Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Tommy Ramone died at age 62. According to public records, he was 65.
Tom Erdelyi hadn’t planned to become Tommy Ramone, but circumstances forced him into a new identity as the drummer and driving force behind one of the most influential and unforgettable rock-and-roll bands of the 1970s.
He was the last surviving member of the Ramones, the seminal New York punk group whose buzzsaw music and don’t-give-a-rip attitude have been a lasting influence for more than a generation. Mr. Erdelyi (or Ramone, as he was better known), who was 65, died July 11 at his home in Queens.
The official Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Ramones confirmed his death. The cause was bile-duct cancer.
There had been other stripped-down groups before the Ramones, but the four leather-clad kids from Queens created a distinctive no-frills identity, with their torn jeans and style-free haircuts, as they pounded out songs that had the speed and subtlety of a machine gun.
It didn’t matter that they could barely play their instruments: The Ramones were a rock-and-roll primal scream, an expression of rebellion, loneliness, spite and raw, unfiltered fun.
As a show of brotherly solidarity, each band member adopted the last name Ramone. The band had read that Paul McCartney had checked into hotels as Paul Ramone, derived from the name of pop-music producer Phil Ramone.
The other original Ramones included Joey (Jeffrey Hyman) on vocals; Johnny (John Cummings) on guitar; and Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) on bass.
Mr. Erdelyi, who had worked as a record producer beginning in his teens, was going to be the band’s manager and was helping audition drummers when the group was forming in 1974. When none of them could follow the Ramones’ style, he picked up the sticks himself, learned to play drums on the job and became Tommy Ramone.
The group’s first album, “Ramones,” came out in 1976, with the quartet posing against a brick wall, hands in pockets. Tommy Ramone was wearing sunglasses, as he usually did while performing.
Critics sensed something important about the band from the beginning.
“For me, it blows everything else off the radio,” Robert Christgau wrote in the Village Voice about the Ramones’ debut album.
When the group first performed in Washington in 1976, an unsigned review in The Washington Post was not so complimentary. The Ramones “demonstrated that they are perhaps the worst of the New York punk bands,” the anonymous reviewer wrote. “Wrapped in black leather, the Ramones — Johnny, Joey, Tommy and DeDe [sic] — assault, insult, stalk, posture and swagger their way through a collection of mindless numbers.”
Of course, in the Ramones’ alternative universe, that spirit of wild, careless anti-conformity was precisely the point. The band was an upthrust finger pointed toward the sappy, overproduced pop music of the time.
“It was time for a change, and we felt we could bring back the spirit and the feel of rock-and-roll,” Tommy Ramone told USA Today in 2004. “I knew from the start what we were doing was innovative and had the potential to start a genre and a movement. What we didn’t know is that it wouldn’t explode until years later.”
Almost every Ramones song began with Dee Dee shouting, “1-2-3-4!” The band then launched into its peculiarly fresh teen anthems, most played with the force of a fire hose.
There was a bizarre kind of wistful nihilism underlying such early tunes as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Suzy Is a Headbanger,” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rockaway Beach” and the 1978 classic “I Wanna Be Sedated.” (All the band’s songs were credited to “The Ramones,” but Tommy Ramone was a major contributor to many.)
At the band’s live shows, devoted fans crowded the stage in a sweaty throng, screaming along with the simple lyrics: “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” or “Rock, rock, Rockaway Beach. We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach!”
There was no illusion of high art, and the Ramones came off as just what they were: a bunch of blue-collar outcasts who wanted to snarl at the world, make a lot of noise and get some kicks. Tommy Ramone left the band in 1978 but continued to work as producer on the band’s records well into the 1980s.
“Touring was very hard for me,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2007. “What made them so good also made them very hard to deal with on a 24-hour basis. They were such intense personalities.”
The Ramones broke up in 1996 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. They influenced British punk bands who became more famous and a generation of younger groups, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Nirvana to Green Day.
The Ramones captured the spirit of their time, yet none of their early recordings became a top-selling hit.
“If the Ramones hadn’t been such a magnificent band, if their songs hadn’t been so instantly transporting and their style so undeniably influential,” rock critic Kurt Loder wrote in 2004, “their utter commercial neglect wouldn’t have been so heartbreaking.”
Tamas Erdelyi was born Jan. 29, 1949, in Budapest. (Some accounts give his name at birth as Erdelyi Tamas.) His parents, who were Jewish, were in hiding during World War II and left Hungary during the country’s short-lived revolution of 1956.
Mr. Erdelyi grew up, like the other Ramones, in the Forest Hills section of Queens. He played in a garage band with Cummings (Johnny Ramone) in the 1960s. At 18, he was an assistant engineer on Jimi Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsys” live album.
He later worked as a producer of albums by the Replacements, Redd Kross and other groups. In recent years, he performed with his longtime partner, Claudia Tienan, as a bluegrass duo called Uncle Monk.
“What we do is take old-time music and bluegrass influences and create modern songs with them,” he said in 2007. “It is not unusual to find punk rockers gravitating toward this type of music. It’s a natural fit, even if it might not seem that way.”
Survivors include Tienan and a brother.
As the last torch-bearer of the Ramones, Mr. Erdelyi kept the memories of an indelible band and its uncompromising ethos alive.
“What we did was change the slant back to the prime essence of rock-and-roll, not just the musicality but the idea behind it, the freedom and rebellion, the real alternative scene,” he said in 2004.
“In my heart I’ve always been a Ramone.”