John William Cummings (October 8, 1948 – September 15, 2004), Professionally known as The Legend – Johnny Ramone. Right-wing Regan supporting Legend, Not something I find myself saying every day. He always or most of the time on TV he came across as a bit of a miserable git to be fair always moaning always complaining but fuck me he was Johnny Ramones and that was the currency for all the above and some in my book. Not the most gifted guitar player by a long chalk but none of that mattered because it was his downstroke genius that fueled the band as much as Joey’s voice or Dee Dees 1-2-3-4. He was a founding member of the band, and remained a member throughout their entire career I’m sure he would have threatened to walk on more than one occasion but he didn’t and from the first chord til the last, he was the man.
He was born in Queens on October 8, 1948, the only child of a construction worker and first met future bandmate Douglas Colvin, (Dee Dee Ramone), while working a job delivering dry cleaning. They would do lunch together and discuss their love of the Stooges and MC5. Together the two went to Manny’s Music in New York City in January 1974, where Johnny famously bought a used blue Mosrite Ventures II guitar for just over $54 his weapon of choice throughout the bands career Mosrite Guitars were cheap and nasty but it seemed like the perfect weapon of choice for the budding musician he remained loyal to the Mosrite throughout his playing days. His arsenal of effects was made up of a tuner and the overdrive of a Marshall head and that’s it, you could say he traveled light but that would be an understatement.
Throughout the bands tenure, there were plenty of disagreements and fallings out which is hardly surprising considering the time spent in each others company whilst on the road but Johnny was responsible for initiating one of the major sources of animosity within the band when he began seeing Linda Daniele (who he later married), she dated Joey before swapping him for the guitarist. Allegedly, this prompted Joey to write songs like “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and “She Belongs To Me”, Though the band remained together for years after this, relations between Johnny and Joey remained strained often hostile and they spent days touring and not even speaking. Years later, when Joey was in the hospital dying of cancer, Johnny refused to telephone him. He later candidly 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. When pressed, he 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 saying, “I’m not doing anything without him. I felt that was it. He was my partner. Me and him. I miss that.” a rare moment of tenderness and brotherhood from Johnny.
Johnny was known within the punk rock community as one of its few conservatives and was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party. He 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”, “I think Ronald Reagan was the best President of my lifetime.” there must have been plenty of discussions within the band around the time they released “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” in ’85; With Johnny insisting on a name change, finding the title insulting to Reagan, the others in the band compromised and changed it to “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” for the American market. Such band politics seem hilarious now looking back because everybody knew it as the UK release title.
His limitations in the six-string department was a closely guarded secret (not) with the likes of Daniel Rey and Walter Lure claiming to have laid plenty of guitar parts down over the years as well as bandmate Tommy. I might be wrong in saying but the only guitar solo he played was on ‘I Can’t Make It on Time’. Johnnys style has been copied by many over the years and was a huge influence on many players who tried to copy his downstroke style.
Before he died Johnny lived in Los Angeles where he spent his dying days and he’s laid to rest in Hollywood Forever Cemetry with an incredible statue to mark his grave. Johnny was diagnosed with prostate cancer and passed at the young age of 55. johnny loved baseball and Elvis
His legacy is being immortalised in The Simpsons. Having a flunko pop character made of you, dozens of books about you and your music, being part of one of musics coolest most iconic images, having one of the best back catalogues by any band ever and even if you think they haven’t The Ramones have had an impact on your life if you ever liked a loud fast rock and roll song chances are there is a tiny piece of the Ramones in it somewhere down the line I guarantee it. Forever being associated with the look the logo the sound and the City of New York.
Rest in peace Johnny Ramone we love you!