Tommy Ramone, Founding Member of Influential Punk Band, Dies at 65

Tommy Ramone, Founding Member of Influential
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Drummer and producer Tommy Ramone, the last surviving original member of the influential New York punk quartet the Ramones, died Friday at his home in the Ridgewood area of Queens, New York. He was 65 and had been in hospice care following treatment for bile duct cancer.

Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, and known professionally as Tom or T. Erdelyi, Ramone played on the first three epoch-making Ramones albums, “Ramones” (1976), “Leave Home” (1977) and “Rocket to Russia” (1977). He also co-produced the latter two albums with Tony Bongiovi and Ed Stasium, respectively. He appeared on and co-produced the 1979 live Ramones opus “It’s Alive.”

After leaving the Ramones to concentrate on studio work, he co-produced the band’s 1984 album “Too Tough to Die” with Stasium. He was replaced in the lineup by Marc Bell (Marky Ramone), a former member of Dust and Richard Hell’s Voidoids.

One of the first high-profile releases to emerge from New York’s punk underground of the mid-‘70s, “Ramones” – reportedly recorded in six days on a budget of $6,400 – brought a pared-down, hyperactive style to the stuffy rock scene of the day. Tommy’s driving, high-energy drum work was the turbine that powered the leather-clad foursome’s loud, antic sound.

Tom Erdelyi emigrated to America in 1957 and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, where he played with guitarist John Cummings – later Johnny Ramone – in Tangerine Puppets. He went on to study engineering and worked at the Record Plant (where he assisted on a 1969 Jimi Hendrix session) and other facilities.

The Ramones coalesced with the addition of fellow Queens musicians Jeffrey Hyman (aka lead singer Joey Ramone) and Douglas Colvin (bassist Dee Dee Ramone). Breaking in their act at Hilly Krystal’s Bowery club CBGB, the band was signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, also the home of such other punk acts as Richard Hell, Talking Heads and the Dead Boys.

The Ramones finally disbanded in 1996 after a show at the Palace in Hollywood. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001; Dee Dee succumbed to a drug overdose in 2002; and Johnny expired from prostate cancer in 2004.

The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Erdelyi’s other production credits included the Replacements’ major label debut “Tim” (1985) and L.A. punk unit Redd Kross’ “Neurotica” (1987). In later years, he went the acoustic route, playing bluegrass and country music with his partner Claudia Tienan in Uncle Monk.

He is survived by Tienan and an older brother. A private funeral service is planned.

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  1. Janice Cade says:

    It’s very sad when someone dies, I didn’t know him personally but my heart goes out to the family of a legend.

  2. Sue Few says:

    What a stunning and wonderful legacy left behind from all the Ramones. Count your blessings that we were here to witness it!
    Sue Few

  3. I can’t think of the Ramones without thinking of “Rock n Roll High School”. And the only reason to remember that movie (IMHO) is the Ramones. Roger Corman may get the credit, but the Ramones made it. RIP guys!

  4. Vince says:

    Fast and short, just like their songs. It’s a sad day.

  5. kalmekc says:

    … waay too young. thx for your musical legacy

  6. anicek says:

    Well written.

  7. Bill Willard says:

    From 1979 thru ’82 I was the road manner and FOH for the Ventures, a seminal influence for The Ramones and we shared a bill once with them in Denver that I’ll never forget. The Ramones would blast through about 5 songs and then the whole band would rush backstage and each would take a few big hits of nitrous from a big tank in the dressing room. Then they’d each take a few hits of pure oxygen from another tank and rush back onstage for another blast of 5 songs, only to repeat the process again and again. Easily the most fun band I ever had the chance to work with……

  8. suzi says:

    My first Ramones show was at My Fathers Place in Roslyn long before they became famous. I got hooked on the band at that first show and never stopped loving The Ramones and Punk Rock music. I am so sad that we’ve lost yet another Ramone. I’m sure there’s an Old School Punk Rock show going on in heaven.

    4,5,6,7 All Cretins Go To Heaven
    Rest In Peace Tommy

  9. Rich says:

    This news hurts….now there are 2 more Beatles alive than Ramones…for the entire band to have died so young is really sad.

  10. Bill Thomas says:

    Sad news. RIP Tommy and all of the four original Ramones lineup. Many thanks to Chris Morris for his always excellent writing and reporting.

  11. John Trapp says:

    Damn, that band must have been exposed to something. That’s 3/4th of the band dead from cancer, and that’s only because Dee Dee died of a heroin OD. Who knows if he would have got it as well if he lived longer.

    • Nick Jay says:

      We are all exposed John with mobile phones, computers, even gmo food etc – I know that the band will be remembered forever and will never be forgotten. RIP you will be dearly missed :(

  12. Monte A. Melnick says:

    Tommy was my dearest and oldest friend.
    We grew up together in Forest Hills Queens New York.
    I went to Stephen A Halsey Jr High and Forest Hills High school with him.
    He got me to pick up the bass guitar and enter into the crazy world of rock music.
    We played in several bands together (Triad & Butch) here in NYC over the late 60’s and early 70’s.
    We built and managed Performance Studios in NYC, a recording/rehearsal studio the Ramones started in. I worked with him when he in the Ramones and well after he left.
    He had an advanced musical foresight, well ahead of the times in forming and being part of the Ramones. He was a great musician on the guitar, then the drums, later on the mandolin, banjo, fiddle and many more instruments. His musical expanse bridged from Punk to Indie Bluegrass.
    He will be
    I mourn the passing of the last of the original Ramones, my friend and a true musical visionary.

  13. Bert Ramone says:

    So sad. The end of one of the greatest and most beautiful american bands ever. Goodbye Tommy, Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey. Goodbye The Ramones. May you all rest in peace. The young at heart will love you on forever. Gabba Gabba – Hey Hey.

  14. Jimi LaLumia says:

    Marky Ramone, who replaced Tommy, was a drummer for NY punk icon Wayne County, who is now Jayne County..

  15. Patricia Hargraves says:

    The Ramones opened for Iggy Pop, in 1977. I was 14 years young and it was my first concert. I was a Ramones, follower since that night. Rest in peace guys and rock on in the heavens! Your music will continue to influence others and live on forever. I sure do miss those days!

  16. Terry Gotham says:

    Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:
    End of an Era. Pay your respects & do your homework if you have no idea what this article is talking about. The Ramones were rocking before your parents started fucking. Educate the mind.

  17. Chris Morris says:

    The word “original” was auto-deleted below. Thanks HTML or somebody.

  18. Chris Morris says:

    Last surviving member. Marky replaced Tommy, as the story notes.

  19. punkforeverxx says:

    I ‘m sorry I did not see the 96″ palladium show -I still have my unused ticket- r.i.p. tommy-

  20. Rob Williams says:

    Last surviving member? Is Marky non-existent or something?

    RIP, Tommy. Thanks for bringing so much epic to music.

  21. Michael says:

    I’m on the verge of tears right now…can’t believe that Tommy has now left us! But the music of the Ramones will live on…Tommy, you and your bruddahs have done us proud! All the good cretins have gone to Heaven… :'(

    • JBizzle says:

      Please reread title; it clearly states “founding” member. Also first sentence in article states, “original” member of the band. Marky replaced Tommy. Variety was spot on. Maybe you were “Sedated” when you glanced over this piece.

  22. crunchysteve says:

    According to The Ramones Facebook page, he was born in 1949, which makes him 65, not 62. Still, either age is too young to die. At least we still have the music, you’ll be missed, Tommy.

  23. im fucking crying right now man….. this sucks.

  24. So very sorry to hear of hiss passing. To young. Also could there be a link to all of these members dying from cancer? So sad. Thanks for the great music. No more pain. RIP.

  25. DJ says:

    RIP Tommy Ramone…. All the original Ramones way before their time. Must be a heck of a need for wicked bands in Heaven. CJ, Richie,and Marky Ramone keep the Legacy alive with live shows world wide. The Ramones influenced many and still do today. Those four guys from Queens made a mark that will never be forgot. From the first songs in the 70s the Ramones are forever……. Gabba Gabba Hey

  26. Mark says:

    His correct date of birth is January 29th 1952 (not 1949) Budapest, Hungary. He was 62.

  27. guycybershy says:

    The only rock band in history where everyone died EXCEPT the drummer.

  28. Chris Jordan says:

    Maybe he is wishing it were a hoax, I know I am. I only wish they were Too Tough To Die.

  29. Cindy Faust says:

    My heart just broke a little more. Gabe gaba hey. <3

  30. Jericho says:

    Just a minor point Variety, but maybe the Editor would want to check Christopher Morris’s math? my 6 year old jut told me that he figures that Johnny Ramone would have been 62.

  31. Mark says:

    The Band is now complete in Punk Rock Heaven.

  32. Chris Morris says:

    This is not a hoax. I spoke with Andy Schwartz, the former editor of New York Rocker, who is representing Tommy’s family, and I guarantee this is sadly all too true.

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