July 11, 2014 – Tommy Ramone (The Ramones) was born Erdélyi Tamás on January 29, 1949 in Budapest, Hungary. The drummer was the last of the original band member of the Ramones. He was born to Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust by being hidden by neighbours, although many of his relatives were victims of the Nazis.
The family left Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1957, he emigrated with his family to the United States. Initially settling in the South Bronx, the family moved up to the middle-class suburb of Forest Hills in Queens, New York, where Tamás grew up. He changed his name to Thomas Erdelyi. While in high school, he and guitarist Johnny Cummings, who later became Johnny Ramone, performed together in a garage band called the Tangerine Puppets.
In 1970, Tommy was an assistant engineer for the production of the Jimi Hendrix album Band of Gypsys. Then in 1974, hugely influenced by 60s groups and the New York Dolls, Tommy, along with Johnny Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman and Douglas Colvin formed a new band and bassist Douglas, inspired by Paul McCartney’s use of the pseudonym Paul Ramon, called himself Dee Dee Ramone and convinced the other members to take on the name Ramone and came up with the idea of calling the band the Ramones.
When the Ramones first came together, with Johnny Ramone on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on bass and Joey Ramone on drums, Erdelyi was supposed to be the manager, but was drafted as the band’s drummer when Joey became the lead singer, after realizing that he couldn’t keep up with the Ramones’ increasingly fast tempos. “Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to,” Dee Dee later recalled.
He remained as drummer from 1974 to 1978, playing on and co-producing their first three albums, Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia, as well as the live album It’s Alive. His final show as a Ramones drummer was at Johnny Blitz benefit event at CBGB’s in New York, USA on May 4, 1978.
In a 2007 interview with the BBC, Ramone said the band had been heavily influenced by 1970s hard-rock band the New York Dolls, by singer-songwriter Lou Reed and by pop-art figure Andy Warhol. He said, “The scene that developed at CBGB wasn’t for a teenage or garage band; there was an intellectual element and that’s the way it was for The Ramones.”
Tommy Ramone was replaced on drums in 1978 by Marky Ramone, but handled band management and co-production for their fourth studio album, Road to Ruin; and later returned as producer for the eighth album, 1984’s Too Tough to Die.
Tommy Ramone wrote “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and the majority of “Blitzkrieg Bop” while bassist Dee Dee suggested the title. He and Ed Stasium played all the guitar solos on the albums he produced, as Johnny Ramone largely preferred playing rhythm guitar. In the 1980s he produced the Replacements album Tim, as well as Redd Kross’s Neurotica.
On October 8, 2004, he played as a Ramone once again, when he joined C.J. Ramone, Daniel Rey, and Clem Burke (also known as Elvis Ramone) in the “Ramones Beat Down on Cancer” concert. In October 2007 in an interview to promote It’s Alive 1974-1996 a 2-DVD set of the band’s best televised live performances, he paid tribute to his previously deceased bandmates:
“They gave everything they could in every show. They weren’t the type to phone it in, if you see what I mean.”
Tommy Ramone and Claudia Tienan (formerly of underground band the Simplistics) performed as a bluegrass-based folk duo called Uncle Monk. Ramone stated: “There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music. Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing.” He joined songwriter Chris Castle, Garth Hudson, Larry Campbell and the Womack Family Band in July 2011 at Levon Helm Studios for Castle’s album Last Bird Home.
Tommy died on July 11, 2014, while fighting bile duct cancer. He was 62.
“Even from the very beginning, the type of fans the Ramones generated were the kind of people who wound up running industry, who became professors and scientists. Our staunchest fans were always a little bit more on the outside, the type of people who didn’t fit in with society. And once these people start running things, I think they started to inform the general public – ‘Hey, by the way, the Ramones started it all.’ That’s when the general population started becoming aware of how special the Ramones were.”