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.
4 thoughts on “Lester Butler memorials 1998”
Thanks to the YouTube posting of She’s Dynamite (which I play several times a day) and Time To Cry, I have (re) discovered the great music of Lester Butler and The Red Devils. I thank you for your good work.
I say rediscovered…back when King King and Thirteen were new, I owned the CDs but I was not ready to hear them; the latter CD in particular seemed too dark in tone and spirit. Here’s my point regarding my incorrect perception – and the funeral service: I note with great interest Lester Butler’s comment about “…the healing force of the blues”. So: here’s a man living on the edge, addicted, seemingly very tough and street-wise and yet his aim is to spread that healing. I hear that that is true in every note he plays, in every line he sings.
It is my conviction that death is an illusion and furthermore, no-one dies unwillingly! Yes, it may appear to be a tragic accident or incident; yes we miss them, yes we may feel anger at the mode of their passing – but they live on, as we all do!
Evidence? I have lots of it but here’s a related example: The last time I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan was August 28th 2000, on stage at the Colne Blues Festival, England, plain as day and larger than mortal life, exactly ten years after he passed on.
And lastly: Would Alex Schultz please send me an e mail? It’s been too long since we communicated and I have a CD for you!
@Keith: Great observations. I think “13” holds up as something really different, but I think we’ve seen blues move today more toward what Lester Butler was doing back in the mid-90s. The “retro” look and feel of the ’80s and ’90s have given way to a lot looser style and look — how many blues guys in those post-T-birds years would have been caught dead in Converse and black T’s on stage? And the music has gotten rawer, too, even when it swings.
Check out the interview on this site, “13 with a bullet.” Butler addresses that yin/yang thing many great artists deal with, Butler in particular.
J.J. : Huge thanks for alerting me to the ’13 wih a bullet’ interview.
There are things that Lester Butler and I have in common, such as not being remotely interested in Christianity but being acutely aware of a Higher Power and the potential for healing via the blues and other ways. I am also a friend of James Harman and Alex Schultz (although I haven’t spent as much time with either of them as I would have liked) and although ‘Kenny Wayne’ may be playing the right stuff now (I wouldn’t know), he sure wasn’t then…
There it ends: I’ve never done drugs, I have never had a motorcycle – and I can’t play tennis. There goes my tennis song, damnit!
Lester comes across to me as highly intelligent, funny, deep and as a great bluesman and humanitarian. I am so pleased that I’ve found his music (better late than never) and that nofightin.com are doing such a fine job.
Thanks again, keep in touch and keep loving the blues.
Will never forget that day. First 1 phone call followed by everybody calling. The close circle saw that day coming for a long time. The what happened just kept getting weirder by the hour. It made sense to me that some gal had injected him because I knew that Lester didn’t know how to use needles. Needles weren’t his thing. It was smoking & snorting. The service was a nightmare. I walked in the door & Lester’s mom made a beeline for me. I saw her in distress over Lester’s drug use more times than I can remember & here she was with her only son inside in a casket who passed away on Mother’s Day. She was such a nice lady. By that time everybody knew everything that happened the night he died. I walked in & the friends & band guys were sitting in the room against the wall opposite the casket. The first person I locked on was Bateman totally breaking down. I knew why so I just gave him the look & approached the casket. Probably hundreds of times I watched Lester sleep so I thought, he looks like he’s sleeping. He looked alive to me because of that. Obviously, because he was so young. There is still alot that people don’t know about the private Lester. The 2 women that Lester lived with & their private experiences with him are, for obvious reasons alot different than Lester’s interactions & the time he spent with his bandmates & male friends. For Instance, the night that the Devils broke up, I was alone with him. He was crying like you wouldn’t believe. A deep gutteral uncontrollable sobbing. He kept repeating ” I lost my band, I lost my band”. The Red Devils were everything to him & he was distraught. He knew the role he played in the band dissolving & he was wrecked over it. He often cried privately about the pain his addiction caused his mother. People very close knew his pattern of cleaning up then falling back down into using. Only if you were locked down & alone with him during a multiple day drug binge did you really know how bad it got. He loved his mother & sisters so much that he hid how bad things were. I also saw him try to hide things from the band both Devils & 13 & the Bruce Willis band but it was only because he was embarrassed by his addiction. He felt bad when his addiction caused distress to people in his circle but I only saw him express those feelings privately. At gigs he sucked it up as best he could but would leave the gig after a confrontation & cry. There were many many gigs where he was so intoxicated that bad stuff was going down causing arguments. Like the Planet Hollywood Vegas opening when he got wrapped up in Stephen Stills cord & ripped it right out of the amp. He was fired for that. That same night he angered Demi Moore by making a comment about her new chest & she immediately went to Bruce. When Lester was sober he was a nice person. He was very funny too & quite charming. He was so incredibly talented. There are probably hundreds of never heard recordings of the Devils. The guy who ran their sound at Jack’s & other places recorded every show from the board. His name is Paul Haines or Haynes, don’t remember the spelling but if he’s still alive & somebody can find him then all of the fans would be blown away by what he has. Absolutely incredible gigs. There are also missing recordings from the first 13 studio sessions. Lester played me the tape of the studio rehearsal the day of the rehearsal when he got back. The songs, even the lyrics were different than what ended up on album. Lester often changed the lyrics during gigs which makes the Paul Haynes collection very valuable.