Move over Hank Williams: Here comes Ringo Starr

All four Beatles members were bigger fans of country music than perhaps most people realize. 


John Lennon loved old time country classic “Cool Water” so much that he incorporated it into “Old Dirt Road” from his most underrated album, 1974’s Walls and Bridges

George Harrison was such a huge fan of Chet Atkins that he wrote the liner notes for his 1966 album Picking on the Beatles.

And Paul McCartney? He was so country that he was actually friends with Johnny Cash

It’s Ringo Starr, though, who is rightly known as the Beatles member most interested in country music.


Hell, his name “Ringo” came from the classic character trope in old westerns. He covered Buck Owens classic “Act Naturally” on the Beatles Help! album. His first solo release, 1970’s Beaucoups of Blues, was an all country affair written and recorded by top session men in Nashville. 


Below are three fun examples of the country side of Ringo Starr. Don’t you like fun? I like you because of how much you like fun.


What Goes On
from the 1965 album Rubber Soul

The Beatles followed their straightforward cover of Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” with this country-tinged album track on Rubber Soul. Both, of course, were sung by Ringo, the biggest fan of the genre in the group. “What Goes On” isn’t a Beatles classic but it’s a fun vehicle for Ringo’s comfortable, laid back approach. 


Also, dig those sweet, sweet Chet Atkins/Carl Perkins licks from George Harrison. 


Wine, Women, and Loud Happy Songs
from the 1970 album Beaucoups of Blues

In 1970, Ringo fulfilled a childhood dream by recording an album of country songs in Nashville. It’s a surprisingly solid record, led by legendary pedal steel player Pete Drake, whose playing is all over it. In that way, it’s kind of reminiscent of the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, although the songs certainly don’t reach that albums transcendence. They’re funner, though.


Ringo’s voice fits the material well, his inner Elvis showing through on every annunciation. “Wine, Women, and Loud Happy Songs” was made for a honky tonk.

Act Naturally (with Buck Owens)

single, 1989

While Ringo’s version of “Act Naturally” is a fan favorite, this duet with Buck Owens isn’t quite as well-known. The ‘80s weren’t the best time for country legends, with radio and the establishment essentially turning their back on them, so it was nice to see them back in the spotlight. 


It’s a faithful version of the song, and in the video Ringo and Buck are at their b-movie (and Hee Haw) best. It’s also nice to see Buck’s original red, white, and blue acoustic. He even fake strums it almost exactly as he did on Hee Haw. 


God bless Ringo Starr and Buck Owens. 

Erik Ritland is a songwriter and journalist from Nashville, Tennessee. He's released 13 records and EPs, most recently 2021's innovative movie album Old Dog Almost Gone. His journalism has been featured on Something Else! Reviews, Music in Minnesota, and more, and his articles have been shared by members of bands as diverse as KISS, the Monkees, Son Volt, and Low Cut Connie.