Butler, Jerry 1939–
Jerry Butler 1939–
Known as “The Iceman,” Jerry Butler perfected a smooth, delicate baritone that has captivated music fans of many different backgrounds over his five decades of performing and recording. He was credited as “one of the architects of R&B” by Ebony magazine. As both a solo artist and during his long partnership with Curtis Mayfield, Butler forged new styles that grew from his own musical background of gospel and doo-wop and helped propel African American popular music to a new level of general appeal. Unlike those of many other virtuoso vocal stylists, his career has encompassed both singing and songwriting.
Butler was born in the small community of Sunflower, Mississippi, on December 8, 1939. Before he had reached the age of three, his family joined the African American migration north to Chicago. Jerry was the oldest of four children. His younger brother, Billy, also embarked upon a musical career. At the age of 14, Butler took over as the family’s main breadwinner, but still found time to attend Chicago’s Washburn High School. He also became interested in gospel music, joining the choir of the Traveling Souls Spiritual Church when he was only 12-years-old.
The choir put Butler in contact with other musically talented young men, just as the streetcorner-harmony style known as doo-wop, after the exquisitely harmonized nonsense syllables that permeated the music, was peaking in popularity. It was natural that these gospel singers would gather into secular groups after hours. One of Butler’s choirmates was a singer and guitarist named Curtis May-field. The two had already worked together in a gospel ensemble called the Modern Jubilaires. In 1957, along with three other compatriots, Butler and Mayfield formed the Impressions. Clearly a standout even in Chicago’s crowded harmony-group scene, the Impressions were signed to their hometown Vee Jay label in 1958.
Stardom was just around the corner for the Impressions. The group rocketed to the R&B top three with “For Your Precious Love,” and the song also reached number eleven on the pop charts. Sudden success caused bickering among the youthful Impressions, especially after “For Your Precious Love” appeared with a label crediting “Jerry Butler and the Impressions” for the performance. Butler embarked on a solo career, but remained creatively close to Mayfield. The pair
At a Glance…
Born on December 8, 1939, in Sunflower, MS; oldest of four children; married, wife’s name Annette; children: Randall and Anthony.
Career: Joined choir, Traveling Souls Spiritual Church at age 12; with Curtis Mayfield, formed the Impressions, 1957; signed to Vee Jay label with the Impressions, 1958; left Impressions for solo career but continued to work with Mayfield; signed with Mercury label, 1967; worked with Gamble and Huff production team on classic soul LP albums The Ice Man Cometh and Ice on tce, 1969; formed beer distributorship that became Iceman Beverage Company, 1973; signed with Motown label, 1976; signed with Philadelphia International label, 1978; elected to Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners, 1985.
Awards: Three Grammy nominations, for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of theYear, and Song of the Year, 1969.
Addresses: Office —Cook County Board of Commissioners, 118 N. ClarkSt., Suite 567, Chicago, IL 60602.
teamed up on Butler’s 1960 hit “He Will Break Your Heart,” which also reached the pop Top Ten. Butler stayed with the Vee Jay label until it became defunct in the mid-1960s. He scored several more hits, such as the durable “I Stand Accused” from 1964.
The Impressions, under Mayfield’s leadership, developed into one of the most successful soul vocal groups of the 1960s. Later in that decade, Butler left the Impressions and embarked on a solo career. Recording for the Mercury label, he found the perfect sonic complement for his voice in the work of the Philadelphia production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. Gamble and Huff pioneered the so-called “Philly soul” sound, which cultivated a smoother, more intricately arranged style than those favored by their competitors in Detroit and Memphis. The addition of Butler’s vocals to the sound resulted in some of the biggest hits of his career.
“Hey Western Union Man” reached the number sixteen slot on the pop charts in 1968, and “Only the Strong Survive” climbed even further, to number four, the following year. Butler’s two albums from the late 1960s, Ice on Ice and The Ice Man Cometh, were indispensable components of any soul music record collection at the time. They earned Butler three Grammy award nominations, for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year, in 1969. In addition to the contributions of Gamble and Huff, the success of Butler’s albums at this point in his career may be attributed to his own meticulous approach to the styling of a song. “I’m from the old school,” he was quoted as saying in African American Biographies. “I believe that anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well.”
By 1970, Butler was a soul-music institution. His split from Gamble and Huff that year initiated a moderate downturn in his popularity, but he remained a consistent hitmaker for many years. Butler was especially noted for his duets with Gene Chandler and Brenda Lee Eager in the early 1970s. He signed with the Motown label in 1976, but returned to Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label two years later. The shift resulted in an increase in Butler’s popularity for a time. He kept up a steady stream of new releases that reached into the 1990s, recording for the Fountain and Ichiban labels. Butler also remained in the limelight as a live performer. In 1999, he hosted a half-century-of-doo-wop tribute program on the Public Broadcasting Service. He also remained a fixture on the Chicago club scene.
As his career in music reached a plateau, Butler branched out into other areas. He started a beer distributorship in 1973, which eventually grew into the Iceman Beverage Company, a subsidiary of the giant Chicago brewery G. Heileman (the maker of Old Style beer). Butler had always been known as an entertainer with a social conscience, a tendency that dated back to the early years of his career in the South when he and his entourage had faced difficulty in finding accommodations in segregated hotels. At the height of his career, Butler performed benefits for such groups as the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He also became involved in several political campaigns.
In 1985, Butler became one of the few entertainers to make a successful transition into politics, winning election to the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners after an eleven-month campaign. This governmental body supervised state-owned facilities— hospitals, schools, prisons, parks, and more—in the second-most populous county in the nation, an area that included the city of Chicago. Butler won reelection consistently and remained on the county board at the turn of the century. Honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, Butler is a much-loved elder statesman of African American music. Married to the former Annette Smith, he is the father of two sons, Randall and Anthony.
“For Your Precious Love” (single), Vee Jay, 1958 (with the Impressions).
He Will Break Your Heart, Vee Jay, 1960.
Love Me, Vee Jay, 1961.
Aware of Love, Vee Jay, 1961.
Moon River, Vee Jay, 1962.
Folk Songs, Vee Jay, 1963.
Soul Artistry, Mercury, 1967.
The Soul Goes On, Mercury, 1968.
The Ice Man Cometh, Mercury, 1968.
Ice on Ice, Mercury, 1969.
You & Me, Mercury, 1970.
Special Memory, Mercury, 1970.
Best of Jerry Butler, Mercury, 1970.
The Sagittarius Movement, Mercury, 1971.
The Spice of Life, Mercury, 1972.
The Love We Have, The Love We Had, Mercury, 1972 (with Brenda Lee Eager).
The Power of Love, Mercury, 1973.
Sweet Sixteen, Mercury, 1974.
Love’s on the Menu, Motown, 1976.
Suite for the Single Girl, Motown, 1977.
Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, Philadelphia International, 1978.
Best Love I Ever Had, Philadelphia International, 1981.
Ice ‘n ’ Hot, Fountain, 1982.
The Best of Jerry Butler, Rhino, 1987.
Iceman: The Mercury Years, Mercury, 1992.
Time & Faith, Ichiban, 1993.
Erlewine, Michael, et al., eds., The All Music Guide to Rock, 2nd ed., Miller Freeman, 1997.
Hawkins, Walter L., African American Biographies: Profiles of 558 Current Men and Women, McFar-land and Company, 1992.
Larkin, Colin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, 1998.
Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, eds., The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside, 1995.
Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Billboard, November 20, 1999, p. 27.
Ebony, April 1999, p. 104.
—James M. Manheim
"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)" was first recorded by Betty Everett, and is the song for which she is best known. During the 1960s and 1970s, Everett's powerful voice recorded a string of rhythm and blues hits.
Betty Everett was born on November 23, 1939, in Greenwood, Mississippi, an area known at the time for its local blues scene. She was playing the piano and singing in church by the age of nine, and also sang in gospel choirs. She was in her late teens when she moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1956, where she turned her attention from gospel music to singing rhythm and blues.
Everett started recording for several small local record labels. In 1957 she recorded "My Life Depends on You" for Cobra. She then signed with C.J., followed by the One-Derful label. While contracted with One-Derful she recorded "I've Got a Claim on You," and "I'll Be There." She had the honor of performing with Magic Sam and the legendary Muddy Waters. She also briefly sang the lead for the all-male group the Daylighters, and together they produced a minor hit, "Why Did You Have To Go?" In 1963 she was signed to Vee-Jay, which at the time also had the American rights for releases by the Beatles. While with Vee-Jay, she had a number of hits, including "You're No Good," which just missed the Top 50 in late 1963. A year later, a Liverpool band called the Swinging Blue Jeans covered it and the song became a smash hit. The song later became a number one hit when Linda Ronstadt recorded it in 1975. Everett also put out an album titled You're No Good in 1964. "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)," written by Rudy Clark and produced by Calvin Carter, made the Billboard Top Ten in 1964. At a time of popularity for girl groups, including the Shirelles, the Ronettes, and similar groups who infused gospel and soul into pop, Everett's success placed her firmly within this group of singers.
Duos were very popular at the time, and Everett teamed up with another of Vee-Jay's artists named Jerry Butler, a Mississippi native who had made a name for himself in Chicago, and whose style of rhythm and blues had earned him the nickname "The Iceman." The two covered a romantic, soulful rendition of "Let It Be Me," previously recorded by the Everly Brothers. The Everett/Butler version became a top five hit in 1964. This was followed by another duet, "Smile," also in 1964, which just missed the top 40. They recorded an album together in 1964, entitled Delicious Together, which hit the charts at 104.
During the mid-1960s Everett toured England and successfully developed a fan base for her music. In 1965 she recorded on her own, providing the energetic "I Can't Hear You" and "Getting Mighty Crowded." The latter, a punchy Van McCoy song, was her first chart entry in the United Kingdom at number 29.
During the 1960s Vee-Jay Records struggled with financial difficulties and eventually collapsed in 1967. Everett then signed with ABC-Paramount Records. Her success with ABC was limited, although she produced the single "Love Comes Tumbling Down." She then switched to Uni, where she recorded the album There'll Come a Time. The title song reached number two on the rhythm and blues chart in 1969 and hit number 26 on the pop charts. She also recorded "I Can't Say No to You" and "It's Been a Long Time," remaining with Uni until 1970. She then signed with Fantasy Records and recorded "I Got to Tell Somebody." She recorded with Fantasy until 1974.
During the 1970s Everett worked the club circuit in the United States and Europe. She also worked with the prestigious arranger Gene Page and recorded Love Rhymes in 1974 and Happy Endings in 1975. Her last chart entry was in 1978 with "True Love (You Took My Heart)," which she recorded for United Artists. In the mid-1980s she moved to Beloit, Wisconsin, where she was active in the Fountain of Life and New Covenant churches, as well as with the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1995 she received a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, and was joined on stage by her former partner Jerry Butler to sing "Let It Be Me." The Boston Globe reported that Everett was nearly in tears onstage as she accepted her award.
Everett's last public appearance was a performance in 2000 on the PBS special Doo Wop 51, a program that honored the great a capella groups of the 1950s and 1960s. The Independent of London, England, stated, "Partnered by her old friend Jerry Butler, she reportedly brought the house down." Her attorney, Jay B. Ross, accompanied her to the show. "She was nervous because she hadn't performed in quite a while," he stated on the VH1 website. "But once she got into it and saw how much the audience loved her, she just blossomed, and the audience just went nuts."
Throughout her life, Everett continually stated that singing and playing the piano were her two favorite activities. For most of her life she lived very modestly, until she began to gain from her royalties near the end of her life. She won BMI Awards for "Hands Off," "I Need You So," "It's All Right," and "It's in his Kiss."
Everett died on August 19, 2001, at the age of 61. Family members found her at her home at 241 W. Grand Avenue in Beloit, Wisconsin. Her cause of death was not reported to the public.
"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)" is the song for which she is best remembered, and it was covered by many artists in the decades that followed her original recording. Linda Lewis revived it in 1975 for a top ten hit in the United Kingdom. In 1990, nearly 27 years after Everett first recorded it, Cher recorded her own version of "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)" for the soundtrack of her hit movie Mermaids. Vonda Shepard later covered the song for the Fox television show Ally McBeal. Everett will long be recognized as one of the top soul singers of the 1960s and 1970s.
For the Record . . .
Born on November 23, 1939, in Greenwood, MS; died on August 19, 2001, in Beloit, WI.
Moved to Chicago, IL, to pursue singing career, 1956; performed with Magic Sam and Muddy Waters, late 1950s; sang lead for the Daylighters; released single "You're No Good," 1963, and album You're No Good, 1964; released "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)," 1964; released "Let It Be Me" with Jerry Butler, 1964; recorded Delicious Together with Jerry Butler, 1964; released "I Can't Hear You" and "Getting Mighty Crowded," 1965; "There'll Come a Time," 1969; Love Rhymes, 1974; Happy Endings, 1975; appeared on PBS special Doo Wop 51, 2000.
Awards: BMI Pop Award, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)," 1964; BMI R&B Award, 1964; BMI Pop Award, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)," 1991; R&B Foundation Pioneer Award, 1995.
"My Life Depends on You," Cobra, 1957.
"Ain't Gonna Cry," Cobra, 1958.
"Tell Me Darling," Cobra, 1959.
"I've Got a Claim on You," One-Derful, 1963.
"By My Side," Vee-Jay, 1963.
"Getting Mighty Crowded," Vee-Jay, 1964.
"I'll Be There," One-Derful, 1964.
(With Jerry Butler) "Smile," Vee-Jay, 1964.
(With Jerry Butler) "Let it Be Me," Vee-Jay, 1964.
"You're No Good," Vee-Jay, 1964.
"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)," Vee-Jay, 1964.
(With Jerry Butler) "Fever," Vee-Jay, 1965.
"Too Hot to Hold," Vee-Jay, 1965.
"The Shoe Won't Fit," Vee-Jay, 1966.
"In Your Arms," ABC, 1967.
"Bye Bye Baby," ABC, 1967.
"Love Comes Tumbling Down," ABC, 1967.
"I Can't Say," ABC, 1967.
"Been a Long Time," Uni, 1969.
"Sugar," Uni, 1969.
"Unlucky Girl," Uni, 1970.
"There'll Come a Time," Uni, 1969.
You're No Good, Vee-Jay, 1964.
(With Jerry Butler) Delicious Together, Vee-Jay, 1964.
The Very Best of Betty Everett, Vee-Jay, 1965.
There'll Come a Time, Uni, 1969.
Black Girl, Fantasy, 1974.
Love Rhymes, Fantasy, 1974.
Happy Endings, Fantasy, 1975.
Getting Mighty Crowded, Charly, 1980.
Too Hot to Hold, Charly, 1982.
The Real Thing, Charly, 1987.
The Fantasy Years, Fantasy, 1995.
The Best of Betty Everett: Let it Be Me, Aim, 1998.
Clarke, Donald, editor, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Penguin, 1989.
Gregory, Hugh, Soul Music A-Z, Blandford, 1991.
Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer, 1988.
Larkin, Colin, editor, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, MUZE, 1998.
Nite, Norm N., Rock On Volume II, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1978.
Boston Globe, March 2, 1996, p. 27.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), August 23, 2001.
Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), September 8, 2001, p. 14.
Independent (London, England), August 23, 2001.
Times (London, England), September 17, 2001, p. 23.
USA Today, March 4, 1995; February 22, 1996, p. 1.D; August 21, 2001, p. D01.
Wisconsin State Journal, August 22, 2001, p. D1.
"Betty Everett," BMI, http://repertoire.bmi.com (February 4, 2004).
"Betty Everett," The Iceberg, http://www.icebergradio.com/artist.asp?artist=3334 (January 20, 2004).
"Betty Everett," MSN Entertainment, http://www.entertainment.msn.com (January 20, 2004).
"Betty Everett," VH1, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/everett_betty/artist.jhtml?_requestid=100282 (February 5, 2004).