Who is Johnny Ryall?
May 15, 2012 11:34 PM   Subscribe

The Beastie Boys, "Johnny Ryall ." Wikipedia is useless here. Was this a real person they knew??

I won't link to my last reference, but I've had Paul's Boutique playing exclusively in my Jeep for at least the past 10 months.

I've known the Beasties since WLIR on Long Island was featuring "Cookie Puss", way back in what?? 1983??

Who is Johnny Ryall? That song is way too put together to be about an entirely fictional character.

posted by jbenben to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: AV Club review of Paul’s Boutique: 20th Anniversary Edition:
The Boutique reissue contains no bonus tracks, just a goofy audio commentary where the Boys reflect fondly on their stoned youths, pontificating on the intricacies of egg-throwing and the real-life inspiration for “Johnny Ryall.”
posted by pracowity at 12:05 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: And another review says:
The album’s re-release adds no new music (a shame, considering the quality of such b-sides as “33% God” and “Dis Yourself in ’89 (Just Do It)”), but does include a downloadable file featuring track-by-track commentary from the Boys themselves reminiscing about some of the stories and characters behind the songs themselves, such as the tale of the real Johnny Ryall (“He was a bum on my stoop; Russell Simmons got on me for letting him wear one of our Def Jam satin tour jackets because it was so cold out!” remembers Mike D).
So apparently he was a real guy they knew. But that doesn't say whether he was really ever a rockabilly performer, whether he claimed that or whether they made that up just for the song, etc.
posted by pracowity at 12:10 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my head, whenever I hear the song this guy is my Johnny Ryall.
Techincally it's not him, not exactly, but you'd see Cowboy Ray all over the lower east side and he had his claims to fame but mostly he was just a guy who was always around.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:01 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here I am typing from the 33-1/3 book on Paul's Boutique, so you'd better give me best answer!
Johnny Ryall was a vagrant who frequently turned up on the stoop of Diamond's New York apartment building after the Licensed to Ill tour. No one recalls his real name, but he was rechristened by Diamond's roommate at the time, Sean Casarov, who also invented a history for the amiable beggar. "I had this brean fart that he used to be a rockabilly star. He had that look,' says Casarov. "Actually, he kinda looked like the fifty-miles-of-bad-road version of Chet Baker."

...some more stuff and then...

At times, the Beasties used their subject (who allegedly wrote "Blue Suede Shoes," but got shafted on the credits, as a symbol of their ongoing legal battles with Def Jam. "He definitely has a lot of stories about not getting paid," Mike D told Request. "So Johnny has become our main adviser."
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:54 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

I always heard it as Johnny Rael, Rael being a Latin surname.
posted by No Shmoobles at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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