Back in January, before the Romantics performed at the North American International Auto Show’s charity preview, frontman Wally Palmar considered the prospect of being part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band “really cool.”
Now he laughs at his own understatement.
“I have to tell you, this is more than I ever envisioned it being,” says Palmar, who’s performing the Romantics hits “What I Like About You” and “Talking in Your Sleep” as part of a group that, besides the former Beatles drummer, includes Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Rick Derringer, Richard Page of Mister Mister and fellow Detroit native Greg Bissonette on drums.
“When Ringo’s on stage and singing up front, he’s flanked by myself and Derringer — I’m standing there every night on stage right next to him. For me, that’s crazy. Like I told (Starr), ‘You’re responsible for me playing guitar.’ Just hearing (the Beatles) on the radio and seeing them on TV, that’s the reason, right there, for me playing.
“So to be playing with him ... come on! This is an experience I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. It’s magical.”
The entire tour has been grand for Palmar, but one night so far stands out — July 6, when Starr celebrated his 70th birthday at Carnegie Hall in New York City with many All-Starr Band alumni and an unexpected appearance by Paul McCartney to sing the Beatles’ “Birthday” as a finale.
“We had heard and we kinda knew (McCartney) was coming, but everyone was keeping it down because, obviously, they wanted it to be a surprise for Ringo,” recalls Palmar, who will be playing a Rockin’ the Riverfont show with the Romantics on Aug. 13 at the GM Renaissance Center. “He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, and eventually when the guitar tech brought on Paul’s bass, the place when nuts. Then when he came out, it felt like a volcano erupted.
“I spoke with (McCartney) afterwards and got some pictures, too. What do you tell him that one million other people haven’t told him? I just thanked him, and he said he’d never seen a Ringo show before and that he really loved it, which I took as an enormous compliment.”
For Starr, meanwhile, the All-Starr Band concept has not lost any luster since he started doing it in 1989.
“I like to call it 1-800-Dial-a-Hit,” he explains. “Every song we play is a hit that people know every word to. It’s a great way to play live. I have such a good time, and so far the bands have all been supportive, and we’ve had fun.”
This year’s All-Starr tour is supporting a new album, “Y Not,” which is the first solo album that Starr has produced himself. It features guest appearances by McCartney on two songs — “Peace Dream” and “Walk With You” — as well as homages to late Beatles mates John Lennon and George Harrison.
The album also comes on the heels of a big 2009 for the Beatles, with a Rock Band video game dedicated to the group’s music and the remastered catalog of CDs that came out in the fall.
“The big thrill for me,” Starr notes, “is we made that music a long time ago, and it holds up. Our dress sense has changed, but the music holds up and kids are getting into it like it’s new. We worked very hard to make those records, and they’re still current, which is amazing.”
Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band perform at 9 p.m. Friday, July 23, in the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, 377 Riverside Drive East. Tickets are $70.65, $54.35 and $43.48. Call 800-991-777 or visit www.caesarswindsor.com.
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