Grateful Dead sound tech, producer and archivist John Cutler died on Dec. 24 at the age of 73 after a long illness, his brother confirmed.

Cutler’s first role with the Jerry Garcia-fronted band was to oversee arrangements for its trip to Egypt in 1978. Afterwards he played a key role in recording their shows and producing several studio albums including the last two – In The Dark (1987) and Built To Last (1989). He also worked with the Jerry Garcia Band, became the Dead’s chief sound tech and continued to work on archive releases through the ‘90s and beyond.

“My brother John died on Christmas Eve after a long illness,” Bill Cutler – who also worked with the Grateful Dead – said via social media. “I know he was loved by many of you, and in the coming days I will share some stories about his life, but right now our family needs time to process this and grieve.”

In a personal tribute, band archivist David Lemieux called Cutler – who hired him – a “friend and mentor,” and hailed him for having “more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known” and being “a very kind person, one of the best.”

Jambase reported on a 2015 interview in which Bill Cutler spoke of his brother’s Egypt experience, which secured him a full-time role with the Dead after several years of association in temporary positions. “That was an incredible undertaking because Israel and Egypt were still at war,” he said, “so there was all of that tension in the Middle East to begin with.

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“When John went with all the gear… the Egyptian authorities were very suspicious. They didn’t want any drugs in the country, so John had to disassemble all of the amps right there at the airport… He had to put them all back together and get all these permits done.

“Then he needed permission to get them to the Great Pyramid because they wanted to use it as an echo chamber. Can you imagine going over to Egypt, in that environment, and say, ‘We want to use the Pyramids as an echo chamber’? You’re talking about a society that’s never even had a rock ’n’ roll band.”

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Bill recounted his brother’s difficulty in finding enough audio cables to wire the show. “At the time Egypt was so much more primitive,” he said. “When they looked for cable they really couldn’t find any… until they opened up an old shed and they found cable that was left behind by the Nazis when they were fleeing the British. They gave John that cable.

“It’s 1978 and the cable is so old that when he unspooled it most of it wouldn’t even hold together. They had to give up on the idea of using the Pyramids as an echo chamber.”

He added: “The experience of him actually going to do all those things sealed it. After the Dead got back from Egypt, John became a full time employee of the band.”

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