By Sheryl DeVore
Tom Gable, who plays the part of Ringo in American English, admits when he first got the gig he thought since he loved the Beatles, he already knew all about the style of the Fab Four’s drummer.
“At first, I didn’t really dig in too deep into the head of Ringo, because I thought I knew the songs already… but then as time went on, things didn’t feel right,” Gable recalled.
“I thought I had it down and I wasn’t even close. I was playing total different inaccurate parts. It was then that I realized how deep the planning was and the mechanics of all of Ringo’s drumming, how he designed the feel to fit those songs,” Gable said. “Next three four or years, I started woodshedding, I became obsessed.”
And now he’s been with American English, which performs in Round Lake Beach May 5, for 23 years.
The group will perform Beatles music from the early years when they wore suits through the “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band” phase complete with colorful costumes to the last days of the group when they sang, “Let It Be.”
Gable’s friend, Eric Michaels, who plays Paul McCartney in the band, recruited him and they’ve been playing together ever since.
A self-taught drummer, Gable said as he listened to Ringo Starr over and over on Beatles songs, he realized, “He’s incredible. He had to be nothing short of genius.”
Ringo was a left-handed drummer, but he played the kit right-handed, Gable said, which prevented difficulties for Gable at first. “When I studied the records, it dawned on me that he was doing left-handed sticking because he’s in the studio and nobody can see it. So I had to train myself to play lefty even though the kit is set up for a righty drummer.
“That was the challenge and the beauty of doing the Ringo part — getting into his head and taking on his feel,” Gable said. Over the years, fans would tell him they never were Ringo fans but after watching him play, they gained a new respect for the Beatles drummer, he said.
“Those are the little things that keep me just constantly going. They’re watching it. They’re loving it. They’re counting on you to do it,” Gable said.
He continues to listen to Beatles records, sometimes the same song over and over in his car on the way to gigs, he said. “I’ll keep tracking it and tracking it for an hour. I want to see if there’s anything I’m missing. I want to put the light on really bright, take one last look. It’s a constant study … I still go under the microscope and I find something new that got by me,” Gable said. “It gives you another shot in the arm, that’s the magical part about it, it’s endless.”
Gable continues to be amazed at how quickly the Beatles changed and revamped their style while continuing to learn more about music, he said. His two favorite albums are “A Hard Day’s Night,” which brought them to the global light he said, and “Abbey Road,” their last album. “You can hear the stark contrast to when they first started,” he said. “It’s a masterpiece — that they could evolve so quickly.”
Gable sings all the Ringo songs, including “‘Yellow Submarine,” and the band releases bubbles for children to enjoy while they’re performing the piece.
Gable said the group makes sure to perform all three eras of the Beatles. “We try to stay consistent so we don’t disappoint,” he said.
He has met Ringo, but didn’t tell him what he did for a living. Ringo’s managers sent him a photograph with him and Ringo and Gable said he thought, “I can die in peace now. I met a Beatle.”
Gable said Beatles music in 200 years will be as popular as Beethoven’s and Mozart’s music still is. “That music is definitely going to be around forever. I don’t believe 200 years from now you‘ll hear an Aerosmith song, but you’ll hear, ‘Eleanor Rigby.’”