John Rutsey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Rutsey
Rutsey in 1974
Background information
Birth nameJohn Howard Rutsey
Born(1952-07-23)July 23, 1952
DiedMay 11, 2008(2008-05-11) (aged 55)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
GenresHard rock, heavy metal
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Years active1963–1974
Associated actsRush

John Howard Rutsey (July 23, 1952 – May 11, 2008)[1] was a Canadian drummer best known as a co-founding member of Rush. He performed on the band's debut album but left in 1974, due to musical differences and health problems. He was replaced by Neil Peart. Tape-recorded comments from Rutsey are heard in the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and the DVD release includes two performances with him on drums.


Personal life[edit]

Rutsey had two brothers,[2] an older one, Bill,[3] and baseball writer Mike.[4] His father, Howard Rutsey, was a crime reporter for the Toronto Telegram and died of a heart attack. John lived at home with his mother, Eva, and was a student at St. Paschals School.[2] Whereas Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were listening to bands such as Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis, Rutsey drew more inspiration from the styles of bands such as Bad Company.[5]

Formation of Rush[edit]

In 1963, Rutsey met Lifeson, while attending St. Paschals School.[2] Rutsey would play hockey with him on the street.[6] Both were interested in music, and they decided to form a band.[6] The two would be part of the band The Projection with Bill Fitzgerald and "Doc" Cooper.[2]

Ian Grandy stated: "John was the guy who would bug everyone to practice, and I think he thought of himself as a "rock and roller". I've said it before and I'll say it again: There would have been no 'Rush' without John ... Anyway, John led the guys as far as being 'glam rockers', with really flashy jackets and pants, and eight-inch high boots. One time, he was speaking to me at the Gasworks and I said, 'Didn't we used to be the same height (5'8")?' He laughed and said 'Well, maybe a long time ago!'"[2]

The band's name "Rush" was suggested by Rutsey's brother, Bill, during a band meeting in Rutsey's basement.[3]


The band formed with Rutsey on drums, Lifeson on guitars, and Jeff Jones on vocals and bass, but Jones soon left and was succeeded by Lee. During these early years, Rutsey played on the "Not Fade Away"/"You Can't Fight It" single as well as the debut album.

Lee and Lifeson have each acknowledged that during the writing and recording sessions for the band's debut album, Rutsey was given the role of chief lyricist. When the time came to start recording, however, he did not deliver any lyrics. In interviews, Lee and Lifeson have both said that Rutsey was dissatisfied with what he had written and had torn up the lyric sheets. Lee hastily wrote the lyrics to all the songs before recording the vocal tracks.[7]

Soon after Rush released its debut album, Rutsey left the band, due to musical differences and health concerns related to diabetes. His drinking may have posed potential problems with extended tours.[8] Rutsey's final performance with the group was on July 25, 1974, at Centennial Hall in London, Ontario. He was replaced by Neil Peart.

Later life[edit]

Lifeson stated in a 1989 interview that he still often had seen him, and after leaving the band he went into bodybuilding. Lifeson remarked, "He competed on an amateur level for a while, doing that for a few years, and has sort of been in and out of that, but he still works out, and I work out with him a few times a week at a local gym – at a Gold's, here in Toronto."[9] In 2005 Lifeson said that he had not seen Rutsey since around 1990.[10]


On May 11, 2008, Rutsey died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, related to complications from diabetes.[11] Rutsey's family wished to keep the funeral a private affair,[11] although donations would be sent to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Markham, Ontario.[12]


After Rutsey's death, Lee and Lifeson released this statement: "Our memories of the early years of Rush when John was in the band are very fond to us. Those years spent in our teens dreaming of one day doing what we continue to do decades later are special. Although our paths diverged many years ago, we smile today, thinking back on those exciting times and remembering John's wonderful sense of humour and impeccable timing. He will be deeply missed by all he touched."[13]

Rutsey's part in the band's early history is acknowledged in the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. Tape-recorded comments from him are heard during the film, and the DVD release includes two performances with him on drums in its bonus features.[14] A third performance is included as a bonus feature on the Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland home video release.

Rutsey is buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[1]


Rush ; - Singles :

  • 1973 : Not Fade Away / You Can't Fight It - Not Fade Away Buddy Holly/Norman Petty.
  • 1974 : Finding My Way / Need Some Love
  • 1974 : In The Mood / What You're Doing

- Studio album :

  • 1974 : Rush

- Compilation albums ;

  • 1978 : Archives - 3 Vinyl records
  • 1990 : Chronicles - 2 CD
  • 1997 : Retrospective I (1974-1980)
  • 2003 : The Spirit of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987
  • 2006 : Gold - 2 CD
  • 2010 : Time Stand Still: The Collection
  • 2011 : Sector 1 - 5 CD + DVD Audio - Video
  • 2011 : Icon 2 - 2 CD


  1. ^ a b John Howard Rutsey. Find a Grave. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ian Grandy Interview: Rush’s First Roadie Archived October 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. September 16, 2012. Accessed from October 26, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Banasiewicz, Bill. "Visions: The Official Biography – Chapter 1". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help) Archived from October 11, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  4. ^ Buffery, Steve (August 15, 2007). It's a living. Accessed from April 16, 2013.
  5. ^ Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (Film released June 10, 2010). Quote from Vic Wilson "John was not a healthy boy. He had sugar diabetes. Of course like any teenager, he said he like to drink..."
  6. ^ a b Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home & Away. Martin Popoff. p. 9
  7. ^ DeGroot, Joey (April 22, 2014). "Six Lead Vocalists Who Don't Write Their Own Lyrics: Ozzy Osbourne, Roger Daltrey, and more". Music Times. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  8. ^ Rush frequently asked questions Retrieved May 14, 2008
  9. ^ Rockline. February 6, 1989.
  10. ^ "Hangin' With Rush". VH1 Classic. 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Original Rush Drummer John Rutsey Dies". Billboard. May 11, 2008
  12. ^ John Rutsey Obituary. The National Post. May 15, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  13. ^ "John Rutsey passes away at age 55". May 13, 2008.
  14. ^ Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage 2 DVD (2010). Accessed from April 14, 2013.