Say what you will about Ringo Starr — the man keeps some pretty solid company. And we’re not just talking about John, Paul, and George. This weekend, the former Beatle, multi-Grammy Award winner, and all-around cultural icon takes the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl, and the backing band he’s bringing with him is worth the cost of admission alone. Now in its 13th iteration, Ringo’s All-Starr Band includes everyone from Toto’s Steve Lukather to Journey’s Gregg Rolie, Todd Rundgren to Warren Ham, and Mr. Mister’s Richard Page to Spinal Tap’s Gregg Bissonette. So, we figured, why not prep with a crash course in rock ‘n’ roll legacies?
Let’s start with Lukather. As the axeman for Toto, he’s penned some of the most recognizable (and epic) hooks in American rock history (“Hold the Line,” “I Won’t Hold You Back”), but he’s also carved out an earnest little solo career for himself that includes eight shred-tastic full-length albums.
As for Rolie, the discography stands for itself. The first (and unarguably best) Journey frontman carried the torch long before the “Wheel in the Sky” started turning and helped to deliver some of the most inspired jazz-rock of the late ’70s. (See 1975’s “Topaz” for a psychotropic intro.) He also can boast “founding member of Santana” on his résumé. With Ringo, he’ll hold down keys, organs, and vox.
That leads us to Rundgren, the bonafide black sheep of the All Starr family. Sure, he gave us “Bang the Drum All Day” and “Can We Still Be Friends?,” but dig around a little and you’ll find a psychedelic wonderland of deep cuts with Utopia and Nazz, not to mention one of the most prolific outputs of the 20th century.
Richard Page is holding down bass for Starr but will also surely be throwing around some of those big, yacht-rock-y yelps. As the singer for smooth rockers Mr. Mister, he may very well be ambassador of the adult-contemporary dial, but he’s also the guy that famously turned down offers to front both Chicago and Toto before hitting it big.
A man of many hats, Ham is playing triple duty as saxophonist, keyboardist, and percussionist in the All Starrs and brings with him a wealth of experience in the hired-gun seat; he’s toured with everyone from Kansas to Cher to Frankie Avalon. He also moonlighted in the short-lived but hard-rocking ’70s act Bloodrock.
Last but not least, there’s Bissonette. An adept jazz and rock drummer, Bissonette has sat behind the kit for Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and, perhaps most memorably, Spinal Tap. He also wins our award for Best Drum Teacher Ever, thanks to three how-to vids he self-released in the early ’90s. Apparently, practice makes perfect, and Ringo’s setup only serves to drive that point home.
Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band play the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, July 12, at 7 p.m. Call (805) 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.