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Ringo Starr paused.
The legendary drummer for The Beatles had just been asked what was the best compliment he had ever received.
"Thanks for being useful," he eventually said.
Starr who turns 72 on Saturday, July 7 has been far more than useful during his career, which began in 1957 when he and friend Eddie Miles formed the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group.
That band eventually became known as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. While the band was in Hamburg, Germany, Starr met John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and the rest of The Beatles. He replaced Pete Best as the band's drummer in August 1962, and during the next eight years he was an integral part of the foursome that changed the course of music history.
In a recent telephone interview, Starr admitted that like the rest of the world he finds himself listening to The Beatles from time to time.
"I was listening to the guys," he said, "and they sound like young boys."
Starr, whose unique baritone has gotten even deeper over the years, will perform at the Usana Amphitheatre on Wednesday, July 11, with the latest incarnation of his All Starr Band.
There will be selections from his time in The Beatles, which could include "Boys," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Yellow Submarine," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Don't Pass Me By" and "Good Night."
He will also take a turn on the drums with his perfect, yet often-unacknowledged, sense of tempo and feel. A kind of sixth sense allowed him to keep time with his innovative matched-grip style whether drumming to "All You Need Is Love" in 7/4 time, or "Here Comes the Sun" with repeating 11/8, 4/4 and 7/8 passages.
Before Starr, drummers were an afterthought. Starr elevated their status, figuratively and literally he was among the first to use drum risers.
Because of his willingness to share the spotlight, he is able to recruit the best sidemen in the business. Alumni of his All Starr Band include Nils Lofgren, Joe Walsh, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Levon Helm, Timothy B. Schmit, John Entwistle, Randy Bachman, Peter Frampton, Jack Bruce, Roger Hodgson, Howard Jones, Sheila E. and Edgar Winter.
"Usually," he said, "artists get in touch" about being in his band.
This year, newcomers include Steve Lukather (Toto) and Gregg Rolie (Santana and Journey). They join Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera and Gregg Bissonette. With that lineup, fans at the Usana concert might hear Santana's "Black Magic Woman," Rundgren's "Bang the Drum All Day," Toto's "Africa" and Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings."
"I don't want to stand there and be the front guy [all the time]," Starr said.
With that kind of talent and persona, Utahns likely will forgive Starr for his choice of skiing destinations. He has owned a house in Colorado and skied there for 20 years, forsaking Utah's "greatest snow on Earth."
Well, no one's perfect. Not even a Beatle.
But useful? Yes, Starr is always that.
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band
When • Wednesday, July 11, at 8 p.m.
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City
Tickets • $20 to $58 at SmithsTix
All Starr Band • Newcomers Steve Lukather (Toto) and Gregg Rolie (Santana and Journey) will join All Starr alumni Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera and Gregg Bissonette.