Wednesday, April 16, 2008

R.I.P.: Dr. George Butler

Obituary printed on the Hayward Daily Review about record executive Dr. George Butler, who passed away on April 9, 2008 at age 76.
He was born on October 1, 1936 in Autaugaville, AL

Jazz Record Producer Butler Dies
Grammy winner suffered from Alzheimer's disease
by Karen Holzmeister
Hayward (California) Daily Review, April 12, 2008

In retirement, George Butler -- coping with the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia -- moved to Hayward two years ago to be near his sister. However, for much of his professional life, which spanned the latter half of the 20th century, Butler was a successful record producer in New York City.

He scouted, signed and mentored young talent for such prominent labels as Sony Music, Columbia Records, United Artists and Blue Note Records. Shirley Bassey, Wynton and Brandon Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. are among the talents with whom Butler -- a jazz man himself -- worked.

In January, Butler went for a walk outside his northern Hayward retirement home. He got lost, and in rainy and cold weather, spent more than 30 hours outdoors before police officers found him tangled in raspberry bushes above a creek bed. Jacqueline Butler Hairston said her brother never recuperated from the physical trauma of that incident.

Butler died Wednesday, April 9, at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. He was 76.
"I have copies of his letters in which he encouraged young musicians to go after their goal," Hairston said of her only sibling.

Butler himself earned degrees from Howard and Columbia universities, and received honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Butler and Hairston both were born in Charlotte, N.C.
While Hairston said she wanted to pursue a teaching career early on, "my brother said he wanted to do television, to be a producer and work in recording," she recalled. "He went to New York, and the rest is history."

In the early 1980s, Butler discovered Marsalis -- then 18 -- while scouting New York City jazz clubs for young talent. Butler immediately signed Marsalis, and, Time magazine noted in a 2001 article, devised an unheard-of marketing strategy: simultaneous jazz and classical record releases. Marsalis' first Columbia jazz album won a 1983 Grammy nomination. The following year, he hit pay dirt: double Grammys, one each for the jazz and classical albums. "From that point on," Butler proudly reminisced in 2001 with Time, Marsalis' "career just blossomed."

In addition to his sister, Butler is survived by a daughter, Bethany, of New York City. Butler's remains were cremated Friday. A tribute next fall on the East Coast that is being planned by Butler's former colleagues and musicians probably will become a memorial service, Hairston said.


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