Tommy Ramone Set The Pace For The Ramones -- Then He Quit

By | January 25, 2020

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The Ramones in London on May 19, 1977. L-R. Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone (front), Joey Ramone (back), Dee Dee Ramone (Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)

When punk rock progenitors The Ramones played, it was drummer Tommy Ramone who barked 1-2-3-4! to kick off tunes like "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat On The Brat," "California Sun," and "Commando." In many ways Tom Erdelyi, a Hungarian immigrant, created the blueprint for punk rock. He wrote many of the early songs by the Ramones and helped guide a career that had longer legs than anyone could have imagined. He was the founding drummer and the last surviving member of the band that created punk. Even after he stopped performing with the band he stayed in the fold to make sure the band held onto its spirit until their final days.

Tommy Wasn't Always A Ramone

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source: Rolling Stone

Born Tom Erdelyi, the diminutive Hungarian drummer started dreaming up the band after his first group, Tangerine Puppets, fell apart. He happened to be in the band with one mister John Cummings, the future Johnny Ramone, whom he felt would be the perfect guitarist for the group. After putting weirdo Dee Dee in place as bassist and tall, barely verbal longhair Joey in place as the drummer everything was set -- well, until they heard Joey sing. Joey Ramone was nearly unintelligible.

Tommy had a flash of brilliance: Let Joey sing. It was that simple, and Joey's shortcomings as a traditional vocalist became his signature as a punk vocalist.

Now all the group needed was a drummer, something easier said than done in Forest Hills, Queens in 1974. At the time Tommy was just acting as the band’s manager and sometime song writer. He penned “Blitzkrieg Bop” with some alterations from Dee Dee and while it was great that they had killer songs, they were still incomplete without someone to hold things down behind the kit. Erdelyi explained the band’s solution to Noisecreep:

We started auditioning drummers, but they just couldn’t grasp the concept of the band — the speed and simplicity. So I’d sit down and show them what we were looking for and the guys just finally said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ So I gave it a try and that’s when the sound of the band sort of solidified.