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For those who saw the band live, heard the album “King King,” or found a copy of the infamous Mick Jagger blues bootleg album with the Devils, you are well-aware of what made this band so special: Real blues played with a punk rock sensibility; a charismatic frontman whose harp style was a throwback to blues’ roots; and a small but fierce catalog of recorded material that became a template for bands around the globe.
Most haven’t heard the group, which is a shame. 1992’s “King King” is almost a litmus test for hardcore blues credibility; knowing looks and nods are exchanged by the small fraternity of music fans who have found this CD.
That its lifespan was limited doesn’t take away from the band’s story. With roots in California’s roots and blues scenes, The Red Devils were a sister band to the legendary Blasters and raised up with James Harman and associates. As their fame in Cali grew, so did their fans: They were the only blues band signed to Rick Rubin’s Def American label, and they were Bruce Willis‘ house band for Planet Hollywood openings.
After splitting in the mid-’90s, Butler went solo, releasing the intense “13 featuring Lester Butler” album. Butler died tragically in 1998, sparking several tributes in the Netherlands and around Europe, where the Devils and 13 had played several near-legendary gigs.
Information about the musicians is scarce online, though a devoted following remains overseas. We are hoping this site can be a repository for the good stories, photos and random links sprinkled throughout the world wide web.
A bit about the authors: I’m J.J. Perry, digital editor at a newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana; blues and roots drummer; and certified barbecue judge. Tom Harold is a writer, artist and musician, who can currently be found blowing harp and singing in Indianapolis’ Gordon Bonham Blues Band. We met in college at Indiana University in 1992; we first bonded over “King King.” Soon, we started our first band together, named after the Devils’ tune “Automatic.” But we’ll get into all of that later.
Until then, on with the show …