By Brian Ives
His death was announced by the Ramones’ official Twitter account in the early hours of Saturday morning. The account tweeted, “We are saddened to announce the passing of Ramones founding drummer Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone. #RIPTommyRamone.”
Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, he co-founded the Ramones in 1974 in New York along with singer Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman), bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) and guitarist Johnny Ramone (John Cummings). All four changed their stage names to “Ramone” after forming the band, something which all subsequent members of the band did as well.
“It wasn’t just music in The Ramones: it was an idea,” said Tommy Ramone in 1978. “It was bringing back a whole feel that was missing in rock music – it was a whole push outwards to say something new and different. Originally it was just an artistic type of thing; finally I felt it was something that was good enough for everybody.”
The Ramones were one of the most influential artists of all time, even though they avoided commercial success. A 2003 tribute album, produced by Rob Zombie, included contributions by a grip of artists that show the respect that they got from much more commercially successful, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eddie Vedder, Metallica, U2, Green Day, the Pretenders and Tom Waits, among others.
While quintessential in carrying the punk banner in the late ’70s, the Ramones also influential on Bruce Springsteen, who wrote his early hit “Hungry Heart” for the Ramones. (Bruce later decided to keep it for himself.) Springsteen’s guitarist Steven Van Zandt later started a successful syndicated radio show called “The Underground Garage”; he’s said that the Ramones were “ground zero” for his show, noting that he plays bands that influenced the Ramones, bands were influenced by the Ramones, and the Ramones themselves.
Erdelyi Tamas changed his name to Tommy Erdelyi, and was originally intended to be the Ramones’ manager; he got behind the drums when Joey Ramone became the group’s frontman. He played on, and produced, the band’s first the albums: 1976’s Ramones, 1977’s Leave Home and 1977’s Rocket to Russia. After leaving the band, he produced 1984’s Too Tough to Die; he also produced other acts, including the Replacements, handling their classic 1985 album Tim.
The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
In more recent years, Tommy played mandolin in a bluegrass duo called Uncle Monk with his partner Claudia Tienan.
The other original band members passed away between 2001 and 2004. Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, died of cancer in 2001 at age 49. Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, died from an apparent overdose in 2002 at age 49. Johnny Ramone, born John Cummings, died of cancer in 2004 at age 52.
Tommy Ramone is survived by Tienan and an older brother.