Richie Ramone is the fastest, most powerful drummer who ever played with the legendary punk-rock band the Ramones, and he wrote several popular songs during his five years in the group, including “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” He’s recorded with Chubby Checker and the B-52’s Fred Schneider, and has written and arranged for jazz and orchestral groups, but at heart Richie remains a true punk-rocker as he prepares to release his solo debut in 2013 and go on tour.
He was a drummer from the beginning. As a child prodigy, the classically trained musician began playing drums at age four and was touring professionally by age eleven. Among his teachers was the jazz great Joe Morello (of the Dave Brubeck Quartet), and he was being courted to enroll in Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music when Richie instead dove into the 1980s New York underground music scene. Under the name Richie Beau, he played there with the Shirts and Velveteen.
In 1983, he was recruited into the Ramones, and first appeared with the band on their Subterranean Jungle tour. For the next five years, Richie performed over 500 shows around the world with the punk rock originators and wrote several critically acclaimed songs and fan-favorites for the albums Animal Boy, Too Tough Too Die and Halfway to Sanity. His song “Somebody Put Something in My Drink” was a mainstay in the Ramones set right up until their final show in 1996. It was also featured on Ramones Mania, the only Ramones album to go gold, as well as many motion pictures, and continues to be covered by new generations of bands worldwide.
Richie also wrote “I’m Not Jesus,” “Can’t Say Anything Nice,” “I Know Better Now,” “Humankind” and “Smash You” (which became the title track for one of the Ramones’ most successful re-releases, Smash You: Live ’85). Richie’s “I’m Not Jesus” took the Ramones in a heavier direction and has become a frequent cover tune for innumerable heavy metal bands.
Richie sang back-up vocals on several Ramones songs, including their controversial hardcore track “Wart Hog.” Richie was also the first and only drummer to sing lead vocals on Ramones songs: “Can’t Say Anything Nice” and the unreleased “Elevator Operator,” plus a multitude of Ramones demos.
The relationships among of the Ramones were famously rocky (as revealed in On the Road with the Ramones by road manager Monte Melnick, I Slept with Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh, and the 2003 documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones). But Richie enjoyed close bonds with both Joey and Dee Dee, and collaborated with the Ramones bassist on his solo material, including his brief hip-hop career as Dee Dee King. Singer Joey once said of the drummer, “[Richie] saved the band as far as I’m concerned. He [was] the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back in the band.”
In recent years, Richie’s drumming has led him into other genres of popular music, stretching from punk to jazz and orchestral music. In 2007, Richie Ramone introduced his virtuosic drumming to the symphonic world with his “Suite for Drums and Orchestra” based on Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. He debuted his arrangement with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra as the featured drum soloist and was an immediate hit with critics and patrons there and in other cities. He is currently working on another innovative “Suite for Drums and Orchestra” comprised of classic James Bond movie songs.
In 2011, the Recording Academy gave the Ramones a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in Los Angeles, where all three of the band’s drummers (Tommy, Marky and Richie Ramone) stood beneath the same roof for the first time ever. Richie is also the only surviving Ramone to be featured on the long awaited second Joey Ramone solo album, “Ya Know?” released on May 22, 2012 and has just finished his 2012 South America tour. Currently, Richie looks forward to the 2013 release of his first solo album, “Entitled”, and is preparing a worldwide tour in support of his new album kicking off at the 2013 Stone Festival in Sydney, Australia.