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Hilton Head Island is not the only island Steve has lived on-He was born on the Isle of Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn in the wonderful '50s.  As a young teenager, about 14, a musician neighbor gave him an extra clarinet and Steve proceeded to teach himself with a "Tune A Day" instruction book, and within 2 years (including 1.5years of formal instruction), he was saving gig money for college by working summers in the "borscht belt" Catskill Mountain resort hotels playing tenor sax and clarinet.

 

In a NYC privileged music scene at that time he was able to hear Dixieland jazz while standing in the street at Eddie Condons', sit in the "bullpit" at Birdland (no drinks hawked there) while Charlie Parker and Maynard Ferguson performed, and have a beer at the Five Spot Cafe in the bowery, where in about 1957 Steve listened to a couple of giants named John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.

 

Just before graduation from City University of New York, he spoke with a "dutch uncle", a notable reed player, Sol Yaged, who convinced Steve not to go into music as a career, but rather to stay with science and have music on the side. Then he could have a normal family life. So Steve Butter took the advice and received a B.S. degree in chemistry and continued on earning a Ph.D and a career as a research scientist. Incidentally, Sol Yaged intimately knew Benny Goodman, coached Steve Allen on clarinet, and was advisor for the movie, “The Benny Goodman Story”.   Sol was then with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, commuting to the city from Long Island and Steve recalled him saying he did not enjoy that as much as jazz-but he earned a good living and raised a beautiful family. 

 

But he did not listen to the advice about "music on the side" and Steve finally returned to life with melody, harmony, and rhythm after a lay-off of 35 years.  In graduate school at Univ of Delaware he met his future wife Deborah, an excellent artist and teacher, and they soon moved to the Univ. of Sussex in England to work in an eminent scientists' laboratory.  With much traveling throughout Europe and North Africa, they soon ran low on funds and returned to the U.S. to continue a 35 year science career at DuPont, Mobil, Air Products and Chemicals, and the last eleven years in Washington, DC, with the U.S. Department of Energy working with universities and national laboratories where he managed a >$25 million budget funding research programs of many top chemists and physicists.

 

After raising a daughter, Jessica, also with artistic and musical abilities, the Butters are three generations of Univ of Delaware graduates.  Deborah had been ill with cancer in previous years and it returned in 1996. They then rented their house in Annapolis and moved aboard their sailboat "Olga Rose."  They then headed for the Bahamas, but after reaching Savannah, they backtracked to Hilton Head to spend the winter and decided to retire here on the island.

 

In 1998, after joining the DJSLC at Cheryl’s Le Cabaret, Steve started his music again.  Debbie passed away in '99 and the next year Sybil Stuart came into his life, a notable vocalist who studied at Trinity College of Music in London where Sybil was born-she emigrated to the U.S. in the '50s after singing big band music in England, and began singing country music and standards. Since 2001 they have performed together on Dixieland cruises with Holland America, and Sybil is the manager and vocalist in a band she formed in Brevard, NC where they spend summers each year-Steve is a supporting side-man on soprano sax and clarinet.

 

Meeting Bob Masteller and the Jazz Corner "gigs" with a group of great guys has been fun and Steve particularly wants to thank Steve Rich who helped get him back on track with music and the DJSLC.  Now if there were only some way to interest more young people in this wonderful, traditional music! 

 

SAB 1/26/09  BIO- LIFE AND MUSIC:  STEPHEN BUTTER -  DJSLC

Steve Butter