used to strike the cabinets next to his bed. Soon afterwards, he grew increasingly interested in drumming, receiving a copy of the Alyn Ainsworth song “Bedtime for Drums” as a convalescence gift from Crawford. Starkey commented: “I was in the hospital band … That’s where I really started playing. I never wanted anything else from there on … My grandparents gave me a mandolin and a banjo, but I didn’t want them. My grandfather gave me a harmonica … we had a piano – nothing. Only the drums.”
Ringo Starr as a baby
With mother Elsie at the age of five
Ringo at school age
Ringo at his home at 10 Admiral Grove with his mother, Elsie
Ringo in hospital. “This is me in hospital, the second time, mind you. With TB, we used to just sit in this parkland and in the grass ward, getting all the fresh air because where I come from it wasn’t very fresh. There was lots of TB in out neighbourhood, and before streptomycin they used to just sit in the living room and die, whoever had it. That was just the answer; they couldn’t cure it. That’s Nurse Edge. She was so great to us all.”