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Red Devils

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Blues-influenced hard rockers the Red Devils were formed in Los Angeles, California, USA, in 1988. The band consisted of Lester Butler (d. 1998; vocals, harp), Jonny Ray Bartel (bass) and Bill Bateman (drums) among others, although only these three were in the 90s line-up which also featured Paul Size (lead guitar) and Dave Lee Bartel (rhythm guitar). They emerged from an informal jam session and Bateman recalls their first audience as ‘nine champion skateboarders sitting at the bar’. Butler had first learned blues harp at the age of six, because the instrument was the only one within his budget. Later he became a pupil of urban blues guitar maestro Hollywood Fats, who contributed to groups including the Blasters and the James Harman Band. When Fats died in 1986 it gave Butler the impetus to enter the music industry. After performing regularly at high school parties and other informal events, he eventually made the acquaintance of Bateman and Bartel, both fellow travellers on the Los Angeles roots rock scene (Bateman had also played on three albums with the Blasters). The Red Devils finally came to the attention of Def American Records and Rick Rubin in the early 90s, who saw an opening for their dense, excitable blues rock sound. Rubin was also on hand to record the band’s debut album, a glimpse of the Red Devils in their natural, live setting. The previous year they had appeared on sessions with Mick Jagger, though he did not include the results on his Wandering Spirit album. Butler signed to HighTone Records, releasing a solo album in 1997. He died from a drug overdose the following year.