Ronnie Tutt, Drummer for Elvis Presley and the Jerry Garcia Band, Dead at 83
In-demand musician also played on Billy Joel’s hit “Piano Man,” Buckingham Nicks and Gram Parsons’ solo LPs
Ronnie Tutt, drummer and original member of Elvis Presley’s TCB Band and the Jerry Garcia Band and a famed session musician who performed alongside Billy Joel, Buckingham Nicks and more, has died at the age of 83.
Elvis Presley Enterprises announced Tutt’s death Saturday, writing on the Graceland website, “All of us with Elvis Presley Enterprises were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ronnie Tutt. In addition to being a legendary drummer, he was a good friend to many of us here at Graceland.” No cause of death was provided.
“We enjoyed each time he joined us here to celebrate Elvis Week, Elvis’ Birthday and many other special occasions. Ronnie was an amazing ambassador to Elvis’ legacy – sharing his memories of working with Elvis with fans – as well as bringing Elvis’ music to arenas around the globe through later Elvis in Concert shows and performances.”
The Dallas-born drummer joined Presley’s famed TCB Band (short for Takin’ Care of Business) following the singer’s 1968 comeback special, with Tutt serving as drummer for Presley’s 1969 Las Vegas opening and his subsequent residencies; Tutt remained with the group through Presley’s death in 1977, and continued to perform with the TCB Band in the decades that followed.
Beginning the mid-Seventies — while still in the employ of Presley — Tutt became an in-demand touring and session drummer, spending two years in the first incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band — including playing on heir 1978 debut LP Cats Under the Stars and Garcia’s solo albums Reflections and Run for the Roses, as well as the group’s live gigs.
In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Tutt talked about the differences between performing alongside Presley and Garcia, often in the same weekend.
“I’d always laugh because one night I’d be in Vegas playing with rhinestone two-piece outfits and the next night I’d be out with Garcia with the tie-dye and a pair of jeans. Socially speaking it was really different,” Tutt said
“Elvis’ music was a lot more in your face; you could never play enough. But with Jerry we never talked about it, but I just knew my role with that band, no matter what configuration it was, was to help keep it together.”
Tutt also notably toured with Neil Diamond and played drums on a pair of Billy Joel albums — 1973’s The Piano Man and 1974’s Streetlife Serenade — appearing on the hits “Piano Man,” “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” and “The Entertainer.” Other credits include playing on the lone Buckingham Nicks album in 1973, Gram Parsons’ GP and Grievous Angel, Elvis Costello’s King of America and Johnny Cash’s John R Cash.
In Rolling Stone’s 2017 interview, Tutt reflected on a career that spanned over 60 years. “I just remember the good things, that’s for sure. You got to,” he said. “I just remember laughing a lot and having a good time musically, so I have nothing but good memories.”