The Market will get a boost of star power Saturday evening when Dallas guitarist Rhett Butler steps up to the microphone.
“Rhett Butler is a super-talented musician, bound to be one of Texas' greats,” said Shane Shepard, Sulphur Springs' director of community development. “I've seen him play a few times, and each show is more amazing that the last.”
The Humble native got a guitar for Christmas in 1987 and used it to ease the pain of his brother's cancer diagnosis. He was admitted to the jazz program at the University of North Texas in 1993. In addition to his brilliant interpretation of music, Butler developed a “hammer-on style that allows him to play two guitars at once.”
Butler attended the University of South Alabama, where he played soccer, but soon discovered that he was better with his fingers than his feet, and decided to pursue his education a little closer to home.
“Attending UNT and studying music was one of the best choices I ever made,” he noted. “It really is a world class music program.”
Butler has a unique talent — he says he started playing two guitars at the same time to “get people's attention.”
“In 1999 I started playing solo guitar gigs at the Starbuck's on the corner of Preston and Northwest Highway in Dallas,” he said. “No one was paying attention to what I was doing, so I made a business decision. I decided to try something that they had never seen before. So it started off as kind of gimmick but later I found out that you can actually make some pretty interesting music using the technique”
Shepard says Butler plays “each guitar at the same time better than most pickers do on one.”
After his brother lost his long battle with brain cancer in 2010, Butler made a documentary about his life that was seen by the CEO of a “big biotech” company that is now sponsoring a phase III clinical trial for a brain tumor vaccine.
“She told me she loved the way I told my brother's story,”
In addition to earning a living with his music, Butler has recently begun work on his master’s degree in biotechnology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“My brother, Ashley, meant everything to me. I refuse to give up even though the fight is over and we lost.”
In the past few years, Butler has developed a large fan base in East Texas, playing to large audiences in Winnsboro and Tyler.
Carolyn Jones, mayor of Winnsboro, says Butler has to be seen to be appreciated. She has seen him five or six times and says she hopes to see him Saturday, too.
“He is an extraordinary guitar player, but not in the sense we view most guitarists,” Jones noted. “Rhett makes music by playing the neck of his guitar and creating sounds you have never heard from an acoustic guitar. The sounds are unique and to get the full benefit of Rhett's talent he must be seen in person, preferably from a front row seat. I love hearing him play, but watching him is mesmerizing.”
Butler appreciates his East Texas fan base.
“The really nice part about it is that I don't have to travel all over the country to make a living playing the guitar,” he explained. “I am able to come to Winnsboro or Tyler a couple of times a year and the support gets bigger every time. I live east of Dallas now, so this is really home base for me.”
Butler will bring his band, with Phil McNeese on bass and Martin McCall on drums, for Saturday's gig. Since this is their first time in Sulphur Springs, they'll be playing their “A set list,” the one they pull out for new audiences.
“These are the songs that I know will catch and hold their attention,” Butler noted. “But these songs aren't played in any particular order. In fact, when I play with my band, it drives them crazy because I will just call out a song that pops into my head. I play mostly original music but I will mix in an arrangement of a standard or pop tune occasionally.”
Playing outdoors presents a unique problem for guitarists.
“The challenge of playing the guitar outside has to do with heat and humidity,” Butler said. “Keeping a guitar in tune without those factors is hard enough. You just have to tune more often. Other than that, you just have to drink a lot of water.”
Whether he's playing under the stars or under the lights, Butler appreciates being able to perform in front of a live audience.
“My favorite part of the live performance is when I nail a piece of music and there is a collective sigh from the audience before the applause,” he mused. “There is no other feeling like that.”
But unlike other artists, he doesn't take it all so seriously.
“I also really like making fun of myself when I mess up.”
There is no cost to see the show. Just get yourself and a lawn chair to the square by 7 p.m. and enjoy some great music under the stars for a couple of nice, relaxing hours.
The performance is partially funded by the Headway Artist Development Network, 501c3 (Headway), in partnership with the city of Sulphur Springs. Headway is an organization that was developed in 2006 to help increase awareness of the arts and artists in the East Texas region.
“We are happy to bring Rhett to Sulphur Springs — he brings a lot of excitement and talent with him. We hope to see people in the community come out and hear the show,” stated Al Stillman, chairman of Headway.
|< Prev||Next >|