Mr. Sam Butera
“Listen – Sam Butera and the Witnesses – Ode To Billie Joe – MP3″
“Listen – Sam Butera and the Witnesses – Symphony For the Devil – MP3″
“Listen – Sam Butera and the Witnesses – Pick Up the Pieces- MP3″
I hope all is well on your end.
I come to you mid-week (and a little late) with a tribute to one of the great swingers and sax-o-mo-phone slingers of all time, Mr. Sam Butera.
Last week I was browsing the New York Times obit page (a consistently interesting source of interesting reading) and was saddened to see that Mr. Butera had passed away at the age of 81.
If you’re unfamiliar with the man or his music (which has been featured here a number of times in the past), Sam Butera is best known as the bandleader and arranger for Louis Prima’s backing group the Witnesses. Butera, like Prima was a New Orleans native and brought a big helping of that city’s raucous energy to his playing.
Among other highlights in a stellar resume, Butera is the man who arranged the original ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’ medley that was a hit for Prima, and then again years later for David Lee Roth.
Butera was also largely responsible for making sure the Witnesses were always a smoking band (including players like unsung organ legend Little Richie Varola), and that their book was always current. Today I’m reposting three tracks by the 70s edition of the band that have been featured here over the years, including a wild reworking of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and a funky take on the Average White Band’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’.
A number of years ago, completely by chance my wife and I were lucky enough to see Butera and the Witnesses laying it down in the lounge at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, NJ (the same place where we saw the Treniers a year later). Even then, when Butera had to be past 70 he was still killing it, leading the band as vocalist and with his horn. It was a sight to behold, and I consider myself lucky that we got to see him.
So, dig the tunes, remember Sam and I’ll be back on Friday with something funky.
In other important news, this Friday, June 12th sees the return of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions for the first, slamming all-45 banger of the summer. If you are in the vicinity, please fall by and say howdy.