Ronnie Tutt, Elvis Presley's Drummer, Dead at 83
Drummer Ronnie Tutt, a member of Elvis Presley's TCB Band, died Saturday. He was 83. Tutt was a prolific session drummer who also performed on the original recording of Billy Joel's signature song "Piano Man" and toured with the Jerry Garcia Band and Neil Diamond.
Tutt's wife Donna told TMZ he died of natural causes at his Franklin, Tennessee home. He chose not to be hospitalized, despite having a longtime heart condition. Donna said his body just had enough, telling TMZ, "He couldn't play another drum lick."
Elvis Presley Enterprises announced Tutt's death on the Graceland website. "All of us with Elvis Presley Enterprises were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ronnie Tutt," the statement read. "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."
Presley's ex-wife Priscilla Presley also shared a tribute to Tutt on Instagram, alongside a photo with the musician. "Rest In Peace my friend. Your sweet soul and great talent captured us all. Elvis always bragged how you intuitively could keep up with his stage moves. Even when he tried to trick you," her statement read. "My heart goes out to you Donna for your loss. And to the TCB band members, James and Glenn. You will be forever missed."
The Dallas-born Tutt joined Presley's TCB ("Taking Care of Business") Band in 1969 and continued performing with the King of Rock and Roll until his death in 1977. While still working for Presley, Tutt also performed with the Jerry Garcia Band, appearing on Garcia's albums Cats Under the Stars, Reflections, and Run for the Roses, notes Rolling Stone.
In 2017, Tutt told the magazine he often performed with Garcia and Presley in the same weekend. The two musicians couldn't be any more different, he recalled. "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 at the time. "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 was also part of the studio band Joel used to record the Piano Man and Streetlife Serenade albums, which included "Piano Man" and "The Entertainer." In 1973, Tutt performed on Buckingham Nicks, the album Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks recorded before they joined Fleetwood Mac. Tutt also performed with Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, The Carpenters, Roy Orbison, Michael McDonald, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and many others.