Johnny Ramone (John William Cummings) was the guitarist, and one of the founding members, of The Ramones. The sole member to not leave the band, or change his role, Johnny was militant in creating The Ramones’ image. He encouraged the band to take on their now famous skin tight jeans and leather jackets. The image of Johnny, with his guitar slung to his knees, his legs splayed as far apart as humanely possible, is the quintessential portrayal of a punk rock guitarist. Many alternative rock bands, and indeed most punk bands, have been influenced by Johnny’s style of playing. Not surprisingly, Johnny has also influenced the metal genre, with Rob Zombie, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine all crediting Johnny as inspiration.
Johnny’s signature guitar sound dominates every Ramones album. Their songs are all concise, short, and to the point. Johnny’s fast style reflects this song style. Known for barrages of rapid barre chords, all played downstroke (upstroke was not a part of this man’s vocabulary), his signature sound is best described as akin to that of a buzz saw. Utilizing simple chord progressions, The Ramones’ songs were catchy and energetic, and the short length of the songs allowed up to 30 to be played a set. If, for some ungodly reason, you have never heard any of The Ramones’ songs, their signature anthem “Blitzkreig Bop” is the perfect place to start. The first song off of their first album, Ramones, “Blitzkreig Bop” is 2:14 of chugging power chords, all played with deliberate downstrokes causing the listener to wonder as to the size of the muscles driving Johnny’s right wrist. The style would be carried across every song on the subsequent 14 albums The Ramones would release across three decades.
Arguably the most famous player of Mosrite Guitars, these guitars were a signature part of Johnny’s on stage image. Very rarely was he seen without a Mosrite at his knees, but he was known to play Rickenbacker 450s and a white Fender Strat. These guitars were usually complimented by either a Marshall JMP or a JCM Head unit with Marshall cabs. When Johnny Ramone passed away on September 15 2004, Rob Zombie had a statue, immortalizing the guitar hero’s signature stance, placed above his grave at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As shown by the perpetual pile of guitar picks at the base, this cenotaph has become a form of pilgrimage for many guitarists and ensures that Johnny’s legacy is too tough to die.