Sam Cutler

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Sam Cutler
Sam Cutler.jpg
Background information
Born 1943 (age 70–71)
Origin England
Genres Rock and Roll
Occupation(s) Tour Manager, Author
Years active 1965-Present
Associated acts The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, The Band, The Allman Brothers, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Sons of Champlin, Mike Bloomfield, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Zarach "Baal" Tharagh , among others.
Website www.samcutler.org [1]
Notable instruments
Car Horn (on The Rolling Stones' Country Honk.)

Sam Cutler (born in England, 1943) is best known as former tour manager for The Rolling Stones. In numerous magazine articles and books[which?], Cutler has been casually demonized[by whom?] as an unwitting, yet primary, catalyst of the violence that took place at the 1969 Altamont Free Concert.

Early life and career[edit]

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, Alexis Korner, et al. In 1969, he co-ordinated 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 Free Concert where a young black man brandished a gun to defend himself, due to Hell's Angels anger over his date/girlfriend, who was white.[1] Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death in front of the stage.

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!”.

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 film 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.[citation needed]

Altamont[edit]

The Altamont Free Concert was planned and put together by a loose amalgamation of West Coast American bands which included the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills and Nash, Santana, and others.

The Hells Angels were hired as security by The Rolling Stones, on the recommendation of the Grateful Dead, for $500 worth of beer — a story that has been denied by parties who were directly involved. According to Cutler, "the only agreement there ever was ... the Angels would make sure nobody fucked with the generators, but that was the extent of it. But there was no 'They're going to be the police force' or anything like that. That's all bollocks."[2] Hells Angels member Sweet William recalled this exchange between Cutler and himself at a meeting prior to the concert, where Cutler had asked them to do security:

"We don't police things. We're not a security force. We go to concerts to enjoy ourselves and have fun."
"Well, what about helping people out - you know, giving directions and things?"
"Sure, we can do that."

When Cutler asked how they would like to be paid, William replied, "we like beer".[2] In the documentary Gimme Shelter Hells Angels Oakland chapter head Ralph 'Sonny' Barger states that the Hells Angels were not interested in policing the event, and that organizers had told him that he and his fellow Angels would be required to do little more than sit on the edge of the stage and drink beer. Other accounts also state that the initial arrangement was for the Hells Angels to watch over the equipment, but that Cutler later moved them, and their beer, near the stage to placate them or to protect the stage.[citation needed]

Fights broke out during performances by Jefferson Airplane (at one point lead singer Marty Balin was knocked out by a Hells Angel) and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Grateful Dead opted not to play after learning of the incident with Balin. By the time the Stones hit the stage, the crowd was especially restless.

While The Rolling Stones were performing "Under My Thumb", a young black man named Meredith Hunter became involved in an altercation with some Hells Angels and drew a long-barreled revolver. He was stabbed five times and kicked to death during The Rolling Stones' performance; the incident, which took place near the stage, was captured on film, where Cutler can be seen whispering to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards onstage, rushing towards the mortally wounded Meredith Hunter and returning to the stage to convince the band to retreat.

The subsequent mess was blamed on The Rolling Stones—although nobody employed by The Rolling Stones was directly involved in organizing the Altamont gig until shortly before it was meant to happen. Sam Cutler arrived on the West Coast to help co-ordinate the event less than a week 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 was eventually called to testify in court proceedings relating to the matter some time later.

Since that time, Cutler has been somewhat vindicated as various authors have recognized the role of some particularly strong, or possibly tainted LSD circulating at the event, a bad choice of venue, bad staging area design, and the role of Hells Angels "prospects", non-patch wearing Hells Angels "wannabes", rather than bona-fide, full-patch wearing Angels themselves, as contributory factors in the bad vibes and violence that consumed the day.

Rock and roll management career[edit]

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.

Cutler co-ordinated 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ You Can't Always Get What You Want, p. 165
  2. ^ a b McNally, p. 344