(trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet) 1917 - 1988
Billy Butterfield was born January 14, 1917 in Middleton, Ohio. He started to play cornet quite young and although he had begun to study medicine he was drawn to the jazz life, and after working in several territory bands got a job with the Bob Crosby band in 1937. By this time the Crosby orchestra, which had a Decca record contract, was well known nationally and Billy became part of a very powerful trumpet section including Charlie Spivak and Yank Lawson both replaced by Zeke Zarchey and Sterling Bose.
At a recording session on October 19, 1938 two titles were made that both raised the profile of the band and Butterfield in particular. Bassist Bob Haggart wrote a poignant ballad called "I'm Free", with subsequent lyrics from Johnny Burke, was arranged as a trumpet feature for Butterfield and became the big hit "What's New". Pianist Bob Zurke provided the other hit from the session "Honky Tonk Train Blues". The trumpet star remained with Crosby into the summer of 1940 when he got the call from Artie Shaw who was reforming on the west coast in September.
Butterfield was given star billing and as well as the main orchestra soloists also became an indispensible voice in the Gramercy Five. This was the string laden Shaw edition and from an October 7, 1940 recording session came another classic of the times which not only featured one of Shaw's most enduring solos but also featured Butterfield and trombonist Jack Jenney in a Lennie Hayton arrangement of "Stardust". Shaw then underwent one of his periodic self examinations and disbanded in the spring of '41. Many of the band, including Butterfield, migrated to the newly reformed Benny Goodman Orchestra while the strings soon found homes in the Tommy Dorsey organisation.
The many consequences of the war and the recording ban of 1942-44 again found many musicians too old for the draft hustling around radio and film studios for work. In 1944 the trumpeter was contracted by the new Capitol Records label to lead a studio band for a Margaret Whiting session. One of the titles again proved a big seller "Moonlight in Vermont" which established vocalist Whiting as a major star and also put a spot light back on Billy. However he stayed in the security of radio studios till at last in 1946 he decided to form a touring band against all the ever present unhappy economic indicators. His long standing friend and alto sax player Bill Stegmeyer became one of the main arrangers and with a Capitol Records contract the band featured a programme of good standard fare along with some startling originals like Stegmeyers "Pandora's Box" plus some by Eddie Sauter. Billy just wasn't really a leader and the band folded inside a year in spite of some good records and favourable reviews.
For most of the late forties and fifties Butterfield was working with various New York based groups and studio work. In particular in the mid fifties he led the bigband on a brilliant Lee Wiley album for Victor "A Touch Of The Blues" and subsequent "West of the Moon". For the rest of 50s, 60s and into the 70s he was content to be part of the revived mainstream all star band led by Bob Haggart and Yank Lawson "The World's Greatest Jazz Band" and several European tours with Flip Philips.
His failing health eventually made playing impossible and he died March 18th, 1988 but remains as one of THE trumpet voices of the band era.< Top
BILLY BUTTERFIELD & His Orchestra
"Pandora's Box 1946-47"
Transcription Performances from 1946/47.
Titles - Moten Swing / Out Of Nowhere / All The Cats Join In / This Believing World / Cheatin' On Me / What Is There To Say / A Ghost Of A Chance / My Heart Stood Still / I Only Have Eyes For You / On A Sunday Afternoon / The Song Is You / Embraceable You / Bidin' My Time / More Than You Know / Night And Day / Pandora, Close That Box / That Old Feeling / Prelude To A Kiss / Blue Moon plus 6.
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