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Clip: Hoekstra on Jerry Butler

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  • Carl Z.
    Iceman enters alderman s Twilite Zone December 27, 2005 BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter Rhythm
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2006

      'Iceman' enters alderman's 'Twilite Zone'

      December 27, 2005

      BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter

      Rhythm and blues icon Jerry Butler is the perfect choice to bring in a
      Chicago New Year.

      After all, he is "The Iceman."

      Butler makes a rare hometown appearance this weekend at The Harold
      Washington Cultural Center. His concert is part of a bash being thrown
      by Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) that she has pegged "The Twilite Zone."

      Other festivities include an outdoor laser and space cannon light
      show, an outdoor winter blues bazaar and a special appearance by Otis
      Clay and others at The Spoken Word Cafe, 4655 S. King (separate $25
      cover). The Butler concert is hosted by disc jockey Herb Kent, "The
      Unofficial Mayor of Bronzeville" and the $75 ticket includes a
      pre-concert buffet, midnight champagne toast and post-midnight
      continental breakfast in the cultural center. After costs, proceeds go
      to the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

      "What Dorothy wants to do on 47th Street is what they do on Times
      Square," Butler said last week. "You know how Dorothy thinks: the head
      tries to keep up with the hat. She wants it to be old school. She told
      me some of the radio stations tried to talk her out of using somebody
      as old as me. That just made her more determined."

      Tillman said 47th Street will be closed off "and the entire street
      will come alive for the first time since the days of the Regal (the
      cultural center site). People can purchase coffee and cider outside
      and we'll have a DJ outside."

      Inside, Butler's five-piece band (with three background singers)
      includes legendary Chicago session man Gene Ford (Tyrone Davis,
      Chi-Lites) on tenor saxophone and Butler's younger brother Billy on
      silky-sounding guitar. Billy Butler had his own 1960s success with
      Billy Butler and the Enchanters.

      Jerry Butler, who turned 66 earlier this month, was born in Sunflower,
      Miss. His family moved to Chicago when he was three and they settled
      at 942 N. Sedgwick in Cabrini-Green. While growing up in Cabrini-Green
      Butler met Curtis Mayfield, who was singing in the Northern Jubilee
      Gospel Singers. Butler and Mayfield went on to form the Impressions.
      Butler earned the nickname "The Iceman" for his cool baritone that was
      the perfect counterpart to Mayfield's vulnerable falsetto.

      Butler left the Impressions in 1959 -- only a year after their first
      hit, "For Your Precious Love" --although he continued to collaborate
      as a songwriter and singer with Mayfield, who died in 1999. Butler's
      solo hits include "Mr. Dream Merchant" (1967), "Hey Western Union
      Man," (1968) and "Only the Strong Survive" (1969).

      "When I think of New Year's Eve, I think of the early and mid-1960s
      when we were doing shows at the Regal," Butler said. "That's part of
      what Dorothy's trying to do. Back then the theater-going public was
      still used to vaudeville, so the Regal would have two or three groups,
      a female act, male act, a comedian and maybe even a dancer. The Red
      Saunders Big Band would play." Bronzeville drummer Saunders helped
      launch the career of Joe Williams and others. Saunders' Monday morning
      "breakfast" sets at the Club DeLisa were legendary in Bronzeville.

      Butler is a Cook County Commissioner and still performs around the
      world, though he has not cut a record in more than a decade. His
      still-cool chops are worthy of consideration, notably for producer Joe
      Henry's recent soul resurrections of Solomon Burke, Allen Toussaint
      and others. "The problem is not do you record -- it is what do you do
      with it after you record it," Butler said. "You can't get on Clear
      Channel and they own every station in town. We're on satellite radio,
      but do you hear new music by us? It's a tragedy. It robs a new
      generation of music that preceded the music of today."

      Not entirely. West Coast rapper The Game sampled Butler's "No Money
      Down" (which Butler wrote in 1970 with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) on
      his 2005 hit "Dreams (The Game Song)," produced by Kanye West.

      Butler chuckled and said, "Man, I made more money off that sample than
      I did off the whole [Butler's original "You & Me"] album.
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