Drummer Ron Tutt: 1938 – 2021

The renowned musician performed with Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia and many others.

By Andy Kahn Oct 17, 2021 9:52 am PDT

Drummer Ron Tutt, who backed the likes of Elvis Presley and Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, died at age 83. Tutt’s death was confirmed by Elvis Presley Enterprises in a message shared on the Graceland website on Saturday, October 16.

Tutt was born on March 12, 1938, in Dallas. He joined Presley’s backing group the TCB Band (Takin’ Care Of Business) for Presley’s 1969 Las Vegas debut as part of the band assembled by James Burton. Tutt remained a member of the TCB Band through Presley’s untimely death in 1977 and continued to perform with the group in the years that followed.

Tutt was recruited by bassist/producer John Kahn to participate in the recording sessions in Los Angeles for what became Jerry Garcia’s 1974 solo album, Compliments. Around that time, Tutt began regularly playing live with Garcia, Kahn and keyboardist Merl Saunders at the Keystone in Berkeley, California.

Tutt was a member of the short-lived Legion Of Mary alongside Garcia, Kahn Saunders and saxophonist Martin Fierro that played between December 1974 and July 1975. When the Jerry Garcia Band made its debut later in 1975, Tutt was part of the lineup along with Kahn and Nicky Hopkins.

Tutt played drums with the Jerry Garcia Band through 1977, appearing on Garcia’s 1976 solo album Reflections and its follow-up, Cats Under the Stars, which came out in 1978. Tutt briefly rejoined JGB in 1981 and contributed to Garcia’s 1982 solo album, Run For The Roses.

Tutt discussed his time with Elvis and Jerry in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, stating:

“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. We weren’t there to do flashy solos. I don’t know that I ever even did a solo. That wasn’t our purpose. I almost liken it to a jazz gig in the sense that the songs had as we call ’em a head, a front, and then everybody played as much as they wanted to play and then did the out and that was it. There wasn’t much rehearsal.”

Tutt’s other credits include playing drums for Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Buckingham Nicks, Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello, the Carpenters, Glen Campbell and many more. Tutt notably contributed to Billy Joel’s 1973 album The Piano Man including the hit title track.

Read the message from Elvis Presley Enterprises below:

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.

Ronnie Tutt played drums for Elvis as part of the TCB Band from 1969 until 1977. He was part of the band put together by James Burton for Elvis’ 1969 Las Vegas opening – and stayed with Elvis until his death in 1977. Ronnie later toured with Neil Diamond’s band. He also recorded and performed with the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Costello, Stevie Nicks, Michael McDonald, among others.

Our hearts go out to Donna, his family, his fellow TCB Band members – and to his fans around the world. He will be deeply missed by all of us.

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