The name Jasper Heikens is familiar to hardcore Lester Butler and Red Devils fans — Jasper created one of the first Butler websites, a “come to” page that became a gathering place for Butler fans and friends.
With his original site going live on NoFightin.com, we reached out to Jasper to learn about the man (and harmonica player) behind the Lester Butler Tribute Site. (Lightly edited for clarity and style.)
Question: Let’s go back to 1993, the year you first saw Lester Butler and The Red Devils. How old were you? Were you a blues fan, or a musician yet? Who were the artists you liked at the time?
Jasper Heikens: Since the age of 11 my dad took me to see these American blues artists playing locally or at some of the bigger festivals in the Netherlands. The blues was always around in my youth. My dad was a big Muddy fan, my uncle was a big B.B. King fan. My father brought back CDs and autographs back from Chicago. He had lots of vinyl, too. I was already a blues fan since a young age … listening to Muddy, Wolf, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells … And later on when I started playing I loved more and more harp players like James Harman, Rod Piazza, Studebaker John and James Cotton.
Q: Where did you see them in 1993? Did you know who they were? What did their performances mean to you? How did it affect you?
JH: In 1993 at the age of 14 at the Moulin Blues Festival in Ospel I stood 5 feet away from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, he looked at me the whole show. A few hours later I saw The Red Devils and I was blown away. I had not seen a harp player with that charisma and such a tight band … I didn’t (hear of) them before. A few months later I picked up some harmonicas in a music shop, and have not stopped playing. I learned all the “King King” licks, but I’ve evolved in playing chromatic too.
Q: What sparked your idea to make a Lester Butler Tribute Site? When did it go live?
JH: Around 1996, I think, the internet started to come into households. I went online and I discovered there was about nothing about my new favourite band and harp player, Lester Butler. So I put some pages up.
Q: How did you learn about the band or find their music? Did you know other Red Devils and Lester Butler fans?
JH: So I got my monthly blues news via a dutch magazine called Block.
Q: One of the really cool features of the original site was the photos you got from people who were at the old King King club in Hollywood, including the only pictures we’ve seen of Mick Jagger performing with the Devils. How did you track down those photographs?
JH: Once the site was up I got mails from all over the world. People wanted to trade, saw (Butler) live or even knew him.
Q: You were at the Moulin Blues Festival in 1998, “Lester’s Legendary Last Gig.” What are your biggest memories from that night?
JH: I remember that show vividly. Lester was in the zone and this was such a tight performance. He still has a big fan base here in Europe. Blues people from Belgium and the Netherlands still have much love for him.
Q: Did you ever have a chance to meet Lester Butler himself?
JH: No unfortunately not, but I got close with Eddie Clark.
Q: It seems a few years ago, the Tribute Site went down, and you were not able to get it online again. Did you think, “OK, the site is done, it’s all lost”?
JH: The site got down because of family issues. I always had a backup somewhere.
Q: On the Tribute Site, you wrote, “On 5 may 2001 there was a Lester Butler Tribute at Moulin Blues in Ospel in Holland. Lester Butler deserves many more tributes.” Since then, there have been several tribute shows in Europe and the US, bands that were inspired by Lester, reissues of “King King” and “13.” Are you surprised that people are still interested all these years later?
JH: There are a lot of bands here who got influenced by Lester. You got Cuban Heels, Drippin’ Honey, El Fish, the Hoochies … The all have some Lester spirit.
Q: We’re glad that we can get the original Lester Butler Tribute Site site back up here at NoFightin.com. What do you think of your role in helping to keep the memory of Lester Butler alive all of these years?
JH: I just made a beginning back in ’96. NoFightin.com is everything Lester fans could wish for.