Ronnie Schneider: The Man Behind The Deal For ‘Gimme Shelter’

Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Gimme Shelter lobbycard, the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway, in December 1969.

Ronnie Schneider was Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein’s nephew who had served as the tour accountant for the band’s 1966 U.S. tour who took over for his uncle when the band sought to get out from under its shaky financial situation.  He joined with Sam Cutler and the mysterious Jon Jaymes to form the Stones’ new management team, charged with making the free music festival at Altamont happen, 50 years ago today. Schneider recently spoke to Pollstar about that fateful day. 

Pollstar: When did you first realize that the Altamont concert was going to be a disaster?
Ronnie Schneider: The minute the cop told me to stop running for the ambulance, the guy [Meredith Hunter] was dead.
How important was it that the show go on given the documentary needed an ending?
Not vital at all, since there never was a planned film.  I hired the Maysles on November 26, 1969 to shoot four songs at the Madison Garden Show.  The Maysles deal was a work for hire with the hopes of working in the future as a selling point.  After filming the Garden, the Maysles asked if they could join the Stones in Muscle Shoals and then the free concert… where fate took over. David {Maysles] and I decided to do the film on the plane back to San Francisco.  The actual deal for the film wasn’t signed until February of 1970. 
Who do you blame for how Altamont played out?
I don’t blame anyone; life and death happens. I could blame Jon Jaymes for signing as the promoter of the event, which allowed Dick Carter to give the use of the Speedway. I could blame Ralph Gleason for making up the Stones overcharging story and creating the demand for a free concert. I could blame Meredith Hunter for pulling the gun out. I could blame drugs.  I could blame Filmways for not allowing the concert to go on for free, or at least for the $6,000 lease. I could blame the Grateful Dead for not playing their set and running away from their people, leaving “dead” air for three hours. A fact that is seldom mentioned is that 299,000 had a good time… those not around the stage had no problem.

What did you end up doing after Altamont?
I worked on the 1970 Rolling Stones Euro tour, and produced “Gimme Shelter.”