Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ronnie Tutt on The Rockabilly N Blues Radio Hour!

Ronnie Tutt (right) was our guest on the Rockabilly N Blues Radio Hour!
Legendary touring and studio drummer, Ronnie Tutt, was our guest on the Rockabilly N Blues Radio Hour.  He shared stories of his time with Elvis, Neil Diamond, Jerry Garcia, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers and more!  Check out the podcast to hear the interview along with songs from these great artists that feature Ronnie on the drums (and his bass vocal part...hear the podcast to discover which one)!  For being such an "animal" behind the drums, Ronnie has such a nice and soft-spoken manner about him.  Take a listen to hear just a portion of some of the projects he's worked on.

You can download the podcast for free HERE.  Stream it on this page-

Check out some highlights from the podcast interview:

You switched from the trumpet to the drums in high school.
I was pretty much considered a child prodigy tap-dancer.  I always wanted to express myself rhythmically.  I was hearing rhythm patterns and all of that.  Trumpet was kind of boring to me.  A friend had it in his closet.  It was his dad's trumpet.  I was wanting to get away from the violin and that shiny trumpet looked kinda nice.  I was frustrated because I wanted to be a drummer (laughs).

I found that you always reminded me of "Animal" from the Muppets while watching you play drums.
Well, that's another story.  Some say people think Jim Henson got that idea from watching.  I've never had it confirmed or denied (laughs).

Elvis- "Polk Salad Annie"

Do you think that's what got you the job with Elvis?
I think what got me the job with him is the eye contact.  The visual...being able to read what he was doing.  DJ Fontana and I have always talked about how working with Elvis is like working with a pseudo-stripper.  Because every move he made with his body, he always wanted little hits and pushes and things like that.

Do you remember how you felt the very first show you did with Elvis?
Total fear (laughs)!  Total panic.  He was like a panther pacing back and forth in his black outfit.  He had nothing to worry about but he was a very insecure guy when it came to those sort of things.

We're recording this on March 28th.  You guys recorded "Burning Love" this day in 1972.  Did he hear the original version by Dennis Linde or Arthur Alexander?
I honestly don't remember the whole situation other than the fact that it was played for us...I don't remember if it was a demo or whatever it was.  We were trying to encourage him to do more rock & roll.  We heard it and thought, "man, this is going to be great!".  Unfortunately, his producer, Felton Jarvis, was very, very ill that particular night.  He was so sick he had to lay down in the control room.  So, I basically took the session over and produced the record.  That record still sounds good today.  Somebody played it for me not too long ago.  I was very surprised it sounded so good.

Tell me about "Always On My Mind".  That was a difficult time for Elvis.
I did know it was a period where he was going through a lot of changes.  His life was in upheaval.  We were all trying to encourage him and keep going because it would have been easy to kind of fold.

Elvis- "Always On My Mind"

Comparing Elvis and Neil Diamond on stage, it feels different in their approach.  What's Neil like?
I think the main difference in those guys is...and I've learned this over a period of time...Neil is pretty much a perfectionist in the sense that his philosophy is to do things in repetition over and over so that you feel completely comfortable under all circumstances.  It helped me learn that.  With Elvis, it was either really up or sometimes really down.  Part of that was his problem with prescription drugs.  We didn't really understand it at the time.  It makes a lot of sense in retrospect.  But, on the other hand, Elvis' up performances were about as great as you can imagine.  Just like Neil's are when they're really, really up.  There's not that much variance in Neil's performance.  It's almost like you've got a well-coached team and you're going out there to win and you know you've got the capability of winning every time you go out.

Neil Diamond- "Holly Holy"

How was the experience working on Roy Orbison's "Black & White Night" special?
Well, it was really exciting.  We took about a week out of our schedule to do this.  It consisted of going through a huge stack of his songs.  T. Bone Burnett had put us all together.  Our band had been doing quite a bit of work with T. Bone at that time.  We all felt comfortable together even though I had never worked with Roy before and hadn't even met him until that particular point in time.   I had a lot of respect for songs he had written.  I had a stack on a music stand over by the was about 2 inches thick.  We'd go through one song and they'd say, "yeah, that was good...let's go on to the next one".  I'd turn the songs over and go "wow, did he write that?  wow, he wrote that too!".  I was flabbergasted that he had written so many wonderful, wonderful songs.  Of course, that's how he was able to attract so many of these great artists that were willing to come along and support him to be a part of it. It was a great challenge to put that many together.  It was very rewarding!  We weren't trying to do a heavy rock & roll version of all of these, we were just trying to do what we do at the same time have respect for what was done before.

Roy Orbison- "Pretty Woman"

You played on Billy Joel's Piano Man!
Yeah, I did 2 albums with Billy.  The first album was Piano Man and the second was called Streetlife Serenade.  Both of those albums had some really good tracks.

Hear many more stories about Elvis, Johnny Rivers, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Costello, Cat Stevens and Delaney & Bonnie in the audio podcast above or at iTunes.

Songs heard in the podcast:

Voice over- Rob "Cool Daddy" Dempsey
Intro bed- Elvis Presley- "Tiger Man"

Elvis Presley- "Way Down"
Elvis Presley- "Blue Suede Shoes" (live)

Music bed- Duane Eddy- "Road Trip"

Elvis Presley- "Mystery Train/Tiger Man" (live)

Music bed- Kenny Vaughan- "Mysterium"

Elvis Presley- "That's All Right" (live)
Elvis introducing Ronnie Tutt on stage

Music bed- The Ventures- "Walk Don't Run"

Elvis Presley- "Patch It Up" (live)

Music bed- Link Wray- "Rumble"

Elvis Presley- "Burning Love"

Music bed- Duane Eddy- "Franklin Town"

Elvis Presley- "Always On My Mind"

Music bed- The Ventures- "Memphis"

Elvis Presley- "Polk Salad Annie" (live)

Music bed- The Ventures- "Raunchy"

Neil Diamond- "I'm A Believer" 

Music bed- Duane Eddy- "The Attack Of The Duck Billed Platypus

Roy Orbison- "Claudette" (live)
Elvis Costello- "The Big Light"
Cat Stevens- "Peace Train" (snippet)
Billy Joel- "Piano Man"
Jerry Garcia- "Catfish John" (snippet)
Johnny Rivers- "Rockin' Pneumonia- Boogie Woogie Flu"
Delaney & Bonnie- "Soul Shake"

Outro- Joel Paterson- "Mable's Rock"