I get silly ideas sometimes. For example, I’ve always thought that jazz trumpeter Billy Butterfield’s mellifluous moniker seemed to perfectly suit his lush, smooth playing style. You might not agree, but even if you think I’m all wet you have to admit that it is a great name for a performer.
Like many of his contemporaries, the Ohio-born Butterfield began working professionally in the 1930s while still just a teenager. A multi-talented instrumentalist who could handle the violin, trombone, and cornet, he eventually specialized in trumpet — although he was sometimes known to pick up a flugelhorn too. In any case, once he’d left college and committed to a full-time musical career it didn’t take long for his talent to get noticed, and within a couple of years he was playing in some of the best bands around, including those of Bob Crosby, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Les Brown.
In the early years of his career he had several memorable record performances to help spread his fame. Included among them was working alongside vocalist Margaret Whiting for her classic take on “Moonlight In Vermont,” but my favorite is his stunning solo on Artie Shaw’s 1940 recording of “Stardust.”
Butterfield had to take some time off for World War II, but in the post-war years he continued to do well, even though his try at leading his own band didn’t work out. Still, he was always in demand as a instrumentalist, and as the years passed he also collaborated with stars like Ray Conniff. He eventually did make more tries as a bandleader and found some success. By then he’d started to veer more toward dixieland jazz, and would continue to mostly play that style for the rest of his career. He died at age 71 in 1988.
Artie Shaw Orchestra w/ Billy Butterfield – “Stardust”