A native New Yorker, Cutler first gained notice as a young songwriter in the 1960s, winning praise for his early protest songs, while performing at Greenwich Village clubs like the Gaslight Cafe and the Bitter End, where he shared the bill with folksingers Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen and David Blue.
A journey to San Francisco in 1967 for the “Summer of Love”, led to an expanded view of music, and a switch from acoustic to electric guitar. Over the next few years, Bill criss-crossed the country, finally settling in Northern California. By 1970, Cutler was firmly entrenched in the Haight-Ashbury music scene, joining fellow guitarist David Rea in a new country-rock band, David Rea & Slewfoot, signed to Windfall/Columbia Records. Slewfoot’s debut album, co-produced by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, found Cutler in the company of an all-star musical lineup, including Charles Lloyd (horns), Keith Godchaux (piano), John Kahn (bass), and Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden. Slewfoot went on to play a series of live engagements, including a memorable performance with the Sons of Champlin at the 1973 Columbia Records Convention.
Following the demise of Slewfoot, Bill began to concentrate heavily on songwriting. Several of his tunes, “Dangerous Relations” and “That Good Ol’ Harpoon Magic”, co-written with harmonica ace Matthew Kelly (Kingfish, Ratdog), were recorded for Kelly’s solo project in 1973. The album, called “A Wing and a Prayer” (Relix), also included an early rendition of Cutler’s haunting ballad “Ridin’ High”, with a Bob Weir vocal and Jerry Garcia on lead guitar. In addition to writing with Matthew, Bill provided production assistance on tracks featuring guitarist Mike Bloomfield, bluesman John Lee Hooker, New Riders Dave Torbert (bass) and David Nelson (guitar), singer Patti Cathcart (Tuck & Patti), and drummer Donny Baldwin (Garcia Band, Jefferson Starship).
Cutler continued his songwriting partnerships throughout the 70s, composing material for a number of artists, including “Home to Dixie” with Weir, Kelly and lyricist John Perry Barlow, for the debut album by Kingfish (Round Records/UA) in 1975. That same year, Bill recorded a number of his new songs with his own rock band, Heroes, with Jerry Garcia sitting in on lead guitar. Those historic tapes, now being released for the first time, contain some of Garcia’s most inspired playing during his year-long break from the Grateful Dead.
Cutler’s band Heroes began building a strong following in the Bay Area, appearing at the first Haight Street Fair with guest guitarist Jerry Miller (of Moby Grape) and headlining the 77 Castro Street Fair, but with the sudden death of lead guitarist Craig Paulson from cancer at the age of 28, Heroes, a promising group on the way to success, came to a halt.
In 1979, caught up in the punk explosion, Bill formed the Nu-Models, with keyboardist Steve LeGassick (Tommy Tutone), drummer Kenny Dale Johnson (Chris Isaak), lead guitarist Joe Stuart and bassist Michael Weinstein. Their dynamic new wave sound took San Francisco by storm and the band soon found themselves touring the West Coast club circuit. With the support of radio station KSAN, which often featured the group in its weekly live broadcasts, Nu-Models became a major draw at punk venues the Mab, Madame Wong’s, the Palms and The Stone.
1980 marked a turning point for Cutler. Already a veteran of numerous recording sessions, he began to pursue a new career as a record producer. Within a few short years, he was working on independent projects by the Lloyds, Chrome Dinette, Vauxhall (with Jorma Kaukonen), Flame, Full Moon Tan, The Birdkillers, Boys Cry Wolf, Impulse F!, Black Dolls, Ronnie Jay and others. During that same period, Bill was featured in the nationally aired PBS television rockumentary “Rehearsal”, which followed the San Francisco band the Lloyds through a typical day in their career.
While producing albums for others, Cutler still remained active as a performer, co-fronting a new rock group, Lost Souls, with guitarist Robbie Dunbar (Earthquake). Lost Souls’ unique sound, with layered vocals and sophisticated guitar interplay, was captured by producer Jeffrey Cohen at recording sessions held at David Rubinson’s Automatt Studios.
In 1985, Cutler was tapped for an A&R job with San Francisco indie label Sing Sing Disc, where working with industry veteran Lou Bramy (Atlantic, Famous Music), he helped supervise the rise of the underground dance act Voice Farm and the discovery of Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians. During this period, Cutler became a frequent speaker at music forums throughout the Bay Area, hosting several producer panels at the annual Gavin Radio Convention.
Following his stint at the record company, Bill returned to his first loves, songwriting and record production, while beginning to hone his skills as a manager. In partnership with A&R executive John Carter (Paula Cole, Sammy Hagar, Tina Turner), Bill began co-managing the punk-pop band Maximillion’s Motorcycle Club, cutting tracks for record executive Gary Gersh, under a development deal with DGC Records.
In 1991, Cutler formed a partnership with studio owner/engineer Norman Kerner of Brilliant Studios, co-producing a number of artists including the Penny Dreadfuls (Triple X), Scottish rock group Thrum (Fire), and a Paul Collins album (Dro/SONY) on which Bill contributed back-up vocals and guitar parts. Cutler was also called in to co-mix a track by pop songstress Jewel, a cover of “You Make Loving Fun”, which Kerner produced for the Fleetwood Mac Tribute Album “Legacy” on Lava/Atlantic.
When the Clinton-Gore Presidential campaign hit Northern California in 92, they went looking for a record producer who could cut a track to be used at youth rallies. Bill volunteered for the job, and the result was a song called “It’s Time for Them to Go!”, recorded at Hyde Street Studios with an all-star cast of Bay Area musicians including sax player Boots Hughston, bassist Chris Solberg (Santana, Chris Isaak), and drummer Paul Revelli (Bonnie Hayes, Joe Louis Walker).
In 1993, Cutler began experimenting in yet another genre--dance music. Along with producer/engineer Mark V (Bone Thugs & Harmony, Switchblade Symphony), Bill formed a hip hop group called the Mystery Tramps. Cutler, Mark V and executive producer Michael Ehrlich, co-produced a rap/dance version of Bob Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone”. After sending the track to Dylan’s publisher, Bob agreed to let the group sample his voice from the original 1965 recording singing the signature line: “How Does It Feel?” The Mystery Tramps were soon signed to Imago/BMG and their controversial single caused a sensation in the club scene, with rave reviews from Billboard and house remixes by Tony Garcia. The following year, working with Burgess Entertainment, Cutler arranged for Crystal Gayle to recut her 1979 hit “When I Dream” as a drum n’ bass dance track for Glassnote Records.
On November 17, 1993, following the release of the Mystery Tramps single, Bill was a guest on “The Grateful Dead Hour” radio show with host David Gans. The program, taped at KPFA in Berkeley and heard throughout the country on more than a hundred stations, featured a retrospective of Cutler’s career, complete with rare tapes of Heroes, Slewfoot, and Kingfish.
Shifting gears for his next project, Cutler produced a live album for Pride & Joy (O.P.M. Records), the 9-member San Francisco funk and soul review that has been thrilling audiences on the West Coast for the last 20 years. Recorded at the Great American Music Hall with Skyelabs Mobile Studio, the Pride & Joy CD, “Live in San Francisco”, was nominated in 1997 by the National Association of Indepenent Record Distributors (NAIRD) as R&B album of the year.
Since 1996 Cutler has been working as the restoration producer for an extensive punk catalog. Culled from the archives of CD Presents, the San Francisco indie label which first introduced the hardcore sound to Northern California, these tapes contain some of the last unreleased material by many of the most important bands in the genre. Included in the package are live concerts and studio recordings by Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Black Flag (with Henry Rollins), Butthole Surfers, NOFX, Avengers, TSOL, Corrosion of Conformity, Fang, Dead Kennedys, Tales of Terror, Dwarves, N.Y. Loose, Minutemen, Flipper, Subhumans, D.O.A., Dils, Mojo Nixon, Tuxedo Moon, Adolescents, The Offs, and the Sea Hags.
In 1998, Kingfish released its first studio album in over 20 years, “Sundown on the Forest” (Phoenix Records). Incorporating both the traditional Kingfish sound and some fresh material, the CD included a new version of Cutler’s ballad “Ridin’ High”, with Bill singing the lead vocal and Jerry Garcia on lead guitar. Cutler was tapped to write the liner notes for this historic collection and later toured with the band on a West Coast swing that included gigs in Southern California and Las Vegas.
From 1995-2000, Cutler was manager and producer of Spike 1000, a young, nu-metal band fronted by female singing sensation Shannon Harris. Cutler helped build Spike’s large Bay Area following, producing their debut album “Prime” for the Japanese label Network/Pony Canyon, and securing the group a record deal with Portrait/Columbia in the U.S. Since completing their first American release, Spike has toured nationally, playing shows with Korn, Staind, A Perfect Circle, Stone Temple Pilots, Linkin Park and many others. Cutler continues to work with emerging hard rock bands, recently producing a CD for the group Broken Dolls at The Plant in Sausalito.
In January, 2002, Bill went to Minneapolis to produce “Spring Reverb”, the third studio album by The Big Wu, one of the most successful jambands in the Midwest. With three accomplished songwriters, their own custom record label, and an annual festival called “The Family Reunion”, the Wu have been a model for bands all over the US making their mark outside the major label system.
In 2006, Cutler returned to the performing arena with his latest band, Bill Cutler and the Hounds of Time, which features Paul Revelli (drums), Pat Campbell (bass), Steve Shufton (keyboards) and Ricc Sandoval (lead guitar).
Bill has just finished his latest studio adventure, completing his own long-awaited solo album. Singing lead vocals and playing rhythm guitar on 14 original songs, Cutler is joined on his new CD by many of the legendary Bay Area musicians he has worked with in the past, including Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Weir, Jerry Miller, Jeff Watson, David Nelson, Barry Sless, Mark Karan and Matthew Kelly. Recorded over many years, the original analog tapes have been restored and given a state-of-the-art sound by engineer/mixer Russell Bond. The album, titled “Crossing the Line”, on Magnatude Records, debuts on iTunes in January, 2008 and at retail on March 4th.
As a songwriter, performer, producer and manager, Bill Cutler continues to work in all aspects of today’s music business.