Born in Budapest, Erdelyi Tamas came to America with his family in 1957. They settled in Forest Hills, Queens, where Erdelyi began playing music with a neighborhood friend, John Cummings (Johnny Ramone). The two played in bands off and on while Erdelyi was in high school, and they eventually linked up with two other neighborhood friends, Jeffery Hyman (Joey Ramone) and Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone). After the four saw the New York Dolls play, Tommy pushed his compatriots to start a band with a more “primitive” sound, and the Ramones were born.
Tommy originally served as the band’s manager, but he switched to drums when it was discovered that Joey Ramone couldn’t play drums all that well. Tommy played drums and co-wrote songs on the band’s seminal early albums, including Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia, and Road To Ruin. Ramone left the band in 1978; in an interview conducted with Pitchfork in 2005, he revealed that he left the band because the rigors of touring became too much for him. He continued handling the band’s business concerns, and he came back to produce the band’s eighth album, Too Tough To Die.
After leaving the Ramones, Tommy focused primarily on his work as a producer; most notably, he produced the Replacements’ Tim and Redd Kross’ Neurotica. He also performed with his partner Claudia Tienan in a bluegrass duo called Uncle Monk.
Before his death, Tommy was the last living original member of the Ramones; Joey died in 2001 of lymphoma, Dee Dee passed away in 2002 from a drug overdose, and Johnny Ramone passed away in 2004 after a battle with prostate cancer.
We were fortunate to interview Tommy for our Influences feature in 2011; you can read the interview here.