According to the liner notes to his only album, Jessie – or Jesse - Butler was born in the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama, moving to New York in the 1950s. Returning to his home town some twenty years later he recorded a 45 at Fame. This was the well known disc by Z Z & Co “Getting Ready For The Get Down” a dance floor favourite in the UK from the day it was pressed.
However I don’t think this was his first recording. The incredibly rare Del-La 45 sounds to me like it was a 60s disc, and may well have been cut in the Big Apple before he went South. In any event It’s My Business is a first class piece of deep soul with Jessie’s rough toned voice as hard and emotional as any southern soul fan could wish for. Super support from the horn laden band too. A stone killer – just listen to those screams.
After the Z Z & Co release, Butler recorded for Clarence Reid’s Florida based Bound Sound having been recruited by Bill Harrelson while gigging in Mississippi. The 45 coupled the mid paced Best Part Of A Man on which Butler gave of his very best, superbly throaty and rousingly effective. The other track was the slightly slower tempo of Free To Be Me, which was to be the title track of the LP. This has another wonderful vocal performance by the man, on a melodic Reid tune.
The LP had a few covers on it, Roosevelt Jamieson’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and the evergreen “If Loving You Is Wrong” being especially tasty. And there was an interesting revisit to “Getting Ready For The Get Down”, but the cream cuts were the Florida songs. In addition to the two tracks on the 45, there was another very well crafted Reid song “Let My Love Bring Out The Woman In You” on which yet again Butler delivers the goods. This was originally cut by Lonnie Youngblood for Calla in 1976 but Butler knocks his version into a cocked hat.
There aren’t so many artists who sounded so gruff and compelling in the 80s – we should be thankful that Jessie was cut at his growling best.
UPDATE ~ "Peter" has written to say that "As I have interviewed Jesse Butler in the past I can confirm that the Process record was definately done by him. I have been searching for the Del-la record for over 10 years and unable to find a copy, according to Jesse it was also pressed in limited quantity."
I've updated the discography to include this interesting info. The Process 45 is from Pennsylvania and although "Dancing Fever" doesn't do much for me, the other side is right up my alley. "Teardrops And Pennies" is a really strong ballad that deserves to be much better known. And now you can judge for yourself just how good it is.
I'm very grateful to "Peter" for getting in touch.
As JESSE BUTLER
It’s my business / Weekend star ~ DEL-LA 101 (mid 60s?)
Dancing fever / Teardrops and pennies ~ PROCESS 150 (late 60s?)
As Z Z & Co
Getting’ ready for the get down / Butt La Rose ~ COLUMBUS (1981)
Free to be me ~ BOUND SOUND 1008 (1984)
Note ~ The organist Jesse “Spooky” Butler who had an interesting instrumental album on Philips called “Memphis Soul” is definitely another artist.