Even if you never visited the club before it closed 10 years ago, check out the Blue Cafe Facebook page. There are all kinds of great blues photos and memorabilia there.
Archive for the lester butler Category
Dave Alvin posted his thoughts to Facebook Dec. 4:
Got to thinking today about the late, talented Lester Butler and the short lived but tough little blues outfit, The Red Devils, so I found a good clip of the guys playing some European festival over a decade ago. Yeah, that’s Blaster Bill Bateman on drums and Knitter Johnny Ray Bartel on bass backing up Lester as he blows the hell out of his harp. In those days they battled their demons while dancing damn close to the edge but for a few shining hours they played some great damn rocking blues. I’m glad some film remains of Lester and the guys before things ended as ugly and sad as anything could.
Alvin, of course, is essential to The Red Devils, basically a spin-off band to The Blasters. Dave Alvin played in the original Blue Shadows trio with Bill Bateman and Jonny Ray Bartel, and teams still with Bartel in The Knitters.
As of this writing, the post has 422 likes, 64 comments and 86 shares.
And he posted this video, from PinkPop, more than 20 years ago:
Found on YouTube: A new remix of “It’s Bad You Know” from R.L. Burnside’s “Come On In” record. Lester Butler played the harp lick, which became famous in promos for “The Sopranos.”
The video was posted June 3, 2013, by Russ Stevens, with the description: “THIS IS AN EXTENDED VERSION, BY MARE AND SOLARIS, GIPSY BALCAN BOOGIE.”
It’s different, a little repetitive — even for a remix — but interesting to hear Butler’s harp do things you don’t expect. That makes it fresh, and worth a listen for fans.
Blues musicians will know … get a group of guys together, come up with a name, and you are a “band” for a night. Might have those same four guys another night, new name. Use a different drummer for a pickup gig, and that’s three. One of those bands, likely, was called the Blues Meisters. Law of averages.
The Red Devils had a fairly monogamous relationship during the prime ’92-’93 years: Butler, Size, Bartel, Bartel and Bateman — save for Mike Flanigin taking North American duties for Dave Lee Bartel in late 1992. But once Paul Size left the band in mid-’93, all bets were off.
Here are some of the random situations featuring Lester Butler, primarily between The Red Devils and 13.
THE BACKSTREET CRAWLERS: “Tonight at 9 [at the Blue Cafe], the Backstreet Crawlers, featuring Lester of the Red Devils on harmonica. The Crawlers are an L.A.-based blues outfit who often have non-musician celebs dropping by to jam.” — Long Beach, Calif., Press-Telegram, July 25, 1992 Continue reading
The introduction page of the April/May/June 1998 issue of Dutch blues magazine Block read, “Daarbij kwam het schokkende nieuws rond het overlijden van Lester Butler, een week na diens spirituele optreden in Ospel.” (“It came the shocking news about the death of Lester Butler, a week after his spiritual appearance in Ospel.”)
The magazine pages have come from our friend Feelgood. The translation — rough as it is — from Google Translate with some contextual editing. Some of the facts here are unverified by No Fightin’, and may be unclear or incorrect because of the translation. Any help with a better English version is appreciated.
In memoriam: Lester Butler
On Saturday, May 2nd the Moulin Blues festival closed with the most exciting and impressive jam that I experienced since North Sea ’83. Lester Butler ruled with a firm hand members of his group of 13, half the James Harman Band, ex-Red Devil Paul Size, Joe Louis Walker and Billy Branch. In addition, he sang and played like he was possessed by the devil.
Not long after Lester Butler died in May 1998, I received a package from Enrico Crivellaro, who was Butler’s touring guitarist in 13 in 1997. We had kept in touch after meeting in Kentucky and Indiana, and now he had sent along a memorial flier for Butler, along with a prayer card and short biography (the text of which became the introduction text of Jasper Heikens’ Lester Butler tribute site).
Last year, in a trove of archives sent by 13 drummer Eddie Clark, we received the backside of the memorial flier, with directions to the May 24, 1998, event, as well as a mailing for a “Bad Ass Birthday Blues Bash” for Butler on Nov. 12 and 13, 1998.
Based in The Netherlands, Horn shot Butler during his 1997 tour through Europe. The photographer has posted some outtakes, and explained to us how the elements came together, from concept to session:
The pictures were taken in Rotterdam on Sept. 10, 1997, just across the artist entrance of Nighttown where 13 would perform that night.
The first time I saw Lester play I had this picture in my mind: While playing you couldn’t see his face, and while singing you couldn’t see his tattooed arms the way you would when playing, and I wanted to see both at the same time. … (D)ays before this portrait was made I took some pictures at a concert in Tegelen, on stage with Lori’s backstage pass. After the concert I asked Lester if I could take his portrait when he was playing in Rotterdam and he agreed.
I brought my own harp (the one in the picture is mine) and prints of the pictures I took before, just average concert pictures but “messed up” in the darkroom (I call it “rensomatic”). He loved the way they looked as did Alex Schultz who happens to love photography as well and was actually related with some of my photographer heroes through his dad. So he was willing to pose and we shared a couple of minutes in front of the garage door.
After a few frames it occurred to me that the holes in the door resembled that of the holes in the harp so we shot two or three more and that was it. He liked the picture a lot and on one occasion, years later, he gave me his T-shirt and said “thanks for the pictures and your friendship.”
In light of the recent announcement that Lester Butler’s 13 album is being rereleased by RockBeat records, we here at Nofightin.com felt it was only appropriate to take a look back at the original debut.
It was December 12th of 1996 when Hightone Records sent out info “for immediate release” on some new acts that has just been added to the roster. Included in their lineup of scheduled recordings for 1997 was 13, Lester’s first and only solo recording.
Here is what Hightone had to say:
HIGHTONE ANNOUNCES NEW SIGNINGS FOR 1997; ALBUMS DUE FROM 13 / THE SKELETONS / JULIE MILLER
OAKLAND, CA — HighTone Records, distributed by Rhino, has announced the signing of 13 (featuring Lester Butler), The Skeletons, and Julie Miller, and will release new albums by all three acts in early 1997.
13 (featuring Lester Butler) evolved from the L.A.-based group The Red Devils, who recorded albums backing Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash as well as their own critically acclaimed Live At The King King CD for American Recordings. Fueled by Butler’s incendiary vocals and harmonica work, coupled with his legendary near manic stage presence, 13′s powerhouse lineup also includes James Intveld (The Blasters) on bass, Steven Hodges (Tom Waits) on drums, Alex Schultz (The Mighty Flyers) on guitar, and Andy Kaulkin on keyboards. The band’s eponymous debut album, set for release on March 18, careens out of the speakers with a vengeance, with a nod to the gritty Chicago blues sound, but powered by a rock energy that places 13 in a league all its own. Material includes nine originals, plus covers of classic songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Big Joe Williams, and Dr. Ross.
The label was obviously pretty stoked about the whole affair, and why not? Butler was an exciting new artist, and with such a stellar lineup of accompanists on the project, how could it not promise to be anything other than outstanding?
This is one of the more readily available interviews with Lester Butler, but we’re including it here anyway:
Blowin’ out reeds with Lester Butler: Blues harp player/singer says the bad luck made him better
By Fred Shuster, Los Angeles Daily News Music Writer
March 28, 1997
Blues harpist Lester Butler says 13 is his lucky number, even though it spells bad news for others.
“There’s lots of symbolism behind it — bad luck and that whole deal,” Butler said. “But it’s always been lucky for me. All the bad things that happen make you stronger. The 13 thing is where the worst stuff can happen, but you can turn it around, and it actually helps you survive.”
Butler, who sings the blues with conviction and blows a mean Chicago-style harmonica, has been through the music-biz ringer. In the early ’90s, he led the Red Devils, a popular local combo that scored a deal with producer Rick Rubin’s Def American label. The band recorded an EP and a well-received live album titled “King King,” after the then-jumping club.
On Mondays, the Devils played to star-studded, packed houses at the now-defunct La Brea Avenue night spot. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and Mick Jagger often dropped by. Queen’s Brian May, members of the Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz and Peter Wolf sat in with the band. Angelo from Fishbone would recite spoken word when he wasn’t playing saxophone.