A Preview of Milwaukee’s Blank Generation: Johnny Thunders

POSTED:: October 15, 2009


photo of Johnny Thunders by Stanley Ryan Jones

Milwaukee’s Blank Generation: the title of the 2010 WMSE wall calendar is enough imagery in and of itself. Attitude reigned from 1979 – 1981, where Milwaukee resident and photographer Stanley Ryan Jones shot portraits of Milwaukee’s punk and New Wave club scene, hopping from the East Side to Downtown and Riverwest in search of some of the most expressively blank, and otherwise, faces of national and local music he could find.

The above shot of Johnny Thunders [HeartbreakersNew York Dolls] was taken after a particularly invigorating and hectic show in Milwaukee…

…so invigorating and hectic, in fact, that the guitarist forgot which end of his cigarette was which (notice him set to smoke it, filter side in Jones’ photograph, above).

Born John Anthony Genzale, Jr in 1952 in Queens, New York, helped form the famed New York Dolls from 1971 – 1975 along with Arthur Kane, Billy Murcia, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain. He adopted his stage name ‘Johnny Thunders’ at that time [taken from a comic book character]. Thunders soon after formed the Heartbreakers, leading the group with his trademark drawled vocals.

Throughout the 80′s and 90′s, Thunders continued songwriting, playing and recording until his death in 1991 in New Orleans, of which the cause of is unclear. Foul play is still suspected. Although drugs were said to be the main source of  blame, Thunders’ long-term suffering with an advanced stage of leukemia was later discovered, belying that the famous singer/guitarist had been battling for his life long before he had passed away.

POSTED BY:: Erin Wolf