The first time Sir Richard Starkey, otherwise known as Ringo Starr, played with the Beatles, the crowd was so angry…they beat him up. Fans were so disappointed that original Beatles drummer Pete Best had been replaced that newbie Starr left the Cavern Club concert in Liverpool with a black eye. But Ringo Starr eventually grew on audiences worldwide, becoming one irreplaceable fourth of the Beatles magic.
Although Starr did not have much of a solo career compared to his bandmates John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, he was a multi-talented musician in his own right. Starr wrote the Abbey Road hit, “Octopus’s Garden” and lent vocals to “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Yellow Submarine.” While some may call Ringo Starr the forgotten Beatle, we disagree! However, there is one figure of Beatles history who is often overlooked: Starr’s first wife, Maureen Starkey Tigrett (née Maureen Cox.) So, what’s the story behind the mother of Ringo Starr’s three children?
Ringo Starr met his first wife Maureen Cox, nicknamed “Mo,” in 1962. Another native of Liverpool, England, Maureen was a regular at The Cavern Club: an early local venue of the Beatles. Bring a wild child teenager, Maureen began frequenting the club when she was only 15. At the time of the Beatles’ rise, The Cavern Club was packed with young women; there was fierce competition among Liverpool girls to snag one of the hot new band members. When Maureen eventually landed the mop-topped drummer, she was threatened and even scratched by jealous, hopeful rivals. In the end it seems, Maureen and her husband both suffered their share of Cavern Club injuries.
The Cavern Club
Maureen Cox was a hairdresser in training when she met Ringo Starr. She wore a punky style, with recognizable jet black hair and blunt-cut bangs. Although she was passionate about the beautiful craft, she eventually abandoned her career due to publicity from her relationship with Ringo Starr. When Maureen became pregnant at the age of 18, Beatles manager Brian Epstein hastily arranged a private wedding for the couple. She and Starr married in January of 1965; George Harrison and Ringo’s stepfather signed as witnesses. Eight months later, the Starkeys’ first child was born: Zak Richard Starkey. In 1967, Maureen would give birth to another son, Jason, and a daughter, Lee, in 1970.
Marriage to Ringo Starr
Throughout her marriage to Ringo Starr, Maureen declined to give interviews. She did not factor into the Beatles’ public image, even as the band’s popularity swelled throughout the 1960s. Though the Beatles were originally pressured to appear single for publicity purposes (Beatlemania was an especially girly phenomenon), it didn’t take long before every member of the band settled down to tie the knot. Maureen became especially close friends with other Beatles’ wives, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd. It was common for the wives of the Beatles to band together as the Fab Four’s busy schedules and secret dalliances kept them away.
The Beatles’ various unions were as tenuous as the band itself. And when the group officially split in 1970, the collapse of Ringo Starr and Maureen Starkey’s own marriage quickly followed. Starr had long been unfaithful to Maureen and with the pressure of the Beatles break-up, he raged out of control. Starr’s excessive drinking worsened, calling attention to extramarital affairs and flaring up his intense anger issues. Starr took those personal problems out on his wife. He has plainly admitted to being “a drunk, a wife-beater, and an absent father.” It was during Starr’s period of abuse in 1970 that his bandmate George Harrison confessed his love for Maureen; the two began a short affair which was exposed by a resentful Pattie Boyd. (Boyd would eventually leave Harrison for Eric Clapton.)
Ringo Starr officially divorced Maureen Starkey in 1975 and Maureen gained full custody of their three children. Despite Starr’s long abhorrent treatment of his wife, the split devastated Maureen. She attempted suicide by driving a motorbike into a brick wall. She survived.
Life after The Beatles
One year after the divorce with Ringo Starr, Maureen Starkey married businessman Isaac Tigrett, founder of the Hard Rock Café and the House of Blues. She became Maureen Starkey Tigrett. Her second husband, an avid rock ‘n’ roll collector, once referred to this former Beatles spouse as the “ultimate collectible.” (Charming.) In turn, Maureen is often quoted, “Just give me furs, jewels and property, thank you,” in regards to her unconventional relationship with Isaac Tigrett. Together they had another child, Augusta King Tigrett.
Sadly, Maureen Starkey Tigrett passed away in 1994 after a painful battle with Leukemia. She was 48. Maureen’s son Zak even underwent a bone marrow transplant to help his sick mother, but nothing was enough. At her death bed, Zak, Jason, Lee, and Augusta were all present, along with Maureen’s elderly mother, her current husband, and even her ex-husband Ringo Starr. Starr’s song “Little Willow” is dedicated to Maureen’s memory. Although, this was not the first song written especially for Maureen. In 1968, as a personalized birthday gift for his young wife, Starr asked Frank Sinatra to record a special version of “The Lady is a Tramp” titled “Maureen is a Champ.” Listen below.
“Maureen Is A Champ”
Life After Maureen
Maureen Starkey Tigrett and Ringo Starr’s children have grown up to have children of their own. Zak Starkey became a father of two, the first Beatle grandchild in 1985. Like his own dad, Zak is a professional drummer — although it isn’t Starr who inspired him. Zak’s godfather, the troubled Who drummer Keith Moon, first gifted Zak a drum kit for his eighth birthday and really inspired him to play. In a bittersweet twist of fate, Zak became the favored replacement drummer for The Who following Keith Moon’s death in 1978. He still drums on tour with Pete Townshend and Robert Daltry. His brother Jason is also a drummer. Jason has struggled more at following in the footsteps of his family, even saying that, “being Ringo’s son is the biggest drag in my life. It’s a total pain.”
Ringo Starr did not remarry as quickly as Maureen Starkey, following their divorce. He met his second wife Barbara Bach in 1980 while on the set of the slapstick, Caveman. Bach, a former Bond girl partied hard alongside her new husband. Star remained a heavy alcoholic at the time — until his violent blackouts became too unbearable. According to The Independent, Ringo Starr once recalled “[I] was told by the staff that I had trashed the house so badly they thought there had been burglars, and I’d trashed Barbara so badly they thought she was dead.” But Bach forgave him. And with his second wife by his side, Ringo Starr finally sobered up. For good. The couple is still married and boasts a teetotaler lifestyle. Fully embracing the old hippie cause, Sir Ringo is now a vegetarian and preaches “peace and love.” While too little, too late for Maureen Starkey, this aged rocker certainly seems to have found peace in his later years.