Archive for the 13 Category

Groanin’ Lester Butler onstage in 1996

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2021 by J.J.
Back with The Blue Shadows, April 17 at Bar Deluxe (LA Weekly)

Look, putting together a weekly music calendar isn’t easy. It can be tedious, boring and frustrating. Sometimes, you have to find your little spaces of joy to keep the whole endeavor from completing sucking your soul away.

That’s how I would like to think the calendar editor at LA Weekly came up with “Groanin’ Lester Butler” back in 1996. I hope it brought him/her a little bit of joy in a thankless job.

Unwanted nicknames aside, the years between The Red Devils and 13 found Lester Butler playing locally around Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif., in various versions of Devils, Shadows and unlucky numbers. He found regular work in joints like Bar Deluxe, Jack’s Sugar Shack and, of course, the Blue Cafe.

Here is a collection of calendar clips and bar ads from L.A. papers in 1996, tracking Butler’s moves before his breakout ’97.

April 24 at Bar Deluxe with The Blue Shadows — “formerly The Red Devils, and now rejoined by Groanin’ Lester Butler” (LA Weekly)
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10 years of Red Devils & Lester Butler gig posters

Posted in 13, lester butler, red devils with tags , , , on June 26, 2021 by J.J.

We’ve collected a lot of great posters, fliers and handbills for various Red Devils-related gigs over the years. Now we’ll start to put them all in one place.

Check out the new posters gallery on nofightin.com, with images from 1988 through 1998 (all of the pictures are not up yet).

Here’s a new image to kick things off from The Red Devils’ Nov. 15, 1993, gig at De Effenaar in Eindhoven, Netherlands:

For most of us in the early ’90s, the fliers and ticket stubs and promo pictures and newspaper clips were the only way to go beyond the “King King” record itself (remember, this was before the internet we all know and love). Most of these images came online only after The Red Devils and 13 were finished.

Get more history by checking out the timeline section on No Fightin’. (Thank you to Frank Verstappe, Vince Jordan, Paul Brown, Feelgood and others for their contributions.)

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From Screamin’ Jay to Icepick James to 13 … the birth of a ‘Plague’

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2021 by J.J.

The recent health news of James Harman has reminded me, again, of the cyclical nature of the blues, and the passing down of music from one to another.

Lester Butler was (in)famous for partaking in this tradition. What many probably don’t know is that the most notorious song on “13 Featuring Lester Butler” is not exactly an LB original.

The roots of “Plague of Madness” date back to a 1957 single from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “Frenzy” (written by David Hess and Augustus Stevenson). A speeding, twanging getaway chase of a song, the accomplished music is the perfect launching pad for the wild notions that come bling!-ing out of Screamin’ Jay’s head (more on that in a bit).

Walk your fingers up the H racks in the Blues/R&B section to come upon Harman, James and his take on “Frenzy” 26 years later, on 1983’s “Thank You Baby” with the devastating Kid/Fats lineup of the James Harman Band. Again, this song suits James Harman and Co. at just the right time: A jumping, rip-roaring R&B rave-up that wouldn’t necessarily upset punks or rockabillys.

And it comes with its own art project music video that, if it didn’t make MTV, surely was a hit on local cable access. Where Screamin’ Jay had a macabre personality and stage coffins, the Harman band had a straitjacket, foam in the mouth and silent film star Michael Mann as … Hollywood Fats.

So where does Lester come in?

We’ve not heard any version of “Frenzy” by the Blue Shadows or Red Devils, nothing on “King King” tapes. But it is not hard to imagine that both Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and James Harman records were being spun at house parties, at set breaks and on boom boxes. And, it’s kind of an unforgettable cut.

In a 2011 interview with NoFightin.com, 13 guitarist Alex Schultz talked about how the songs were crafted for the “13” record. The vocals were overdubbed, which gave the band the musical license to do whatever was called for at the moment, and let Lester find his vocal themes later. Schultz even said he didn’t know what the songs were about until he finally heard them with Butler’s lyrics.

For instance: Here is an alternate take of the song that would become “Plague of Madness” — what sounds like the same backing track, a different guitar track or mix, and extemporaneous “Frenzy” lyrics:

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Meet Mr. Uninhibited Wild Cat

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2017 by J.J.

Reporters never knew what they were going to get during a Lester Butler interview, as this Aug. 8, 1997, piece by Randy Cordova for the Arizona Republic shows.

Chief among the surprises are some hotel hi-jinks between Les Butler and another guest, the unfortunately named Wes Butler.

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Tamines 1997 reissue is a miss

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , on December 20, 2015 by J.J.

A new album with the “Lester Butler” name on the cover is a rare thing, but “Live at Tamines 1997” misses the mark for both hardcore fans and newcomers.

From the song selections, to the notes, to the packaging, so little care seems to have been put into this release. While a new disc could both satisfy and fuel Butler fandom, the release by RockBeat Records likely won’t find the audience to justify any more reissues.Live at Tamines 1997

IT’S OLD: The Tamines festival gig has been floating around bootleg circles for years. Most Lester Butler fans — this online and on early tape-swapping lists — have had this recording in their collections for years.

For them, there is nothing new here. Even a bonus track, “Automatic,” from the 1998 Moulin Blues Festival in Ospel, has been widely circulated and seems to be here just to fill out disc two.

IT’S DAUNTING: A double-album like this naturally costs more. That’s a barrier for new fans, who aren’t going to spend more for an artist they aren’t familiar with, and won’t commit to two discs of unheard live material from nearly 20 years ago.

The run times for this live show, helpfully listed on the CD’s back cover, would scare off even the most sturdy blues fan: 9:57, 8:47, 8:30, 6:17, 12:59, 10:39 …

IT’S LAZY: Though there are production and mastering credits, the disc is clearly bootleg-rific. The drums — especially the kick — are too high in the mix. The entire sound is trebly, with very little bass. The crowd participation, which usually helps justify a live release, is inaudible. Clearly, the recording was from a soundboard mix and was not meant to be heard in recorded format.

The laziness extends to the packaging.
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1997 Tamines bootleg given mainstream release

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2015 by J.J.

Lester Butler is back — sort of — on the above-board release of the long-bootlegged Tamines show from Aug. 29, 1997, at the 7th South Blues Festival in Belgium.

Live at Tamines 1997The two-disc set “Lester Butler featuring 13 Live at Tamines 1997” comes from RockBeat Records, the same folks who reissued “13 featuring Lester Butler” more than four years ago, with bonus tracks from the Tamines festival, clearly taken from the bootleg that had been circulating for a decade by then.

Here’s the back-cover info from the new release:

Lester Butler was a brilliant harmonica player. He rejuvenated the LA blues scene with his group The Red Devils. After they disbanded, Lester formed a group on Hightone Records featuring a back up band he called 13. The live intensity of this show demonstrates how adept he was singing and playing the blues. He died not long after this show from 1997. The blues was hot and Lester was on fire.

Though Amazon shows a release date of Oct. 2, our copy is already on backorder.

So though we don’t have the physical package in hand just yet, there are a few things we know already:
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“So Low Down” lyrics

Posted in 13 with tags , , , on June 15, 2015 by J.J.

“So Low Down” (Lester Butler), from “13 featuring Lester Butler”

13

Here come baby, she’s so down
She been ballin’ in my town
So low down, my baby’s so low down

Sleep all day, out all night
Lowdown woman feel all right
So low down, my baby’s so low down
She’s sleepin’ in the ground …

My baby so low down

(harp solo)

Down on Union (unintelligible)
Babe I know just what to do
You’re so low down
My baby’s so low down
She’s sleepin’ in the ground …

My baby’s so low down!

My baby’s so low down
She’s sleepin’ in the ground
She’s just like wine and brown
And I can’t put her down
My baby’s so low down

(harp solo out)

Transcribed by nofightin.com. More lyrics here.

Intveld on Butler: “Taking something beyond where it’s been before”

Posted in 13, lester butler with tags , , on May 20, 2015 by J.J.

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Lester Butler and 13 were supposed to play their first gig at the Dixie Belle Restaurant in Downey on June 27, 1998.

Butler never made it, but a tribute show was held for him that night. (An article that day noted Smokey Hormel, Steven Hodges and John Bazz all playing).

Here are the details by Theo Douglas from the June 26, 1998, Long Beach Press-Telegram:

HARMONICA PLAYER MEMORIALIZED IN CONCERT

The late Lester Butler may be gone, but a group of his friends and peers in the Los Angeles music world intend to make sure the harmonica player’s intense music lives on for at least one more night.

Memorial flier, courtesy Enrico Crivellaro

Memorial flier, courtesy Enrico Crivellaro

That would be Saturday night, which is when Butler and his band, 13, were scheduled to perform at the Dixie Belle Restaurant in Downey.

Faced with the harmonica player’s untimely death May 9 from a heroin overdose, Butler’s friends decided to fill in for him Saturday at the Dixie Belle with a set list of his own original songs.

“I felt there was some kind of irony that he didn’t play there. He didn’t make it, but his friends can make it for him,” said Dixie Belle promoter Ed Boswell who booked Butler’s Saturday night show several months ago.

“Maybe he could be there in spirit,” he said.

One thing is certain: Butler, who was 38 when he died, won’t be sitting in on a harp. Recognizing that no one can fill the silence he leaves, the evening won’t be an all-harmonica spectacular.
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Snake Snake at the Blue Cafe 1997

Posted in 13 with tags , , , , on May 21, 2014 by J.J.

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We have written about Snake Snake before, believing a band with that brilliant a name could only be a myth.

But here they are — Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell, Stephen Hodges and Lester Butler — on a June 13, 1997, at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach, Calif.

Funny that this was right after the release of “13 featuring Lester Butler” and several 13 dates.

Welcome to nofightin.com

Posted in 13, lester butler, red devils with tags , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by J.J.

For those coming to this site for the first time, welcome to nofightin.com.

We have been here since 2009, cataloging the short but stellar career of The Red Devils and Lester Butler.

Wander around and find rare music, videos and reviews, and meet other fans — and some of the musicians who made the records we love so much.
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To get you started, here are some of the most popular and essential posts and pages on nofightin.com.

Lyrics: Everything on “King King,” most of “13,” live stuff and more.

2 Meter Sessies: In lieu of a second Red Devils record, this live radio set from 1993 can fill the void.

“Lester’s Legendary Last Gig”: Full coverage of the DVD release of 13’s classic 1998 Moulin Blues performance.

“Lousiana Blues”: The story behind one of the most rare songs in the Devils’ discography, released on a promo tape before “King King” came out in ’92.

“Blues in the Morning”: Hear The Red Devils rock KCRW in 1992, including their rare take on “Shake ‘Em On Down.”

VPRO: Famous & rare Lester Butler TV appearance, blowing a little acoustic harp, talking Little Walter and jamming with G. Love.

Inside King King: Pictures from what is believed to be The Red Devils’ last King King gig.

MTV Europe: The band shuffles through a pair of tunes on the music video channel.

Finally, a pair of ruminations on the band we love: Memories of hearing the record for the first time in 1992, and a more recent take on just what makes “King King” so special.

Thanks to Paul Rees for the mention in Classic Rock Magazine.

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