Ringo Starr was born a lefty, but—as with many left-handed children born in a certain era—he was taught that a dominant left hand was incorrect. His grandmother “converted” him to write righty, though he still preferred his left hand for most other tasks. Having to adapt to right-handed equipment and instruments is a part of what made his drumming style so unique. The reason his drum fills usually include a pause between high hat and toms is because he needed time to get his left hand in position. It’s hard to listen to Beatles songs like “Come Together” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” and not be astounded by Ringo’s drumming. In both cases, the beats make the songs instantly recognizable.
So why didn’t Ringo ever adjust his kit, especially after the Beatles made it big? It might have been because, after years of playing drums with a righty set-up, he became proficient leading with his left hand despite the challenges. The backward playing also helped give him a signature sound. That different sound and feel contributed to some signature drum riffs, such as his mini-solo early in the Abbey Road song “The End.” Ringo’s “backwards” playing style emphasized feel over technical virtuosity. This influenced many drummers to reconsider their playing from a compositional perspective.
In an interview on Conan O’Brien’s show:
“I was born left-handed, and my grandmother thought that was not a good sign, and so she turned me right-handed. So, I write right-handed, but anything else I do left-handed; golf and whatever. So, I have a right-handed kit, but I lead with my left. It makes it weird because I need time to do a fill … [Conan’s drummer] can roll from the snare to the tom-tom to the floor tom, where I can’t do that because I’ve got to come under [my right hand] all the time. I can go this way [to my left] really good.”
Ringo had that old school backbeat. Consistent and deep sounding, it anchored the Beatle’s biggest hits. With the signature left-handed fills and licks, you know he was the right man for the job.