Being a Ramone nearly broke him, but after decades of dormancy Richie Ramone is back with a vengeance.
After sitting on a drum throne behind Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee for five years, 1982-1987, Richie quietly quit The Ramones. He took a limousine home after a show in Long Island and never went back.
"They had no clue [I was] leaving," says Richie, whose real name is Richard Reinhardt. "The next day they were at my apartment, pounding the door down, but by then I didn't want anything to do with it."
It seemed like a fairy tale. Richie went from being a no-name musician to having his name in the famous Ramones' presidential seal. Not only did he get to play on three records, but they even let him write songs.
But The Ramones weren't a happy family. With Johnny at the helm, they were a business powerhouse, but Richie was treated as a business associate, he says. Every night he would watch t-shirts with his name and likeness fly off of the merch tables, but he never saw a dime. To hear him tell it, the other three members would get fat envelopes full of cash, but not Richie. He was given a weekly stipend, with added bonuses for albums, which was fine, at first.
And then came the broken promises.
As Richie remembers, he was promised he would make more, if he only stuck with it. Joey and Dee Dee swore they would get him what he wanted, in defiance of Johnny, but that didn't happen. So after that fateful last show in Long Island, Richie packed up and headed west, to Los Angeles.
"I always wanted to come here," Richie says, "I wanted to get out of New York City."
For a brief period, if asked, the individual members pretended they had no idea why Richie quit, eventually doing their best to bury his involvement altogether.
But the good thing was that he didn't have to be Richie Ramone anymore. He didn't have to be anything other than himself. Relaxing for the first time in half a decade, he took a break from drumming and went back to being Richard Reinhardt. He wouldn't pick the sticks up again for 10 years.
Richie spent his time living off of royalty checks and working odd jobs. He didn't want to acknowledge his creative side. He needed a break, a chance to let the limelight fade. But things changed when Joey Ramone's brother, Mickey Leigh, invited Richie to play the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash in 2006.
"That got my juices flowing," Richie says, "I started writing again."
Richie began writing his first solo album in 2010, and three years later released Entitled through DC-Jam Records. In January Richie went on tour to promote it, debuting in Las Vegas. It was the first time he had gone on the road to play live music since leaving The Ramones more than two decades ago. The tour will end with a show at the Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood tomorrow, March 12
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Is he finally ready to take back his piece of The Ramones' legacy?
"I think I am a piece of the legacy," he says. "You can't rewrite history, even though people try."