Chicago singer Frank Butler was much more of a blues singer than a soul artist but he earns his place in these pages not just because I’m very keen to showcase the blues to soul fans but also because he made a couple of very fine soul / blues track that deserve to be much better appreciated. Frank started his recording career in the mid 50s performing straight 12 bar titles. The best of these was undoubtedly the tough Chief 45 “I Can’t Believe It” which generates considerable heat.
Butler had a couple of 45s out on Space-Age which might well have been his own concern. The first featured a rocking blues “Build A Little House” and a slower stop/go ballad “Something Is Wrong”. The second Space-Age release was much better. The super cool mod “Someone Outside” with a very jazzy vocal is pretty good, but the easy grooving “How I Feel About You”, which could have been used by the UK’s Georgie Fame as a theme tune, is terrific even though the dancers do say so.
His next release – a cracking two sider for the tiny Great Scott label which this time featured a Maywood, IL address rather than the Houston, TX one for the Frankie Lee release. This featured a high octane recut of “I Can’t Believe It” which ratcheted the temperature even higher than before, and a superb slow paced blues ballad So Many Years which is a real treat for the ears. Like so many of his releases, Butler himself wrote both songs on this 45.
What I understand to be his final record came out around the turn of the 70s – and it was arguably his best ever. “The Love I Need” was a groovy dancer, propelled by some fine organ playing and a big horn section, which sounds like a hip tune for some DJ to get into. The other side If Love Don’t Change was a big bluesy ballad that I’ve really enjoyed for many years – and am very pleased to bring to a wider audience here. The horn charts are just right and the guitarist is busy and inventive, and Butler does his thing with enough grit to impress old purists like me. In common with several other tracks by Frank Butler, an organ is prominent on this one as well – could he be the talented player?
Blues by the hour / Moving out ~ BELL 826 (1955?)
Downstairs / Won’t you come in and spend a day ~ EBONY 1015 (1956)
I can’t believe it / Girl in my dreams ~ CHIEF 7003 (1957)
Build a little house for you / Something is wrong ~ SPACE-AGE 250 (mid 60s?)
How I feel about you / Some one outside ~ SPACE-AGE 260 (mid 60s?)
So many years / I can’t believe it ~ GREAT SCOTT 0011 (mid 60s?)
The love Ineed / If love don’t change ~ JV 2502 / RA-BRA 1002 (1970?)
- Extra discographical help by Bob McGrath.
- Two other recordings by Fran Butler have surfaced on acetate at least – “These Strange Things” / “Someone Outside”. I haven’t heard these tracks so I can’t tell if the latter track is the same as the cut on Space-Age but the former tracks seems to be unreleased.