Ringo fondly recalled The Beatles’ historic 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Thursday night, as he and Michael Jackson were honored at The Paley Honors: A Gala Tribute to Music on Television.
The Paley Center event, which featured packaged salutes to musical performances and themes over nearly 70 years on television, took place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“The Ed Sullivan Show. Yeah, we did that,” Ringo said, garnering a laugh from the audience. “We came to America, and you don’t know where things are going in life. I was in a factory and I left there to play drums. I had a three-month gig, and after that, I was on my own, and then I was introduced to the other three lads. I’m here because we are celebrating the four of us. I well up a little bit because two of us aren’t here.”
In his off-the-cuff remarks, Ringo, who was introduced by Sheila E., gave a sweet tribute to America and the path that led the band to the groundbreaking performance, considered one of the most seminal appearances — if not the most — by a musical act on television.
“We started in Liverpool and got bigger in Liverpool and then we went around the world…conquering the world, in Denmark, Sweden, Spain. And one day we’re on a plane coming back to Heathrow, to London, from Sweden, and this guy we’d never heard of was coming in from New York called Ed Sullivan. He’d never seen us play, he just saw the crowds on the airport roofs screaming and shouting and booked us as a blind booking.“We arrived in New York, and 99 percent of the music I loved came from America, and we landed in New York and that was enough,” Starr continued. “I could have just stayed at the airport for the next 10 years. I’m in America, and then we went to do this TV show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and it just happens that when we landed with Capitol Records and Brian Epstein, the record [‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’] was No. 1, thanks to Murray the K and Cousin [Brucie] and all those DJs from those days who were playing it, because we’d had three records before in America that didn’t really do a lot. What could go wrong? We landed in America. That was enough. We did an incredible TV show. That was enough. We had a No. 1 record. That was enough. And we carried on doing that for another six years.”
Ringo said people express surprise that he is still touring and making music. “‘What? You’re still doing it?’ They say that all the time,” he said. “What do you mean I’m still doing it? That’s what I do. I’m not an electrician, but it is nice and I still love it.”
The funds raised from the Paley Honors will benefit the Paley Center’s programming dedicated to music on television and the expansion of the Music Collection in the Paley Archive, the nation’s largest publicly accessible archive of television and radio programming.