Steve Craig (99X, The River, X107.1) reminisces about the Ramones after Tommy Ramone’s death

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Steve Craig of X107.1 and 97.1/The River, has warm memories of The Ramones. CREDIT: The River

Originally posted July 13, 2014 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Steve Craig, who worked at 99X for 16-plus years and is now a jock on 97.1/The River and music director of new alternative rock station X107.1, has been a huge Ramones fan for nearly four decades.

When I heard drummer Tommy Ramone had died over the weekend and that all the original members are gone, Craig came to mind since he used to do the delightfully silly "Wheel of Ramones" bit during his noon Retroplex every week on the now defunct 99X. (He did his final "Wheel of Ramones" for 99X online in 2008, landing on "Rockaway Beach.")

Craig, on the River, brought back the "Wheel of Ramones" at 11:08 a.m. this morning and spun "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "Blitzkrieg Bop."

The Ramones arrived on the punk scene in New York City in the 1970s, which makes the fact all four of their original members are dead all the more jarring since many bands from the 1960s still have plenty of live members. (e.g. half the Beatles and four out of six original Rolling Stones are still around.)

Here are Craig's thoughts:

I was very saddened when I heard about Tommy's passing... but also a little relieved, knowing that he was fighting cancer and losing the battle.  I had learned through some friends I had made in NYC (most notably Mickey Leigh, Joey Ramone's little brother) that he was in hospice care and wasn't doing very well.

I met Tommy Erdelyi for the 2nd time, back stage when I hosted the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash concert in May of 2010. Mickey would gather a bunch of the old NYC punk bands and musicians and throw a pretty wild concert event that raised money for Lymphoma research. He was very quiet, kinda shy... until we all got on the subject of music production, and he lit up like a Christmas tree!  He was very passionate and obviously an expert... I could have talked to him for hours.

The Ramones at the 17th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, March 18, 2002. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect)

The first time I met Tommy was on my birthday, August 11 in 1976 at the Roxy in Los Angeles.  My girlfriend at the time was a little more musically aggressive than I was then, my first concert being The Beach Boys & Chicago. She snuck me into my first real, gritty, up-close and personal show.  I had heard about The Ramones but had no idea what I was in for.  It was a 35 minute, lightning fast, in-your-face, one after another set that changed my musical life forever.  Everyone was watching Joey and Johnny... I couldn't take my eyes off Tommy on the drums. I thought I was a pretty good drummer at 17, but this guy was insane... and fast. The next week, I ditched my Beatles, Beach Boys and CCR albums that I was "playing along" to, and bought the first Ramones album. Couldn't even come close to keeping Tommy's rhythm, but it pissed off my parents, so it was perfect!

After that show, which I learned later was their very first West Coast concert, Tommy and Johnny were hanging out with some people near the stage, and I walked over and said something to Tommy that I believe was, "hey, that show was far-out!" or something stupid like that... he smiled and said "Thanks - I'd give ya a stick but I broke 'em all..."

hey ho ramones

About 20 years later, when I started the House of Retro Pleasure on 99X, Sean Demery and I were semi-arguing about how all The Ramones' songs were 2 minutes long and exactly the same... If I remember correctly, as I was defending their musical ingenuity, Sean had said something like "you could put a Ramones CD on "random" and never know what you'd get, but it would sound the same". That gave me an idea.  I put together a "Wheel Of Fortune" sound effect with music, and the "Gabba-Gabba-Hey" bit and played it up like there was ALL their songs on the wheel and I'd give it a "random" spin... In reality, it was a way for me to play some of their favorites (larger "pie slice") or throw in some deeper stuff.  I sold our PD, Brian Phillips on the idea saying that if the songs were too obscure, they were only 2 minutes long, anyway.  It became a pretty classic weekly bit for my show!

When I started working at 101.9 WRXP in New York City... I spun the Wheel of Ramones daily, and it was a hit up there, too!  When I was introduced to Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith's legendary guitarist, he said "You're that guy that does the Wheel of Ramones! I F#@king love that!".  Lenny F#@kin' KAYE!

The Ramones are one of, if not the first influential rock band with all their original members now gone.  A lot of people were posting "RIP Tommy Ramone" on Twitter & Facebook the last few days... but Tommy is not resting, nor is there peace in Heaven right now, because The Ramones are back together again!  1-2-3-4!

The Ramones landed exactly zero top 40 hits. But many of their classics endure in alternative rock circles such as "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," "Blitzkrieg Bop," and "I Wanna Be Sedated."

Last week, 228 radio stations nationwide measured by Mediabase 24/7 spun at least one Ramones song. Locally, the Ramones were heard 12 times split among  Rock 100.5, Radio 105.7 and 97.1/The River.

"I Wanna Be Sedated" was by far the most popular song heard in the past seven days: 145 times nationwide.