Chris Charucki, a longtime roadie and production and stage manager with the Grateful Dead has passed away, Amplify has learned.
“Charucki was a legend,” said Don Strasburg, co-president and senior talent buyer AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. “I’m sure his spirit will always be part of the Grateful Dead family and community. I’m honored he was my friend and very sad he won’t be around to make fun of me.”
Charucki first began working with the Dead in the 1993 and has been with the group’s various offshoots including Furthur, RatDog, Bob Weir, and Dead & Company.
“Chris Charucki was rock and roll,” says Peter Shapiro with Brooklyn Bowl, LOCKN’ Festival and Capitol Theatre, which honored Charucki on their marquee after his passing. “When you saw him at his desk side-stage you felt better. You knew that whatever happened, with Chris there, things would be OK. He was a force that was able to bring the energy of punk rock to a world (the Grateful Dead) whose ethos was also about sometimes going against the tide. Chris brought the worlds of punk rock and the Grateful Dead together and meshed them to create what is basically….him. He is going to be missed greatly.”
David Lefkowitz, VP for Clubs and Theaters at Live Nation Philadelphia, said “Charucki came from working in local clubs in San Francisco, like the I-beam, humping gear and eventually running stages and venue production. Local bands who had the privilege of playing there on a regular basis learned the ropes from him, and learned that his hard exterior was a front for one of the sweetest and funniest guys around.
Lefkowitz noted Charucki was originally from New York, “so the toughness was ingrained. But he had a heart as big as anyone’s heart. One of the things I have been most impressed with, reading countless online tributes, is the breadth of his mentorship. So many younger production people having gotten guidance and advice over the years, with many women, in particular, mentioning his encouragement for succeeding in a field dominated by men. He worked for Primus before the Dead, which began his work at Ultra Sound. And any time I saw him, at work or play, I loved that our roots went back so far and deep, from Haight Street to the world’s stages. He always made me feel special.”
A Facebook group created for Charucki before his passing, called F*ck Charucki, created a meme for the stage manager that he happily obliged.
On Charucki’s personal Facebook page, friends paid tribute to the fallen roadie.
“Last time I saw him, as I was leaving Chicago Theatre after the last night of Bobby & Phil tour, we made eye contact across the venue and he called out from the stage, ‘Liz! Nothing but love for you sunshine!’ wrote Liz Baqir with Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. “I called back, ‘Safe travels brother, see you at home!’ and blew him a kiss–not thinking twice about it, sure I would see him again soon…because he was always there… From my early Ratdog tour days, when he would eye me suspiciously when I got myself backstage, to 20+ years later when his hugs were something I always looked forward to, he has been a hilarious and constant part of my work and tour life. A big-hearted teddy bear hiding under that gruff and grumpy facade, not to mention a consummate professional who got shit done. There will never be another like him.”
Fellow roadie and sound tech Charles Twilling wrote “Chris Charucki you were the most honest man I knew out here & thank you for teaching me how to play poker. You were punk as fuck! even drinking Diet Coke.”
Another friend, Robert Brown with Dancing Bear Productions, wrote that Charucki “showed me a few things about the industry and my job, made me laugh every day we were together and gave me respect for what I do,” adding, “I’ve never forgotten the day we met at Shoreline Amp (in Mountain View, California) over 20 years ago. There will never be another like you Chris.”
According to a 2003 article on JamBands.com, Charucki met the Grateful Dead in 1993 through a company called Ultra Sound. He told the site he has served as “Utility infielder, working with Mickey, Phil and Bobby in all their incarnations.”
In the interview, he said two of the highlights of his job was caterers who create special vegetarian meals for him and watching members of The Dead work with guests like Steve Winwood, who joined the band during a 2003 stop in Saratoga Springs, New York.
“When Winwood sat in with the Dead for ‘Fantasy’ I made it a point to be able to go out in front of the p.a. offstage and listen to it because it was a really cool thing,” he recalled. “I was lucky enough not to have a lot to do at that particular moment. During a show there are all sorts of little cues that need to be taken care of although occasionally you do get to stop and enjoy it.”
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