Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead to quiet life on the road for former tour manager Sam Cutler

Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead to quiet life on the road for former tour manager Sam Cutler

Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead to quiet life on the road for former tour manager Sam Cutler

Updated 7 February 2018, 13:05 AEDT

Sam Cutler, a former tour manager for the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead left behind a life of "massive hedonism" to find himself and follow his own dreams.

From running a London folk club in the early 1960s to working as a tour manager for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, Sam Cutler says he left behind a life of "massive hedonism" to find himself and follow his own dreams.

It's a journey that he began as an orphan in war-torn London before ending up in Australia as a writer and Buddhist dealing with cancer and living a gypsy-life in a bus.

Mr Cutler's parents died during WWII and young Sam was evacuated to an orphanage to escape the bombings of London before being brought up by adoptive parents in the eastern outskirts of the city.

"I always loved music. My adoptive mother played piano very well and my uncle Jack was a violin player," he said.

Caught up in the blues

He later trained as a teacher while also running a folk club in a room above a pub.

Mr Cutler was swiftly caught up in the wave of young musicians discovering the blues and R&B and met then-unknown musicians like Keith Richards and Charlie Watts who, within a few years, would be world-famous as members of The Rolling Stones.

His interest in organising concerts led him to work for a production company that presented concerts in London's Hyde Park.

After working on concerts by Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton, Mr Cutler worked on the famous Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert in 1969.

From there, The Stones offered him the job of tour manager for their upcoming tour of the United States.

It was at the beginning of that tour that he first announced what would become their standard introduction: "Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rock and roll band in the world, The Rolling Stones".

For the then-26-year-old, it was the experience of a lifetime to be managing the tour of the biggest rock band of the time.

Concert ends in death and 'a melee'

However, the tour ended tragically after an audience member was killed by a Hells Angel biker during The Stones' set at the one-day Altamont concert in California.

The concert, organised by Grateful Dead, featured The Stones as headliners following a line-up of Californian bands including Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Several Hells Angels had been paid with beer to keep the huge crowd of 300,000 people from getting onto the stage but after violence throughout the day, Grateful Dead did not play.

But, during The Rolling Stones' set, a man was seen with a gun and one of the Hells Angels stabbed and killed him.

"It was a disaster, man. I was right on stage, right beside my band who I was looking after," Mr Cutler said.

"I saw like, a melee. There was a guy there who was a black cat, was obviously dying. It was heavy man."

The media blamed The Rolling Stones for ending the 60s era of peace and love, and the tragedy became entrenched in rock music history, much to Mr Cutler's disappointment.

He points out that he and The Rolling Stones arrived only days before the concert, which had been hastily organised from the Grateful Dead's office and held at an unsuitable speedway venue.

"I was blamed for 40 years about it. I'm supposedly the man who hired the Hells Angels for security, which is nonsense," Mr Cutler said.

The Hells Angel responsible for the killing was later found to have acted in self-defence and The Stones flew back to Europe, while Mr Cutler stayed in California, where he said he "had to be secreted away".

Grateful Dead were a hugely popular rock band, famous for their eclectic music and devoted fans, known as Deadheads.

But despite this, they had financial problems and needed better management, and obviously impressed with Mr Cutler, asked him to be their tour manager.

"I was duly initiated into the 'Elysian mysteries' and took lots of acid and was duly checked out as to whether I could pass the acid test, whether I was a nice guy or whatever," he said.

"They were in a hole for three or four hundred thousand when I joined them. When I left they were worth a few million.

"They made fabulous music. By far the greatest band that I ever worked with."

Indulging in 'massive amounts of hedonism'

After four years with the Grateful Dead, Mr Cutler left "to really study myself and what I actually wanted to do with my life".

"I've lived in very rough areas of the world, I've lived in very spiritual areas of the world," he said.

"I've indulged is massive amounts of hedonism. I've had four former wives and three cancers."

His journey eventually brought him to Australia 18 years ago with a wife and two children but now he is on his own again, living in his bus for the last eight years.

Along the way he has written a book about his experiences as a tour manager.

"It was my job to speak truth to power," he said.

"My jaw's been broken once, my nose has been broken seven times, I've been stabbed twice. I tell people what I think.

"Honesty is in very short supply in the music business and people who look after people properly is in even shorter supply."

Mr Cutler is now writing another novel and regularly writes insightful "episodic pieces" that he posts to his Facebook page.

"One realises there's only a finite amount of time that you have in life to produce what you want to produce," he said.

"Art is five per cent inspiration and 95 per cent perspiration. Now I need to perspire a bit more."