Have you ever had one moment in time that completely changed your life forever? Well, I did. It was in the school library listening room, where a friend of mine took me and said, “Andy you have to hear this,” and popped a cassette into one of the school's recorders. The song "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones began playing, and it was as if the heavens opened up and an angel sang to me. I totally connected with the band through their songs, sense of humor, and all-around cool style! Every time they were in my town I made sure I was the first to get tickets and was always slammed up in front of the stage watching what could only be called a perfect storm of punk rock music containing the energy of an Atom Bomb. Outcast aggression and a psycho-sense of humor all wrapped up in a perfect package. To me they were and still are the greatest band on the planet!
After school, I was living in Washington D.C. making a living by screen-printing t-shirts for just about every band in the area. I was a one-man band with a creative attitude that thrived in the then-small hardcore punk scene. One day, I met this girl who was as big a Ramones fan as I was. She was friends with Johnny and Joey, and asked me if I wanted to meet the band as they were playing at a local venue in D.C. I immediately took her up on the offer, and I even made Freaks t-shirts for each member of the band!
When the time came to stroll backstage, needless to say I was as nervous as I had ever been. Once in the dressing room I sheepishly gave them all one of the t-shirts I had made. When Dee Dee got his Freaks t-shirt he exclaimed, "Wow, this is the coolest shirt I have ever owned!" The entire band was extremely kind to me. As I said my goodbyes, I walked down the narrow backstage hallway to make sure I got a place at the front of the crowd when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and it was none other than guitarist Johnny Ramone. He thanked me for the t-shirt, asked me questions about my t-shirt company, and about my collecting hobby. We clicked immediately, and started a friendship that would last two decades.
The next time the band was in my town he wanted to come over to my place. My studio was an unfinished basement filled with all my designs and works in progress, and I even slept right next to a small screen-printing press. Johnny commented on my commitment to my craft and loved all my other t-shirts I had made. From then on, I was Johnny's personal t-shirt designer. He wore my designs until their final show in 1996 when he wore my infamous "Don't Fuck With Chuck" Manson tee. I was more than honored that he chose to end his career wearing one of my designs. That very shirt is now displayed at the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" archivers in Cleveland, Ohio.
Johnny and I had a special bond like no other. We spoke on the phone often and always tried to help each other out in the never-ending search for new additions to our collections. I would find pieces for Johnny's collection (freak-show memorabilia, baseball-related things, true crime oddities, etc), while Johnny would send me packages of rare Ramones posters and one-of-a-kind treasures! I got a phone call from Johnny one day and he asked me if I wanted his old license plates from his 1958 Ford Fairlane car since he was moving out to California. I said "Hell yes Johnny, I would love your old car license plates just sign them and send them to me,” I said to him, "Johnny, never throw anything away just sign it and send it to me no matter how obscure the item is!” Over the years my Ramones collection grew into an enormous, eccentric, one-of-a-kind punk rock exhibition! I kept everything in its original mailing envelopes and boxes – all of which had Johnnys' hand-written addresses on them. He was even a good sport about writing up letters of authenticity to compliment rare pieces!
Some of you out there may be wondering why I have decided to sell some very important pieces from my Ramones Collection. I have decided to focus my life on my new passion of being a stained glass artist. I want to memorialize in my art the passions I had for these bands. They were Gods to me, and I want to create the church of Punk Rock instead of a museum of artifacts.