Born Richard Reinhardt in Passaic, New Jersey in 1957, drummer Richie Ramone joined the Ramones in 1983, during a time in which the group was struggling to find its footing in the post-punk and pre-grunge eighties. He recorded three albums with the band’s original members—Johnny, Joey, and Dee Dee Ramone—which despite being commercially unsuccessful, produced Ramones classics such as “I Wanna Live,” “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” “Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La),” and perhaps the Ramones most popular song from this period, the Richie Ramone-penned “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” After a falling out with the group over a financial dispute led to his departure from the band, Richie went underground for decades, until a phone call changed his life trajectory.
“There was a time in the mid-two-thousands,” says Richie, “where Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, called me. Every year they do the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash, and he said ‘You gotta come down and do it.’ So, I went down and played some songs and it felt pretty good.”
So good, in fact, the wheels began turning in Richie’s mind.
“I think you start to miss something after a while,” he says. “I hadn’t played in almost ten years. So, when I started getting back into it, people were like, ‘Oh, that was great, why don’t you start writing again?’ So I did, and the juices started flowing, and it just happened. I’m back in this crazy world, and it’s good for my soul. I’m enjoying it more than ever now.”
In 2013, Richie released his first proper solo album, Entitled, which he followed up with his second effort, Cellophane, in 2016. “I never thought I’d be doing this at 62-years-old. But, it’s working out good and the people love it. I talk to them every night at the merch table right after the show. I go over there to say hello, and they’re having a good time and think it’s excellent.”
These days, Richie Ramone is more than just a drummer—he’s a front man, too.
“Drumming is my first love—everybody knows me as a drummer,” he says. “But basically, now I’m just an entertainer. I want people to come out and then go home and tell their friends, ‘Wow, I had such a good time at the Richie Ramone show.’ That’s what it’s all about.” And, as Richie adds, “It’s hard to deliver a whole show and really connect with the audience when I’m behind all that metal and wood, you know? So, it’s important to move out front and mingle with them.”
Earlier this summer, Richie and his backing band toured South America—where the Ramones have Beatle-like status—and visited countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. In the beginning of September, he headed back out on the road for a 3-week East Coast jaunt, and his set lists are a potpourri of his time with the seminal punk outfit, as well as a mixture of his new material that represents where he is now. When asked what Ramones songs make it into his set, Richie enthusiastically notes that “We’ll probably dive into all of them at some point.
“Naturally, [we play] “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” The Ramones played that until their last show—they left it in their set. So, basically, my set is songs I wrote for the Ramones, and I play Ramones classic songs. I don’t get long-winded on “I Wanna Be Sedated,” or any of those really popular songs—I like to play more aggressive stuff, like “Havana Affair” from the first [Ramones] record, and stuff like that. And then I play from my two solo albums. So, that’s kind of the mix that happens.”
Performing the more blistering work from the Ramones canon is something that Richie feels suits his style best and gives him an opportunity to perform the songs with strength and conviction. “I can deliver the message [on those songs] better with my voice,” he says. “I’m not a crooner. Joey Ramone was crooner—he had a wonderful, wonderful voice. I have more of an in-your-face type of voice.”
Through the years, after his departure from the Ramones, Richie had very little contact with his former bandmates.
“It was over. Everyone was bitter. I did see Dee Dee. He’d come out to Los Angeles and hang with me. But, I never got around to [reconnecting with] Joey. I found out that, when he was near death, he was looking for me. So, that was kinda sad. I went to his funeral, but when I heard he was looking for me, I was like, ‘Aw, man, that really sucks.’ We were such close friends. We’d hang out every day for the four years that I was in the band. But then it just got all weird, and then that was it.”
But not all bridges had burned completely. “Tommy [Ramone, original drummer] came to a few of the Birthday Bashes, and I played drums on a few songs with Tommy singing. He was like, ‘That was honor to play with you, it was really cool.’ And CJ [Ramone, second bassist] and I have recently had more of a relationship because we did a show in South America together, and we’re possibly going to do another one this year. So, I talk to him a little.”
And there’s a new solo album in the works, as well.
“We’re writing now, so [a new album] will definitely come out next year. It takes me a little time to bit together something that I really like. I’m not as fast of a writer as other people are, but I want to have everything to have a good message. If I’m not saying something that’s real, then what does it matter?”
Be sure to catch Richie Ramone at the Bowery Electric in NYC on Sept. 11, Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville, NY on Sept. 12, and the Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ on Sept. 13!