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Eleuthera's Own Ronnie Butler Takes Final Bow (Nassau Guardian)
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Posted by:Sep 2nd 2006, 03:59:31 pm
Fig Tree News TeamRonnie Butler - Last Show

By NORMAN ROLLE, Weekender Editor
norman@nasguard.com

Months before his 70th birthday, Ronnie Butler, the grandfather of entertainment, is making his final bow in early 2007. He told Weekender that March next year will be his 'last hurrah.' His exit will be celebrated in a mammoth concert which is currently being planned. At that event, he will release his 15th album, a DVD as well as his autobiography.

While he is not revealing the titles of the CD and DVD, he did say that most tunes will be from original material. As for the book, he assures that he does not intend to leave anything out.

Butler, who began his music career at age of 16, has clocked 53 years in the business and has seen it all. Says he: "The industry in my view is now better in one sense and it has gone back in another. As far as recording is concerned, we've gone forward; the majority of the music has been enhanced but the number of musicians have dwindled."

Weekender: And what do you attribute this to? We're getting all these tourists coming here now, five million a year. We're also expanding resort facilities hand over fist; why then are so many local entertainers out of jobs? In the 60s and 70s, you were a regular at The Out Inland Bar in The Nassau Beach Hotel and later the Ronnie's Rebel Room, local music and entertainment seem to have seen better days....why is this?

Butler: There are a couple of reasons for this. We used to have 39 clubs Over-the-Hill...now we don't have any. Crime has something to do with that... and then came the disco. Added to this, I must say, is the poor attitude of entertainers...all these things contributed. When I worked at The Nassau Beach Hotel in the late 1960s... that hotel alone had six bands, the Emerald Beach had two or three, the British Colonial Hotel had two...all of the major hotels at the time had one, two, three or four bands.

Weekender: So you believe that, for the most part, Bahamian musicians are their worst enemies?

Butler: The musicians have something to do with it. The hotel owners have something to do with it. We have a Bahamas Musicians Union and they try all they can to keep musicians working in the various areas of the country, especially in Nassau, but the Union can only do so much. As a matter of fact, I give the President of the Union a whole lot of credit for what he has done and what he is trying to achieve for the musicians. We as musicians need to stand together. So I can not say all in all that musicians are totally to blame.

Weekender: Tell us about your early years in entertainment.

Butler: They were very good years; there were ups, there were downs. But trust me, when you're really into music, when you love what you do ... like the song says, "The downs are few." You don't really recognise the downs. The downs are like water over a duck's back. I've enjoyed my years in entertainment.

Weekender: Would you say times have drastically changed since then?

Butler: Music has changed drastically. Of course, we go from when there was nothing electronic to today where everything is electronic. For me, the change is for the better to a large degree. I know what the sound was like compared to the sound of today. It's like day and night.

Weekender: How many albums have you produced?

Butler: Fourteen. I'm presently working on number 15.

Weekender: Is it profitable to produce albums solely for this market?

Butler: Over the long run, yes. It costs me more than the average entertainer who has their own studio. But from the actual sale of the CD, it can take two to three years to recoup, that is for local distribution. It is very difficult to get distribution outside of the country.

Weekender: A lot of your recordings over the years have a Family Island flavour. Were you born on a Family Island?

Butler: No, I was born right here. My mother was from Bannerman Town Eleuthera; my father was from Greencastle. I'm descended from Eleuthera.

Weekender: Grew up in Nassau?

Butler: Yes. I'm a valleyboy - Mount Royal, Mount Rose, Culmerville, Mackey Street.

Weekender: How did you get into music?

Butler: I sort of glided into music. It was not something where I said, 'Hey I want to be a musician.' I did construction and this guy from Trinidad who played a Hawaiian guitar lived across the street from me. In the evening I used to go over there and just fool around with him. And then one day I went home and there was a guy... his name was Naddy. He played congos and we started fooling around. And we got a job at this place about two months later. Naddy did the singing and I shook the maracas. And that's how I got into music. I didn't sit down and say, 'I want to be a musician.' But I am so glad and thankful that I have, because it's been very good for me.

Weekender: Do you play any instruments?

Butler: I play quite a few instruments, including the guitar. I'm an old man now and I can't be hanging ten pounds around my neck.

Weekender: Currently, you only perform shows, is that right?

Butler: Shows and private functions.

Weekender: Are you booked out for the year?

Butler: Booked out? You got some work? I need some work man.

Weekender: You are certainly a grandfather of entertainment in The Bahamas, what advice do you have for the up-and-coming performers?

Butler: Well, first of all, let me clarify what you just said. I'm not a grandfather, I'm a great grandfather. I have two great grandsons. What would I say to aspiring musicians? Try find something else to do. The way the industry has been dwindling...my honest advice is try something else.

Weekender: You have travelled extensively, where were you most comfortable on stage?

Butler: Working at The Nassau Beach at the Trade Wind Lounge and Ronnie's Rebel Room were the hallmark of my career. And the best song that I've written and recorded is 'Burma Road.' Nothing has ever touched that. Everything I actually talked about in that recording I have actually lived.

Weekender: Are you looking forward to retirement...and how do plan to spend your time?

Butler: What I'm going to be doing in the meantime is.... hanging a bit at Coco' Cafe and Sporting Lounge, 119 Collins Avenue...opening in a week or 10 days. On a Friday or Saturday evening, you can pop in and see me in the corner playing the saxophone.

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