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Carl & Pearl Butler

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Biography

b. Carl Roberts Butler, 2 June 1927, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, d. 4 September 1992, Franklin, Tennessee, USA. Butler was playing the guitar and singing at the age of 12 and writing songs and playing local clubs by the time he left high school. He saw military service in Europe and North Africa from 1944-46. After discharge, he formed the Lonesome Pine Boys and during the late 40s, was featured on radio stations in Knoxville and Raleigh. He made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and by the early 50s, was also appearing regularly on television in Knoxville. In 1951, his songwriting abilities received a boost when ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’ became a US Top 10 country hit for Carl Smith (a feat repeated 22 years later by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton). He made his own recording debut with Capitol in 1951 but moved to Columbia in 1953. He had minor success with such songs as ‘Angel Band’, ‘River Of Tears’ and his own version of ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’; he also often sang gospel material. During the 50s, with his powerful voice and honky-tonk style of music, he established a considerable reputation as a solo artist and in 1961, he gained his first US country chart hit with ‘Honky Tonkitis’. However, in 1962, he decided to work as a duo with his wife. He had married Pearl Dee Jones (b. 20 September 1930, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 3 March 1988) when he was just beginning his career but she had previously only sung with Carl at family functions. The partnership immediately proved successful, when their recording of ‘Don’t Let Me Cross Over’ stayed at number 1 in the US country charts for 11 weeks. During the 60s, they appeared regularly on the Opry and had further Top 20 hits with ‘Loving Arms’, ‘Too Late To Try Again’ and ‘I’m Hanging Up The Phone’. In 1967, they appeared in the filmSecond Fiddle To A Steel Guitar. The same year, as active members of the Salvation Army, they recorded their popularAvenue Of Prayer gospel album as a tribute to the Bailes Brothers. Carl Butler co-wrote some songs with Earl Scruggs, including ‘Crying My Heart Out Over You’. It was initially a hit for Flatt And Scruggs in 1960 but became a number 1 country hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1982. Their last chart hit was in 1969 with ‘We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning’, but they recorded for Columbia Records until 1971 and later for Chart, CMH and Pedaca. Their sound was not technically harmony singing, since Carl’s vocals were always totally dominant; Pearl merely sang in the background and never took solos. However, the public interest in their style and their recording successes undoubtedly led to the later appearances of male-female harmony duos such as Wagoner-Parton, Conway Twitty - Loretta Lynn and others. Carl Butler was greatly influenced, as a boy, by Roy Acuff, and this always showed in his emotional and loud style of singing. He also became noted for his gaudy western-style Nudie costumes. They continued to tour during the 70s and 80s and made some appearances on the Opry and on theMidnight Jamboree from Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop. Pearl Butler died of thyroid complications on 3 March 1988. Carl began to restrict his appearances but did briefly sing with Nancy Anne. They recorded a single but it failed and the partnership ended. Carl never recovered from the loss of Pearl and eventually drifted into obscurity. He died at his home on 4 September 1992, following a heart attack, and was buried beside Pearl in the Williamson Memorial Gardens. Fellow country stars George Jones, Carl Smith, Jack Greene, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs were among the pallbearers for one of country music’s greatest honky tonk singers.

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