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Billy Butler

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A tasty soul-jazz and blues guitarist, Billy Butler adroitly mixed a Charlie Christian approach with '50s R&B grooves and backbeats. He coaxed a warm, fat tone from his hollow-bodied electric guitar, and provided deceptively simple solos and fills that became staples of the R&B guitar vocabulary. Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk," featuring Butler, is perhaps the prototype R&B guitar instrumental. "Ram-Bunk-Shush" and "Big Boy" are other highlights of his tenure with Doggett. He began playing with doo wop/R&B group the Harlemaires in the late '40s, then led combos until 1952, when he joined Doc Bagby's trio. Butler co-wrote "Honky Tonk" while playing with Doggett from 1954 to 1961. He also recorded with King Curtis, Dinah Washington, Panama Francis, Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Smith, and David "Fathead" Newman in the '60s. Butler worked in Broadway pit bands beginning in the late '60s, but found time for recording sessions with Houston Person and Norris Turney in the late '60s and '70s. He led his own band and recorded for Prestige in the late '60s and early '70s. Butler also recorded with Al Casey and Jackie Williams. He toured Europe frequently in the '70s and '80s, doing sessions there and in America. ~ Ron Wynn & Richard Lieberson

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07 June 1945 in Chicago, IL

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s