A Night of Key West Soul with Coffee Butler & Friends
Robert Albury, Cliff Sawyer, Clayton Lopez, Larry Baeder
Sun, January 8, 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm (event ends at 8:00 pm)Key West Theater
$30.00 - $40.00
The Key West Theater will proudly present the long awaited encore performance of "A Night of Key West Soul" with the famous Lofton "Coffee" Butler. Born and raised in Key West, Coffee has performed here all his life retiring in 2005.
This performance will also include the best of Key West Soul artists all born and raised on the island. The smooth vocals of Cliff Sawyer will melt all over the stage. The "King of Key West Soul", Robert Albury will cover the famous sounds including his idol Louis Armstrong. Clayton Lopez and his talented sister Mina along with Calvin Lopez will revive the classic soul sound of the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops and Aretha Franklin. Master of Ceremonies, Will Thompson and Tom Luna will try to find out "Who Put the Pepper In the Vaseline."
Music Director Larry Baeder, will lead a talented group of musicians including Ericson Holt, Ken Fradley, Ray Spence, Bubba Lownotes, and Marty Stonely.http://www.thekeywesttheater.com/event/1399883/
After attending Francis Xavier School, Butler studied music at Frederick Douglass High School and learned to play the piano. His favorite musicians were Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Torn between music and baseball in his early life, Butler was encouraged by Ellen Sanchez, his high school music teacher, to pursue music. In the Jim Crow era, baseball, she felt didn't provide the opportunity that music would ultimately provide. Sanchez wrote a song The Beautiful Isle of Key West which Butler sang to Harry Truman during the dedication of Truman Avenue.
In the late 1940’s Butler and his father, Duke Butler, formed Duke and the Royal Aces and played the Imperial Cafe and the old Cuban Club. The band grew to nine performers, but the Korean War and the draft soon reduced their numbers to a quartet or even a trio, which became Coffee and His Cups. Their first big gig in Key West was at Johnny Neebo's Starlight Club on Duval. Many other clubs featured the band, including the Bamboo Room on today’s Applerouth Lane.
Coffee Butler was an outstanding shortstop and revered Jackie Robinson, who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Butler wanted to follow a career in baseball. After graduating in 1948, he tried out with the Negro league’s Kansas City Monarchs. Eventually, he played in the Florida/Cuba League from 1950-1951 for the Palm Beach Rockets.
Butler married Virginia Martha Carpentier, the love of his life, in 1957. Martha was a big reason for his long success and stable life. After 54 years of happiness, Martha passed away in 2011. Her favorite Coffee Butler song was Let Them Talk.
An encounter with the Beatles also figures in Butler’s story, although he doesn’t make much of it. On September 10, 1964 the Beatles were in Montreal enroute to a concert in Jacksonville, Florida. Hurricane Dora forced a detour of their flight to Key West. The Beatles stayed at the old Key Wester Hotel on South Roosevelt, now the Hyatt Windward Pointe. They were jamming all day with a number of different groups. After Butler finished his gig at the Hukilau, Herb Rosenburg took him to the Inner Room at the Key Wester and Butler joined in and played an old Fats Domino tune, Blueberry Hill. A large crowd was forming and the late hour caused the local police to ask that the music end. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr said, "Let the man play.”
Butler helped his Uncle Bill Butler rekindle The Junkanoos with their special Latin and Bahamian rhythms. The group featured percussionists Charles Allen, Kenny Rahming, Joe Whyms, and Alvin Scott. Harry Chipchase played trombone. Edwar Weech played saxophone, even though he had lost parts of his fingers in an explosion while serving in the Army. They appeared often at the Florida Folk Festival from 1977-1991.
Later Butler went solo with gigs at the Casa Marina and became a fixture at Allan Merrill's Hukilau on North Roosevelt (the current Homeland Security Office). One of his favorite gigs was playing with Jim Holt, Jack Holt, and Jack's wife Sheryl Lynn. He also performed with musicians Hector Barossa (saxophone), Buddy Chavez (drums), Bobby Lowe (bass), and Duke Yannacone (drums).
Butler said the owner of Howie's Lounge wanted to take him to Las Vegas and open a bigger venue. Coffee remained in Key West rather than moving to the big city to become a star because he remembered what happened to his good friend Fats Navarro and, he says, he "didn't want that to happen to me.” Fats Navarro, a legendary Key West trumpeter, succumbed to heroin at twenty-seven. Navarro left Key West after graduating from high school and became a huge sensation in New York before his life and meteoric career were cut short.
At the Tennessee Williams Theater in 2005, Coffee Butler, who was retiring from performing music, sang with his good friend Cliff Sawyer. Butler, named the Minister of Music years before in one of the original Conch Republic celebrations, passed the title onto Sawyer.
Robert grew up just behind a nightclub that is now the home of the Elks Club. He remembers big name acts performing there in the 1950's, including the legendary Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Les Brown. Robert would climb out on the roof of his family’s house to listen to the performers on the open air stage in the rear of the nightclub. The young Robert was most inspired by Louis Armstrong's performance.
The Albury family was not always a blues and soul music family. The great Key West percussionist Buddy Chavez tells everyone that Robert's father, Philip Albury, taught him and most of the Cuban conga players in town how to play percussion. Philip Albury spoke more Spanish than English and had his own Latin band while Robert was growing up.
Cliff remembers hearing street corner bands in the 1940's that included Fats Navarro singing and playing outside his window. Cliff’s father played the trombone with Fats Navarro.
Cliff occasionally sat in with Coffee Butler at the Hukilau on North Roosevelt and usually sang an Al Green song "Let’s Stay Together.” In 2005, Cliff organized a concert at the Tennessee Williams Theater. The orchestra included many Key West musicians. Performing in such a huge room was quite a contrast from the intimate clubs Cliff was used to. He said when he walked on the stage he couldn't see anyone in the cavernous venue because of the lighting. The concert included a special guest performance by Coffee Butler, who was introduced with a special rendition of "My Buddy.” Coffee walked on stage and sang "A Wonderful World" with Cliff.
Born into a musical family, Clayton seemed to always have some kind of stringed instrument in his hands. His musical roots trace back to his mother, who was the President of the Church Choir, played the piano, and was a fabulous alto vocalist. The Lopez family were gifted vocalists. In addition to gospel, the family heritage of Bahamian Caribbean music filled the household and was a big musical influence. Clayton misses the "indigenous" Caribbean music of his youth, which is much less common on the island today.
Clayton’s work as a Key West City Commissioner has restricted his playing somewhat, but he still gets gigs. Clayton and Calvin have played with almost everyone in town and love all types of music, blues, jazz, and, of course, soul sounds. One of Clayton’s biggest musical influences beyond his family and gospel was Motown, the Temptations in particular.
As a teenager, Larry played a classical violin. Larry’s explanation of his preference for the electric guitar is filled with musical lore. The electric guitar was invented in the U.S. It is loud! Since the1950's, the guitar has been the dominant instrument of our musical culture. It’s affordable and portable. Something about electric guitar connects to a young man in a very primal way.
Larry moved to New York started playing guitar for the soul legend, Chuck Jackson (Any Day Now), a staple at the Apollo Theater, He continues to play with Chuck in New York, making this the longest association in his musical career.
Larry remembers his a special moment touring with the Temptations before an audience of 100,000 in a stadium when everyone began to sing along with "My Girl.” It took his breath away.
Key West Theater
512 Eaton Street
Key West, FL, 33040