When Ringo Starr talks about having an All-Starr Band, he is not kidding.
I just got off the phone with a member of his band, Mark Rivera, who has been Starr's musical director since 1995 and in February will celebrate his 30th anniversary of being in Billy Joel's band. Fun fact: I talked to Rivera a few minutes after he got off the phone with Joel, but told Joel he had to call him back because he had an interview with me. Rivera told me that he didn't know what Joel was calling about, but he hoped it would be a call telling Rivera that he wanted to tour again. "It's a shame he doesn't tour," said Rivera.
Rivera started his career in 1972 with Sam & Dave, and went on to work with Foreigner, the Billy Joel band, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, and Simon & Garfunkel.
A pivotal moment in Rivera's life was seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and how that he performs with "the nicest person in the world," Starr, he said "It's a dream come true."
Even Joel shares his amazement of Rivera's luck. Rivera said, "Billy even says, 'You're out with a freakin' Beatle."
I talked to Rivera at 1 p.m., and he was still at the Ritz-Carlton in Colorado. He plays in West Valley City tonight at 8 p.m., so I freaked out a little when I realized he was 500 miles away. But fans needn't worry, Rivera said. "Ringo has a private jet," he said. "We live large ... I love this job."
Rivera has been the consummate sideman his entire career — for Gabriel fans out there, he is the one who arranged the horns on "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" — that it has taken him more than 20 years to come out with his debut album, "Common Bond," which is due out this November. Starr, Joel, and E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren play on the album, showing how it's nice to have famous friends.
Playing with the All-Starr Band has brought Rivera into contact with some of his other idols, like Todd Rundgren in this year's incarnation. "I was a fan of Todd Rundgren since I was 15," he said.
Rivera was packing as he talked to me, and had one promise. "We're going to rock that house," he said.