Drummer Ronnie Tutt, the force behind legendary musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Costello, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and others, passed away on October 16 at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, US. He was 83 and is reported to have been suffering from heart ailments.
Tutt became known for being Presley’s drummer during his 1969 comeback in Las Vegas, as part of the TCB (Taking Care of Business) Band. Tutt was part of the brilliant rhythm section that propelled Presley to fame again after the four-week long residency at the International Hotel, reports the New York Times. He also appears on Presley’s 1969 live album From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis. This fruitful engagement continued until Presley’s demise in 1977.
Tutt’s death was announced on Saturday by Elvis Presley Enterprises, the company which handles Presley’s estate. They put out a statement: “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. 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.”
During his stint with Presley, his talent was noted by Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead. Tutt was roped in when Garcia created his own setup and started performing as the Jerry Garcia Band. Tutt also played drums on the band’s debut album Cats Under the Stars (1978 )and Garcia’s solo albums Reflections and Run for the Roses, reports Rolling Stone.
Tutt also played on two of Billy Joel’s albums: the seminal The Piano Man (1973) and Streetlife Serenade (1974). In a statement about Tutt’s death posted to his Facebook page, Joel wrote, “Ron was a power drummer who also played with finesse. His timing was impeccable and he played his drum parts to the lyrics, as well as the music in any song he played on. His live performances with Elvis Presley were legendary.”
By this point, he was an in-demand session musician as well, and also appeared on Elvis Costello’s King of America and Johnny Cash’s John R Cash.