Ronnie Tutt, a remarkable and varied drummer who rose to prominence as the timekeeper for Elvis Presley's return to live concerts, died on Saturday (Oct. 16). He was 83 years old.
Tutt's passing was confirmed by Presley's estate with a touching remembrance. "In addition to being a legendary drummer, he was a good friend to many of us here at Graceland," the post read.
Born in Dallas, TX, Tutt came to prominence in 1969 as part of The TCB Band, Elvis Presley's backing ensemble following a triumphant 1968 television special and planned concert residency in Las Vegas - his first live engagements in nearly a decade. Alongside guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff and keyboardists Larry Muhoberac (who recommended Tutt for the gig) and Glen D. Hardin, Tutt backed Presley for every concert and many studio recordings until his death in 1977. The multiplatinum live albums Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite made significant use of Tutt's rhythm and power, following an overture of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) with an epic drum solo that preceded The King's appearance on stage.
Tutt's list of credits was varied and formidable. He backed Billy Joel on his first two albums for Columbia Records and can be heard on breakthrough single "Piano Man." In 1974, Tutt began a four-year stint as the drummer in the Jerry Garcia Band, the solo ensemble of the iconic Grateful Dead frontman. The drummer could be heard on Garcia's first two solo albums, Cats Under the Stars (1978) and Run for the Roses (1982). After Presley's death, Tutt's steadiest and highest-profile live gig was the anchor of Neil Diamond's band.
Other credits included work with Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons and Elvis Costello.