Archive for the lester butler Category

Lester’s legacy

Posted in lester butler with tags , on July 29, 2017 by J.J.

The Red Devils’ story is tangled and troubled, to say the least. That the band has been able to take their show on the road this summer is satisfying for the musicians and fans alike.

One Devil is not so lucky.

Lester Butler was many things — artist, friend, brother — but he also could be complex and frustrating, especially to bandmates.


A few years ago, the guitarist Alex Schultz, who played with Butler in the short-lived 13, told us that his experience with Lester was different than it was for the Devils just a few years earlier. Schultz described Lester in his 13 years as clear-eyed, focused and creative.

It was 20 years ago this month that I last saw Butler at two shows with 13, and my experience was as Schultz described. I spoke with Lester then, and he seemed humbled that his music meant so much to me and my friends. He was gracious and funny and quite different than in my first encounter with him in 1992.
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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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Getty pics: Lester Butler in Europe 1993, 1997

Posted in lester butler on February 17, 2017 by J.J.

There is a wealth of amazing photos in the Getty Images archives, including these pictures of Lester Butler. Pics from these gigs have been seen before, but these particular images don’t seem to be in wide circulation.

From the Getty captions:

  • The first two are from The Red Devils’ performance at the Paradiso in Amsterdam May 2, 1993.
  • The third pic is a portrait of Lester Butler in London, taken April 25, 1993.
  • The last two are from the Crossing Border Festival in the Hague, Sept. 12, 1997. The caption miscredits the band as “The Red Devils”; it would have been Butler’s 13 at this time.

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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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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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1995: Inside Lester Butler’s ‘lost year’

Posted in lester butler with tags , , , on March 23, 2014 by J.J.

In the wake of the Classic Rock article, there seems to be more talk and memories about The Red Devils than there has been in years. Much of it is happening on Facebook, and nofightin.com has seen a surge in visitors.lester_moulin_promo

One story that has come back around is by Rob Neighbors, called “My Time with Blues Legend, Lester Butler.” It was posted last week on the Delta Groove website, but was first posted on Neighbors’ site, Hollywood or Die, in October 2011.

The account fills in the day-to-day about what could be thought of as Butler’s “lost year,” 1995 — lost at least in terms of national prominence. It was clearly after the heyday of The Red Devils, and before the formation of 13 and his renaissance in Europe. Time when he was playing pickup gigs and local shows.

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