INTERVIEW: Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead Manager, the Iconic Sam Cutler

By admin on July 23, 2018

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) —  Sam Cutler has worked with two of the largest grossing live artists in the world, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, and has been at the center of some of the most bizarre and historical developments in modern music.

Recently published by Sam: You Can’t Always Get What You Want: My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates. An exhilarating, all-access rock memoir from someone who has seen and done it all. This telling recounts the many experiences of Sam Cutler, the former tour manager of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. With intimate portraits of other stars of the psychedelic circus that was the music industry in the 1960s and 1970s, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, The Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton. This account is a must-read for all music fans. A detailed explanation of the infamous Rolling Stones concert in Altamont is also included.

Sam Cutler was born near London, England in 1943. He is an Honours Graduate in Contemporary History (Open University) and a qualified teacher (University of Cambridge Institute of Education 1963-66).

Cutler worked as a production supervisor, stage manager and master of ceremonies on a series of 1960s gigs in the U.K. and Europe with different artists, including Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and Alexis Korner. In 1969, he coordinated and acted as master of ceremonies at The Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park London featured in the film Stones in the Park.

Following the Hyde Park show, Cutler was asked to be the personal tour manager to The Rolling Stones during their 1969 Tour of America, which culminated in the infamous Altamont concert.

The trouble at Altamont was blamed on The Rolling Stones, although nobody employed by the band was directly involved in organizing the gig until shortly before it was meant to happen. Sam Cutler arrived on the West Coast to help coordinate the event two days before it was staged.

Following the concert, The Rolling Stones left for England, leaving Cutler behind to deal with the aftermath. While his friends, the Stones, promised to “take care of him”, Sam never spoke to the Stones again until many years later. He had been left practically penniless and left to deal with the mess on his own.

Cutler is commonly credited with first uttering The Rolling Stones’ famous intro line “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World…The Rolling Stones!”

It is all in Sam Cutler’s book ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want‘.

Following the events at Altamont, Cutler stayed in the U.S. to deal with the aftermath, was befriended by Jerry Garcia and subsequently hired by the Grateful Dead as their tour manager. He went on to become a co-manager of the band, with Jon McIntire and David Parker, and eventually became their agent and tour manager.

Cutler can be seen in many scenes in the documentary film Gimme Shelter which covers the events of the 1969 American tour, and can be heard on The Rolling Stones live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! introducing the band. He can also be seen in the films Festival Express and Stones in the Park.

Throughout his rock and roll career, Cutler was responsible for organizing some of the largest rock and roll shows in history outside of Woodstock including The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour and the Dead’s participation in the Festival Express train tour across Canada.

Cutler organized the Dead’s appearances at a number of memorable events including the 1970 Festival Express Tour of Canada, The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen (at 700,000+ paid admission the largest single paid admission events in rock n roll history), and the 1972 European Tour of the Grateful Dead, the musical results of which can be heard on the Dead’s triple live album Europe ’72.

Through his company, Out of Town Tours, Cutler coordinated the appearances of many artists including: Grateful Dead, The Band, The Allman Brothers, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Sons of Champlin, Mike Bloomfield, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others.

In 2006, Sam collaborated with Melbourne (Australia) indie-rock group Black Cab on the track “Valiant” which appeared on the band’s 2006 release Jesus East. In the track, Sam reminisces on his days with the Grateful Dead and preaches advice for the kids of today. Sam is currently on tour around Australia and Asia, promoting his book.

Herald de Paris Consulting Editor Dr. Al Carlos had a conversation of a lifetime!

AC: Is there anything in your childhood that prepared you for the incredible Rock and Roll lifestyle you have led? Any regrets?

SC: Because I was born in “the crossfire hurricane” of WW2, 1943 in London, I had a very difficult childhood. My family were killed in the war, I was adopted when I was three years old and spent time in an orphanage etc. This made me a tough little bugger and a wanderer from an early age. I was always self-reliant and always ready to make my own way and think my own thoughts rather than being someone who blindly took on trust what adults told me.

AC: You have an impressive educational background, tell us about your experience at The Open University and experiences at Cambridge? Was it your intention to become an educator?

SC: To be honest, I only became a teacher in order to silence my adoptive mother who constantly went on at me to “get a proper job”. At the Cambridge Institute of Education I trained to be a teacher of emotionally maladjusted children and I worked, briefly, in that field. It certainly helped with dealing with Rock n Rollers! I’d seen every nutty response known to man by the time I was dealing with major artists, and more importantly had a certain clinical reserve when it came to dealing with their foibles, follies, fantasies and general all-round inanities.

AC: Are you a history buff? In retrospect, how did it feel to realize that you were an integral part of history during your times with The Stones, and Altamont? Is this why you wrote about it, to set the record straight?

SC: I have a degree in Contemporary History, and am indeed a history buff having being born in the midst of such tempestuous times. It might be of interest to your readers to know that I was born in Hatfield House, just outside London. This was a stately home owned by one of England’s most celebrated families, the Cecils, and was the place where Queen Elizabeth, the first found out that she was to be Queen of England back in the 1600’s! A very famous place, and it was used during the war as a maternity hospital. The Germans were not bombing stately homes as they had them all allocated to their leadership, thinking that the defeat of England would be a simple matter. The British had pregnant women confined in the homes to give birth as there they would be safe from German bombing!

AC: Did your formal education serve you well as you began working with musicians? Were the musicians you worked with during the early years quite literate? Did this literacy inform their art?

SC: A tour manager needs every little scrap of information about life that he can glean from experience and education, one never knows with whom one might be talking. One never knows what one might be called upon to do, what action one might have to initiate, what judgement one might have to bring to bear to a problem. Musicians, then as now, are a mixed bunch! Some can be ignorant hedonists of the worst variety, some can possess the insights and sensibilities of genius, and some can be so sensitive that they need handling with ultimate sensitivity. Some can be brutes, some can be sweethearts! The world is full of all types, as is the music business, though it has been my general experience that if one proceeds with a small dash of caution and sensitivity most people, regardless of their occupation, respond in kind.

AC: What was your first gig in the music industry, what was the attraction? What were those early days like as you went from stage management to master of ceremonies? Did you ever catch the performance bug?

SC: My first gigs in the music industry were very low level. I helped carry equipment, learned how to put up a drum kit, plug in amplifiers, mix sound, arrange lights, and drive the vans. A million and one different tasks, put up posters, collect tickets, help throw out drunks, deal with broken hearted fans, naked fans, horny fans, demented fans, fans on heroin looking like they were going to die, fans on acid looking like they were flying. I dealt with everything from drunken louts to sophisticates. It was all grist to the mill and I loved it all. What was the attraction? Well, the alternatives were so much more dreadful! Being a teacher? Being a coal-miner? Having a job! YUK! No thank you! I didn’t want stability and certainty, I wanted adventure!

AC: For those who have not read your book, but should, it’s a must! How did you meet up with the Stones and why did they keep using you as a key resource person?

SC: I met the Stones through doing free concerts in Hyde Park in London. I’d helped coordinate and arrange concerts by Pink Floyd etc. and then I did one with Blind Faith. There were around 150,000 people, a beautiful summer’s day, everything calm and very British. Mick turned up and we had a chat backstage. He was interested in how it all worked. The Stones needed to play! They hadn’t done a gig in about three years! He took my number, called me, we talked about doing a show. I put the show together for him and the rest, as they say, is history.

AC: How was to be a contemporary of artists like Clapton, the guys from Pink Floyd, The Beatles, can you give us a line or two on a couple of your old friends. Anything most people don’t know about these cats?

SC: Pink Floyd were architecture students at Regent Street Polytechnic in London, and very arty and fey. I remember them with Syd Barrett calling out the chord changes as they played, they weren’t very good musically BUT they were different. Their music seemed to fit with the psychedelic sensibilities that were stirring in London. Syd was an amazing guy, very beautiful and handsome, adored by the ladies, and he always has two of the most ethereal and beautiful women imaginable on his arm. We were all secretly envious of him!

John Lennon lived in a mansion in Weybridge with Cynthia and wasn’t the cheeky chappie we all grew to love, he was very paranoid about being in public.

The groovy Beatle was Paul McCartney who was living with Jane Asher and was a fixture on the London social scene. McCartney put money into the first underground newspaper, financed INDICA the first hippie bookshop, and gave money to RELEASE which was an organization set up to help people who had been busted for drugs. The London scene was small and intimate, we all knew one another.

AC: Tell us about The Hyde Park show and subsequent movie, best and worst memories, and things no one ever knew.

SC: The show in Hyde Park was not designed as a memorial to Brian Jones but that is what it morphed into. Brian had died a few days beforehand, how could it have been anything else? Everyone in the scene felt sorry for Brian and there was a massive turn out of support for him and his memory. Several hundred thousand people showed up in Hyde Park. The cops and the media hated Brian, ordinary people loved him. The cops stayed away from Hyde Park, there was not ONE policeman there! There were NO arrests, and there was NO trouble. It was a magic event, though the band played terribly and were horribly out of tune, and the massive show of support for the Stones and Brian shocked the establishment. After that show the Rolling Stones were never harassed by the police in Britain every

AC: What was your relationships with Mick and the other Rolling Stones like in the beginning? How is it now?

SC: My relationship with Mick and the Stones was always good. Very formal and very British, with lots of please and thank you! Now we are simply old friends. I stay in contact with Charlie, write to him once a year. I took my sons to see the band, the musicians were very agreeable and kind.

AC: The industry remembers you as a super negotiator and deal maker, what did you bring to the table that was never there before?

SC: Native cunning and wit (much laughter!)

AC: You are credited from taking the Rolling Stones from an underfunded, one time great band, to a super group bigger than ever. How did you help pull it off?

SC: The two shows, one in Hyde Park and one at Altamont, had an indelible effect upon the popularity of the Rolling Stones, and I was one of many people who played a central part in making those events happen. I was also the first person to call them “the greatest rock n roll band in the world” so after that they had no choice BUT to become that!!

AC: Can you say that after the situation at Altamont that The Stones threw you under the bus and left you broke?

SC: After Altamont the Stones left to go to Europe where they had further dates and I stayed in the USA to try to clear up the mess. I was left broke. Such is life! I just got on with things”

AC: Is it true that you beat up Bill Graham before a show in the Bay Area? What was that like, what did you think of Bill?

SC: I had a fist fight with Bill Graham on the stage at the Oakland Coliseum because he refused to get off the stage. He claimed it was HIS stage! At a Rolling Stones show the stage belongs to THE STONES, no one else. As their tour manager, I found his attitude unacceptable and I did my best to remove him. On a general level I admired Bill Graham’s approach to production, he produced GREAT shows, but he was greedy and ripped off bands. I told him to his face I thought he was a rip-off. I thought that then, I knew that then. So he and I were sworn enemies for many years. I have not changed my opinion of him.

AC: What was it like coming to San Francisco and meeting The Grateful Dead? How did you become involved with their management team?

SC: To meet the Grateful Dead was an amazing experience. My first meeting with them was in a barn with some eighty people, and included women and children and dogs and horses!! It was chaotic bedlam! I grew to love them all, well most of them, and became lifelong friends with most of them, and a sworn enemy of several of them. Interestingly the ones who hated me were the ones who went on to rip off the band. At the time of the Altamont concert, the Dead’s then manager, Lenny Hart, ripped the band off for a huge sum of money. Garcia asked me to get involved with the band’s management and to show them how to organize themselves. Organization was a dirty word in those days!

AC: You are credited with turning the whole Grateful Dead business structure around making them one of the biggest touring act is history. What did you do?

SC: The whole structure of the Grateful Dead was essentially anarchic. They had no structure in a business sense. They didn’t collect receipts and had no bookkeeping. They went on tour and came home with no money. It was, to me, a bit of a joke. I started by getting the touring situation out on a proper organizational level. Then I got the promotional activities coordinated so that records were in the stores to be sold at the same time as the band was in a particular town. The music business is about coordination and planning. These were approaches that San Francisco hippies were blissfully unaware of.

AC: What can you tell us about your relationship with Jerry, Bobby and the band? How were they different and or similar to the Stones?

SC: I was much closer to the guys in the Dead than I was to the Stones. I worked with the Stones, I was, and am, a member of the Grateful Dead family.

AC: All of these stories are in your book. What has been the fallout from your book? I know that Joel Selvin wrote a book with a similar account, yours was much more detailed and first person.

SC: My book has been very well received and is still selling well. It has been published in Japanese and in German and I am negotiating for it to be published in Spanish. I own the rights worldwide. I very much want the book to be published in French and hope that this will come about. I’m open to any and all offers and will happily come to France and support the book with a promo tour if that is what is required.

AC: How has the book been received as you have toured to support it, what are people saying?

SC: People love my book. It’s honest and from the heart and it’s well written!

AC: The book was a major success. I understand that you are working on another book right now and have graciously taken the time to talk to us. Please tell us about the book.

SC: I have just completed a novel. It is the first in a series about a British Secret Service Agent, shhh, you know who! I have had cancer three times, and beaten it, and I want to write an unconventional cancer memoir which I shall call, Please Die Quietly and Don’t Make a Mess. I am also half way thru a book about Ibiza, I had a house on the island for many years.

AC: What kinds of things are still on your bucket list, things you still want to do?

SC: I would like to live in Paris for a year! I would like to build a house in Australia

AC: In the end what would you like your legacy to be? How would you like History to remember you?

SC: I would like to be remembered as a writer who spoke the truth, and who admired and nurtured the English language and dealt with it with respect.

AC: Where can people go to know more about you, purchase your book and be apprised about your new book project?

SC: My book is available from Amazon. If you want a spoken word copy of the book, with me reading it, it is available on Apple iTunes

Check him out on Facebook:


Edited By, Mariam Salarian

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