It is with deep regret that Blondie announces the passing of their long time friend and collaborator best known as Ronnie Toast, on April 9, 2017. Ron Kankas was born on March 24, 1952. He was 65.
Also from Bayonne, New Jersey, Ron was already a close friend of drummer Clem Burke when he first joined Blondie in April 1975. A poet and lyricist, Ron made his debut collaboration with Blondie on their self-titled first album in 1976, co-writing the song “Rifle Range” with Chris Stein and contributing a poem included on the album jacket – a vividly apropos reference connecting Blondie and fun that predated Blondie’s new single, “Fun” by more than 40 years. Blondie’s second album, Plastic Letters, contained another Ronnie Toast / Chris Stein collaboration: “Cautious Lip”, a track that was included on a number of 7″ vinyl singles from around the world in 1977 and was performed live in the band’s early days and then again during the 1993-94 tours.
Ron shared a rich history with the band from the earliest CBGB days to the present. Clem Burke recently shared an excerpt from his unpublished autobiography about an October 1980 encounter between Ron and Iggy Pop with Please Kill Me (“Iggy’s Scarf: A Memory of Ronnie Toast by Clem Burke“). In Debbie Harry’s 1982 autobiography, Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie, fans discovered that the origin of his pseudonym was rooted in graffiti:
“Also from Bayonne came Ronnie Toast, a general inspiration during this period, who wrote lyrics and poetry. He was called Ronnie Toast because he accidentally burned down his parents’ big house in New Jersey. After the fire he went back and wrote TOAST in spray paint on the wall. The people from the bug house apparently chased him down the street with a net. After that, Toast was in and out of the bug house a few times.”
Chris Stein recalled the band’s own early tribute to Ronnie Toast in his 2014 photography book, Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk, in this passage that reprised the graffiti theme back in early 1977:
“The Mabuhay was San Francisco’s version of CBGB. The first time Blondie played there, the dressing room walls were blank white. We were the first to add graffiti. This has been documented by great SF photographer Jonathan Postal in shots of Blondie writing TOAST, and other things. When we came back less than a year or two later, not only were the walls covered with graffiti, but parts of them were eaten through from the vast quantities of ink and paint.”
Rock & Roll is the name of their game,
but to give you, the listeners,
more fun the object of their fame.
This album then may be just the thing
you non-blondes have been waiting for,
whether you like it or not
(as it’s only Rock & Roll).
‘Blondie’ hates fun
but they have so much of it
that they decided it’s time
to unload the real meaning
of fun on this lp.
So, if you think your color
has given you a shortage of fun–
this blonde has come
to give you a ton.