Johnny Ramone

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Johnny Ramone

Johnny Ramone, July 1, 1977, Saint Paul, Minnesota Photo: Michael Markos
Background information
Birth nameJohn William Cummings
Also known asJohnny Ramone
BornOctober 8, 1948(1948-10-08)
Long Island, New York
United States
DiedSeptember 15, 2004(2004-09-15) (aged 55)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresPunk rock
OccupationsMusician, songwriter
Years active1974–1996
LabelsSire, Radioactive, Chrysalis
Associated actsRamones
Notable instruments

John William Cummings (October 8, 1948 – September 15, 2004),[1] better known by his stage name Johnny Ramone, was an American guitarist and songwriter, best known for being the guitarist for the punk rock band the Ramones. He was a founding member of the band, and remained a member throughout the band's entire career. He died from prostate cancer on September 15, 2004.

In 2003, he appeared as #16 on the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list in Rolling Stone[2] and on Time's "10 Greatest Electric-Guitar Players."[3]




Johnny Ramone was born John Cummings on Long Island as the only child of a construction worker of Irish descent.[4] He was raised in the Forest Hills, Queens neighborhood of New York City, where he grew up absorbing rock music.[5] As a teenager, Johnny played in a band called the Tangerine Puppets alongside future Ramones' drummer Tamás Erdélyi (better known as Tommy Ramone).[6] As a teenager, he was known as a "greaser," though he was later described as a tie-dye-wearing Stooges' fan. He was a lifelong New York Yankees' fan. He also worked as a plumber with his father before the Ramones became successful, and at one point attended military school[7] and briefly attended college in Florida.

He met future bandmate Douglas Colvin, later to become Dee Dee Ramone, in the early 1970s while delivering dry cleaning. They would eat lunch together and discuss their mutual love of bands like the Stooges and MC5. Together they went to Manny's Guitar Emporium in New York City in January 1974, where Johnny bought a used blue Mosrite Ventures II for $54 and change. On the same trip, Dee Dee bought a Danelectro bass. They collaborated with future bandmate Jeffry Hyman, later to become Joey Ramone and formed the Ramones, with the almost-unknown Richie Stern on bass, who left after a few rehearsals. Tommy Erdelyi, later Tommy Ramone joined the band in the summer of that year, after public auditions failed to produce a satisfactory drummer. Although Johnny Ramone wasn't as prolific a songwriter as his bandmates, particularly Dee Dee Ramone, his guitar style was a key part of the Ramones' sound and would become a major punk rock influence.

Johnny was responsible for initiating one of the major sources of animosity within the band when he began dating and later married Joey's ex-girlfriend. Allegedly, this incident prompted Joey to write songs like, "The KKK Took My Baby Away", and, "She Belongs To Me", although it has been speculated that the song was actually written before the founding of the Ramones in 1974. Though the band remained together for years after this incident, relations between the two remained cold and verbal communication was almost non-existent between the two.[8] Years later, when Joey was in the hospital dying of cancer, Johnny refused to telephone him. He later discussed this incident in the film End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, saying an attempt at such a reunion would have been futile. He did add that he was depressed for a week after Joey's death, and when pressed, acknowledged that this was because of the bond forged by the band. In their road manager Monte Melnick's book about his time with the Ramones, Johnny is quoted as having said "I'm not doing anything without him. I felt that was it. He was my partner. Me and him. I miss that."

Alongside his music career, Johnny appeared in nearly a dozen movies (including Rock 'n' Roll High School) and documentaries. He also made television appearances on such shows as The Simpsons (1F01 "Rosebud", 1993) and Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Episode 5 "Bobcat").[9]


  Johnny was known within the punk rock community as one of the few conservatives, and was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party. Johnny made his political affiliation known to the world in 2002, when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After thanking all who made the honor possible—clad in his trademark T-shirt, ripped blue jeans and leather jacket—he said "God bless President Bush, and God bless America.[10] He said in an interview, when questioned on his conservatism, "I think Ronald Reagan was the best President of my lifetime."   This was evident in 1985 when the band released the UK single "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg"; Johnny pressed for a name change, finding the title insulting to Reagan, and the song was retitled on American releases as "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" after a line from the song's chorus. In this same interview he claimed that "Punk is right wing".[11]

Johnny is quoted by The Observer as saying: "People drift towards liberalism at a young age, and I always hope they change when they see how the world really is."[12]

[edit]Personal life

As noted in tour manager Monte Melnick's book "On the Road with The Ramones," Johnny's father was a strict disciplinarian. Johnny is quoted as saying: "My father would get on these tangents about how he never missed a day's work. I broke my big toe the day I had to go pitch a Little League game and he's going, 'What are you - a baby? What did I do, raise a baby? You go play.' And even though my toe was broken I had to go pitch the game anyway. It was terrible. It would always be like that. I'm glad he raised me like that but it would always be, 'What are you - sick? You're not sick. What did I raise - a baby? I never missed a day's work in my life.' Then I went to military school, and in military school you couldn't call in sick."[7]

Further, Johnny's early adulthood was marked with bouts of delinquency to which he attested were inexplicable at the time, "I didn't become a delinquent until I got out of high school. I had a two-year run. I'd go out and hit kids and take their money and rob everybody's pocketbooks. Just being bad every minute of the day. It was terrible. I don't know what my problem was. Things that were funny to me at the time were horrible. If I found a television set sitting in the garbage, I'd take it up to the rooftop, watch for someone walking down the block and drop it in front of them on the sidewalk. It was funny watching them see a TV set come crashing down 30 feet in front of them. To me it was hysterical, but it was also a mean and terrible thing to do. I also found a way of stopping the elevator. I could open up the door and stop the elevator. I would wait for an old lady to get in and stop the elevator. They'd be yelling and pushing the alarm, and I would keep them there. At about 20 years old, I stopped drinking and doing drugs, got a job and tried to be normal."[13]


On September 15, 2004, Johnny Ramone died in his Los Angeles home at age 55 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer.[14] Many of his friends and musical contemporaries came to pay their respects. After his death, his remains were cremated.[15] A cenotaph was built in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, near the gravesite of former bandmate Dee Dee Ramone, who died of a heroin overdose in 2002.

[edit]Posthumous honors

In 2006, the remake of the horror filmThe Wicker Man was dedicated to Johnny Ramone's memory, as he was a close friend of the film's producer and star, Nicolas Cage. The lyrics for Pearl Jam's 2006 single "Life Wasted" were written by Eddie Vedder in honor of Cummings while driving home from his funeral.[16] They also made their first video in 8 years for this song.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Johnny Ramone 16th on their list of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[17]

In 2009, Time magazine included Johnny Ramone on its list of the "10 Best Electric Guitarists of All Time".[18]

An annual Johnny Ramone Memorial is held every October in Hollywood Forever Cemetery Hollywood, California. The event which has taken place 5 years now, has included appearances by surviving band members Tommy and C.J. Ramone. Many other celebrity guests regularly attend[who?].

Lisa Marie Presley recorded a cover of the Ramones' song, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" on her 2005 album Now What. She stated in the liner notes of the CD that: "Five years ago, Johnny Ramone picked me to sing Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. He wanted me to sing it on a Ramones tribute record where many of his friends and other artists were covering his songs. Johnny was one of my best friends, and I promised him before he passed away that I would include that song on my record. He was very sick but wanted to play guitar on it as long as he was sitting down. Unfortunately, while we were recording the basic track, he died."

Green Day's song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Ramone, though the song was not written about him.

In August 2011, Swedish author Bengt Ohlsson published "Rekviem för John Cummings", a novel about Johnny's last years. The book was shortlisted for the August prize, Sweden's top literary award.

[edit]Guitar technique

Johnny Ramone playing in Seattle, Wa in 1983.

Johnny was known for his fast, high-energy playing style that consisted of rapid, down-stroked barre chords, often in a simple I-IV-V progression. Called "buzzsaw", this technique was highly influential on early punk rock guitarists. This technique was also very influential on New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Iron Maiden. His style has also been an influence on many alternative rock bands, as well as on thrash metal performers such as Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.[19] Guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert has cited Johnny Ramone as one of his influences.

Johnny was almost exclusively a rhythm guitarist, as exemplified by live recordings. Johnny's simple lead guitar parts can be heard on a handful of Ramones' songs (including "Time Has Come Today", "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", and "California Sun"), but generally the infrequent guitar solos on the group's studio albums were overdubbed by Tommy Ramone, Ed Stasium, Daniel Rey, Walter Lure and other uncredited guests.[20]

[edit]Musical equipment

Johnny Ramone playing at the El Mocambo in Toronto, in 1978
  • Mosrite - Blue Ventures II - Johnny's first guitar. Bought in 1974, stolen in 1977.
  • Mosrite - White Ventures II - Bought in 1977 to replace the stolen blue Mosrite. Owned until the band disbanded in 1996 - later sold to producer Daniel Rey.[21]
  • Mosrite - Sunburst Ventures II - Bought in the mid-1970s. Ended up in a music store along with a pair of Johnny's jeans.
  • Mosrite - Blue Ventures II - Mint condition never played on stage saved as a backup guitar, traded to Johnny in 1988. Eventually autographed and sold to a band roadie who later consigned it for sale at Northern Guitars in Queens, NY. Subsequently purchased by a fan of the band in 2000. Currently resides in New Jersey.
  • Mosrite - Red Ventures I/V1 - owned by T.bags of Deadones usa
  • Mosrite - Brown Ventures II - Johnny's main second guitar from 1984–1989, later painted gold sparkle.
  • Mosrite - White 1 pickup - Made by a friend of the band and used as backup during live shows.
  • Mosrite - Sunburst 1 pickup - Used in the video for "Time Has Come Today."
  • Mosrite - White Ventures (2) - custom-made for Johnny by Mosrite founder/owner Semie Moseley in the late 1980s.
  • Rickenbacker - 450 - Used on the Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, later stolen.
  • Rickenbacker - Fireglo 450 - Later traded for a Mosrite.
  • Fender - White 1950s Stratocaster - Owned briefly by Johnny before stolen.
  • Hamer - White custom endorsement guitar - Johnny owned two. One was traded in the 1980s for a brown Mosrite which became a backup guitar.
  • Boss - TU-12 Chromatic Tuner
  • Marshall - JMP Super Lead 100W Head
  • Marshall - JCM 800 100W Lead Series Head[22]


We usually wear out our audience before we wear out ourselves. And we're getting faster every day. Our first album sounds real slow now.

NME - May 1977[23]


  1. ^"Punk Legend Johnny Ramone Dies At 55". By Tom Ferguson.
  2. ^"The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 18 September 2003. Retrieved 14 November 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^Tyrangiel, Josh (24 August 2009). "The 10 Greatest Electric-Guitar Players". Time.,29307,1916544_1921867,00.html. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  4. ^Johnny Ramone - Telegraph
  5. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. "Punk Rock Legend Johnny Ramone Dies at 55", People, September 16, 2004. Accessed June 2, 2009. "Johnny Ramone, 55, was born John Cummings and grew up in Forest Hills, N.Y., soaking up rock in the '60s but then moving to an edgier sound."
  6. ^"Mark Prindle interview with Tommy Ramone". Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  7. ^ ab Melnick, Monte A. and Frank Meyer, "On the Road with The Ramones: Updated Edition," 2007, Bobcat Books, p.41-43
  8. ^Rolling Stone - Johnny's Last Stand[dead link]
  9. ^The Simpsons - Rosebud[dead link]
  10. ^"Johnny Ramone: Rebel in a rebel's world". The Washington Times. 11 March 2004. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  11. ^Sgt. Robert Jones. "Conservative Punk's Interview with Johnny Ramone". Archived from the original on 2008-12-27.  (Interview conducted 2 April 2003, published Dec 2008)
  12. ^Bainbridge, Luke (13 October 2007). "The 10: right-wing rockers". The Observer. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  13. ^ Melnick, Monte A. and Frank Meyer, "On the Road with The Ramones: Updated Edition," 2007, Bobcat Books, p.41
  14. ^"Johnny Ramone Dead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  15. ^"Punk guitarist Johnny Ramone dies". BBC News. 2004-09-17. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  16. ^ Hiatt, Brian. "The Second Coming of Pearl Jam". Rolling Stone. June 29, 2006.
  17. ^"The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 18 September 2003. Retrieved 9 November 2009. [dead link]
  18. ^"Fretbase, Time Magazine Picks 10 Best Electric Guitar Players". 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  19. ^[1][dead link]
  20. ^ Sharby Coms, "How The West Was Lost", in Mojo Punk Special Edition, p. 94
  21. ^Heatley, Michael (2010). Stars & Guitars. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-56976-535-7. 
  22. ^Harper, Ian. "The Guitars of Johnny Ramone". 
  23. ^Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 300. CN 5585. 

[edit]External links

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