Ringo rocks: Black Crowes' Steve Gorman

(Image credit: Amy Harris/Corbis)

Steve Gorman, the groove machine that purred behind the kit for the Black Crowes, is the latest drummer to pay tribute this week to Ringo Starr as he tells why the Beatles icon is his favourite player.

Not just that, but also why when it comes to Ringo, Steve is on the same page as Levon Helm.

"With music and musicians, there is no 'best', really. It's all subjective. So what we have, ultimately, are our favourites. Ringo Starr has always been, and will always be, my favourite.

"In 1971, when I was five years old, my brother, Tom, gave me three of his old Beatles albums - Meet The Beatles, Help, and Rubber Soul. I played Help first - I thought the gatefold was cool. When Ticket to Ride kicked in, I started air drumming. I didn't even know what air drumming was, but suddenly I was doing it.

"I kept on listening to those three albums. Over and over and over. And I kept on air drumming. Within two or three years I had acquired the rest of the Beatles catalogue - no small trick for a kid making 25 cents a week allowance. And I air drummed them all.

"My clearest memories of childhood are of listening to records in my basement. And for the first few years, I listened exclusively to Beatles records. That music, and more importantly, that drumming, is hard wired into me in a way that no other music could possibly compete with.

"Ultimately, I got a pretty late start on the only thing I ever really wanted to do. I didn't actually sit down behind a drum kit until I was 17 years old. I remember very clearly sitting at that kit with sticks in my hand. I had waited over a decade for that moment. And the first thing I played - or rather the first thing I tried to play - was the verse groove from Ticket To Ride.

"I didn't actually get my own drum kit until I was 21 years old. I talked my way into a new band with some old friends who were under the mistaken impression that I was already drumming regularly. They were under that impression because I told them as much, but I digress.

"Anyway - my new band and I set up the first day and the first song we ever tried to learn and play - was I Want You, She's So Heavy. Saying that I was in over my head doesn't even begin to approximate the situation.

"So I can honestly say that I've paid tribute to Ringo, in my playing, quite literally from day one. I have continued to do so on a daily basis ever since. There are a lot of drummers that I dig, but Ringo Starr is my alpha and my omega.

"Sitting atop my short list of "Favorite Drummers Not Named Ringo" is Levon Helm.The Black Crowes made a record at Levon's barn in Woodstock a few years back.

"The day we were setting up, Levon came over and said, 'You can have any of the stuff in that storage closet if you want to try out some different sounds.' I said, 'Hell yeah, I'd love to take a look and see what you have!" He looks off to one of the guys working there and says, 'Hey, go grab that kit Ringo gave me!'

"Just think about that one for a second - to have your second favorite drummer offer you the use of a kit that your favorite drummer gave him….well, that's a pretty fantastic moment. So they bring out this kit. We set it up. I sit down fully expecting, of course, that I am gonna make this thing sing like a bird. Only problem was it really didn't sound too hot.

"I start tweaking the heads, tuning up, tuning down etc. Nothing works. I am playing for a few minutes and I can tell it's just not happening. I'm dying inside. How can I possibly say to Levon that this kit, this drum kit THAT RINGO STARR GAVE TO LEVON HELM, might not be the one?

"Levon looks at me finally and says 'Hell, that don't sound too good…...actually, now that I think on it, I never got much out of it myself. Guess we still need Ringo to play that one. Hell, he'd make a cardboard box sound right - no one can play like him, boy'.

"Coming from Levon Helm, we can all take that as a statement of undeniable fact. No one can play like Ringo."

Read more on the genius of Ringo Starr in the Summer issue of Rhythm, which is available here!

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).