Published on September 5th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann


Charleston Celebrates the Ramones at the Tin Roof

There aren’t too many Ramones fans in town as dedicated and enthusiastic as Johnny Puke, one of the main bartender and talent scouts at West Ashley hangout the Tin Roof. When the news hit in July that drummer Tommy Ramone — the last remaining member of the band’s original lineup — died of cancer at his home in Queens, New York, Puke quickly conjured a plan to organize an all-night live-band tribute to Tommy and his late bandmates, singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, and bassist Dee Dee Ramone.

The Ramones were a key band in the early days of punk in New York, playing at CBGB’s and other ratty clubs in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As delivered on their 1976 self-titled debut album, the band’s primitive style, primal energy, and penchant for simple pop hooks made for a potent combination that kick-started punk rock in the U.S. and U.K.

Ramones Pic2

Johnny, Tommy, Joey, and Dee Dee (provided)

“The music of the Ramones really influenced everyone — even if it was based on the idea that a normal person could just pick up a guitar and write a song,” Puke says. “And their influence is going last forever, like the Beatles or the Who. They’ll always be a touchstone. Any indie rock that’ll be created over the next 20 years will have some Ramones in it. That’s all there is to it.”

Currently performing as the frontman for the loud and outrageous punk band Space Fags (pictured above on stage at the Tin Roof), Puke has enjoyed a lengthy career in punk rock, both as a musician/singer and as a promoter. He spent the mid and late ’90s as the lead singer in the energetic pop-punk band Cletus, and he booked a wild variety of gig for the late King Street venue Cumberland’s throughout the 2000s. Over the last 10 years, his raucous, punk-themed birthday parties were a traditional summertime phenomenon at Cumberland’s and the Tin Ro

During his time in Charleston and various stints in New York, Puke never got to see the Ramones play live in concert. He fondly remembers seeing them on the small screen for the first time, though. “The first time I’d ever hard the Ramones was on the Tomorrow with Tom Snyder [in 1981]. They were playing ‘We Want the Airwaves.’ I’d never heard or seen anything like that. Snyder, who was sitting there smoking, said after their set, ‘What I just heard was not music!’ It was great.”

Ramones trib

Puke also remembers the first Ramones tune he ever learned. “I’m a lousy player, but I do remember the first Ramones tune I ever learned on guitar: it was ‘Beat on the Brat.’ And that’s one of the songs the Space Fags are doing at the Tin Roof. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ was super easy to play. I used to be able to play that one with only two fingers.”

This Sunday, Sept. 7, an impressive mix of musicians and bands from the Charleston music scene will congregate at the Roof for a full night of Ramones faves and deep cuts.

The roster will feature the V-Tones, Dustin Fanning, the Heyward Faction, Chris Patterson , Underworld Connections, the Farm Upstate, Arleigh Hertzler, Teenage Eagle, Jenna Ave Lallemant, Punks & Snakes, Glowgoyle, Lindsay Holler, Strÿkeförce, First World Problem, the Space Fags, Bully Pulpit, Dumb Doctors, and several other special guests.

“I was really pleased with the response from musicians and the types of bands we ended up with,” Puke says. “I would have loved to have had a bluegrass band and an actual metal band on the bill, too. I love the whole diversity of it. It’s not just bands that could be considered ‘punk.’ That’s really a tribute to the Ramones, how everyone wants to honor their music.”

The Ramones Tribute is set for 7 p.m. on Sun. Sept. 7 at the Tin Roof in West Ashley. Admission is $7. Visit reverbnation.com/venue/tinroofwashley or the club’s Facebook page for more.

Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.



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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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