For his second solo album Beaucoups of Blues (1970), Ringo Starr spent time in Nashville with Pete Drake, a steel guitar maestro Starr met in May 1970 while both men worked on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.
When Starr picked Drake up at the airport for the London recording sessions that became All Things Must Pass, Drake was impressed by the number of country albums in Starr's car. The two became fast friends, with Drake wowing Starr by claiming his Nashville colleagues could write and compose an album's worth of songs in a week.
Starr arrived in Nashville in June 1970 to completed songs and an impressive cast of Nashville Cats, including harmonica player Charlie McCoy, bluegrass fiddler Jim Buchanan, Neil Young collaborator and steel guitarist Ben Keith, longtime Elvis Presley drummer DJ Fontana, legendary backup singers The Jordanaires and two guitarists with bright futures as recording artists, Jerry Reed and Charlie Daniels. Per All Music, lesser-known collaborators included songwriter, guitarist and peanut farmer Sorrells Pickard.
Drake's talented crew quickly found out that despite being part of one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons ever, Starr was, to paraphrase Minnie Pearl, just so proud to be in Music City.
"We were thinking he was going to be a jerk," Fontana told The Nashville Scene in 2008. "I mean, The Beatles, the No. 1 act in the world. This guy's got all these big monster records. But he came here and it was, 'Whatever you guys want to do, let's do it. You guys play the way you've been playing and I'll try to catch up.' ''
Songs waiting for Starr included title track "Beaucoups of Blues," penned by Nashville songwriter Buzz Rabin. Other songwriters forever linked to a member of The Beatles include rockabilly artist turned Drake's right hand man Chuck Howard ("Love Don't Last Long," "Waiting"), Mississippi native Bobby Pierce ("Loser's Lounge") and the more prolific Larry Kingston, writer of Roy Clark's "Thank God and Greyhound" and multiple songs cut by Starr, including Fred Dycus co-write "Fastest Growing Heartache in The West."
Starr, already known as a fan of Buck Owens' "Act Naturally," pulls off his brief detour into country music without sounding like a tourist. Whether he's singing a gentle ballad like "Without Her," revisiting honky-tonk's heyday with "Wine, Women and Loud Happy Songs" or teaming with future The Kendalls star Jeannie Kendall on "I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way," Starr never comes across like a rock or pop star calculating a crossover moment. Not that he's an exception-- such contemporary Nashville productions as Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline, Joan Baez's David's Album and Tommy James' My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar stand the test of time.
The album came together in six sessions recorded across three days (June 25-27). Daniels described the process to The Nashville Scene as "pretty typical Nashville sessions. You know, three songs in three hours. It was go in, sit down and work. Here's the songs, here's the chords, let's get it done. It was not a Beatles-type leisurely session. It was work."
A second country album from Starr was promised by Apple Records, but no other music from the Nashville sessions got an official release until a 1995 CD reissue of Beaucoups of Blues featured two bonus tracks: Starr composition "Coochy Coochy" and instrumental cut "Nashville Jam." "Coochy Coochy's" a great country song and not just a throwaway B-side for the single "Beaucoups of Blues"-- No surprise considering Starr also wrote The Beatles' contributions to country-rock, "What Goes On" and "Don't Pass Me By."
Although Starr's solo career is more associated with "It Don't Come Easy" and other classic rock radio standards than his three-day stretch as a singer of country songs, Beaucoups of Blues deserves a closer listen by fans of not just The Beatles but also the amazing collection of talent that cranked out great albums in Nashville like it was just another day at the office.
Beaucoups of Blues Track Listing
"Beaucoups of Blues"
"Love Don't Last Long"
"Fastest Growing Heartache in the West"
"Woman of the Night"
"I'd Be Talking All the Time"
"Wine, Women and Loud Happy Songs"
"I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way"