Sunday, 7 June 2009
Sam Butera - RIP
Bim Bam sax man, Sam Butera died this week in Las Vegas aged 81. Known to rockers for the fabulous rock 'n' roll laster, Bim Bam, he is probably known to the wider world for being an intrigal part of the Louis Prima sound. Prima, Butera and singer Keely Smith were the dymanic front-trio to an amazing show band that slayed audiences across the states for decades. Check out any Louis Prima hits compilations and enjoy the charms that are Jump, Jive & Wail, Just A Gigola, I Ain’t Got Nobody, Angelina or Hey Marie. And when those have sunk in, you're ready for the brilliant Beuno Sera.
Sam Butera was born in New Orleans on August 17th, 1927 and followed in the footsteps of his musical father Joseph. He took up the saxophone when he was 7 and became a professional musician at 14, playing in a strip club on Bourbon Street. At 19 he won a talent contest sponsored by Look magazine, which led to an appearance with other winners from around the country at Carnegie Hall.
He working with the big bands of Ray McKinley, Tommy Dorsey and others before forming his own group at the 500 Club in New Orleans. In December 1954 he joined fellow New Orleans native Louis Prima, and the rest is history. They formed the Witnesses and started plying the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, a town that was to be their home for the rest of both their lives. Their live shows were legendary, mixing great music and a mass of showmanship, with no small amount of humour.
They worked together until 1975 when Prima fell into a coma following brain surgery, dying three years later. Sam Butera continued to wow audiences, performing the Prima catalogue. He retired in 2004, but not before playing the Rhythm Riot in England. I was lucking enough to be there and it was a great show. I'll never forget all the Italian rockabillies and swingsters, swaying across the dance floor to such anthems as Beuno Sera and Hey Marie.
Sam is survived by his wife Vera, two daughters, two sons, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Rest in peace Sam.