All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Sam Butera

Sam Butera Sam Butera

Sam Butera was a saxophone player, best noted for his collaborations with Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Butera is frequently regarded as a crossover artist who performed with equal ease in both R & B and the post-big band pop style of jazz that permeated the early Vegas nightclub scene.

Butera was born and raised in New Orleans, where his father, Joe, ran a butcher shop and played guitar in his spare time. He heard the saxophone for the first time at a wedding when he was seven years old, and, with his father's encouragement, he began to play.

Butera's professional career blossomed early, beginning with a stint in big band drummer Ray McKinley's orchestra directly after high school. Butera was named one of America's top upcoming jazzmen by Look magazine when he was only eighteen years old, and, by his early twenties, he had landed positions in the orchestras of Tommy Dorsey, Joe Reichman, and Paul Gayten.

As the big band era wound down and heavy touring became less common among jazz musicians, Butera re-settled in New Orleans, where he played regularly at the 500 Club for four years. The 500 Club was owned by Louis Prima's brother, Leon, and it was this connection that lead him to his much-heralded Vegas-based collaborations with Prima and Smith.

Prima transitioned from big band to Vegas somewhat hastily, having signed a contract with the Sahara without having first assembled a back-up band. From his Vegas hotel room, Prima phoned Butera in New Orleans and had him assemble a band posthaste. Butera and the band drove from New Orleans to Las Vegas in such a hurry that they had not taken time to give their act a name. On opening night in 1956, Prima asked Butera before a live audience what the name of his band was. Butera responded extemporaneously, “The Witnesses,” and the name stuck.

Read more

Tags

Albums

Watch

Similar

Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald
voice / vocals
Louis Prima Louis Prima
composer/conductor
Louis Jordan Louis Jordan
saxophone, alto
Ray Anthony Ray Anthony
trumpet
Keely Smith Keely Smith
voice / vocals
Jonah Jones Jonah Jones
trumpet
Dave Pell Dave Pell
saxophone
Plas Johnson Plas Johnson
saxophone
Big Jay McNeely Big Jay McNeely
saxophone, tenor
Milt Buckner Milt Buckner
organ, Hammond B3
Bill Perkins Bill Perkins
saxophone
Vic Damone Vic Damone
voice / vocals

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.

MUSICSTACK
Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers
AMAZON
CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more
HD TRACKS
Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads
CD UNIVERSE
Specializing in music, movies and video games
REVERB
Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.