"We called ourselves The Thunderbirds or The T-Birds. We'd play at lunch in the assembly room. Kids would pay a dime each for us to play for them."
According to Butch, rock 'n' roll was kind of dull in 1960, especially if you were a drummer. He wanted more out of his drumming than just keeping time and got some lessons from Frank Thompson, who had a jazz and R&B background.
After high school, Butch studied music at West Virginia State College. After four years, Butch quit and started playing around Charleston with the Iris Bell Trio. After a couple of years, the band started touring, then took a residency at a club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After a while Butch left the group and got a job drumming for Mel Torme.
Butch was with Mel for three and a half years, but left in 1974 and got a call from Count Basie after the Basie Orchestra's drummer Ray Parello had been injured in a car accident. They needed someone fast to fill in for a week or two while Ray recovered. Butch jumped on a plane to play that same night. He went in with no rehearsal, no sound check: absolutely cold. But he held his own. Realls Butch:
"A week or so worked out to four and a half years. I was in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. I'd done my homework. I knew what fit and what didn't - plus Mr. Basie liked me."
In 1979 Butch left Basie to pursue other opportunities. Butch has since played with artists such as Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Benny Goodman, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Lena Horne, Joe Bushkin, Bob Wilber, and many others.
The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame's fourth induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $45, VIP tickets cost $250 (includes preferred seating and admission to governor's reception prior to show). Info: 304-342-4412 or www.wvmusichalloffame.com.
Other inductees this year are Kathy Mattea, legendary country singer Connie Smith, longtime Jimi Hendrix bassist Billy Cox, Jack Rollins (writer of Frosty the Snowman, Peter Cottontail and Smokey the Bear), blues singer Diamond Teeth Mary and Red Clay Ramblers' co-founder Tommy Thompson.
Steel drum innovator Elliot "Ellie" Mannette, who has taught at WVU for two decades, will receive the Hall of Fame's second spirit Award.
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