Rhett Butler
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Rhett Butler

Band Jazz Acoustic


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The best kept secret in music



Anyone slipping in early for Tony Trischka's master banjo class at the Cactus Cafe in August would've first heard the sound of their jaw hitting the floor for opening guitar duet Rhett Butler. Eric Johnson, for whom the Dallas picker opened most recently at the Cactus, endorses Butler with: "I've never heard anyone get the sounds out of [two guitars at once] like Rhett does."

From Scott Joplin to Queen, Butler's ambidextrous doublenecking also goes electric, so Sixth Street's Hard Rock Cafe needn't worry about the clamor of dropping jaws.

- Raoul Hernandez - Music Editor

- The Austin Chronicle


Rhett Butler has made a name for himself nationally for playing two guitars at once. He puts heart, soul and both hands into his art. - The Dallas Morning News

"Have Guitars will Travel"

Look Who's Coming: Rhett Butler, guitarist

Rhett Butler is the definition of a traveling troubadour, driving his pickup across the country with four guitars and a sound system in the back, ready to set up at your neighborhood coffee shop.

Without a record deal, the Texan has managed to sell more than 12,000 CDs of his instrumental guitar music. It's not jazz, exactly, or new age, although his sound has elements of each.

He also does a little something that sets him apart from your average guitar slinger. Those who stop by Thursday night to see his set at Six String Cafe in Cary will be treated to a handful of tunes played on two guitars at once, as he uses a stand to prop up the second instrument in front of him.

- Raliegh News and Observer

"This Time the Butler really did do it"

Rhett Butler, hailed by some music critics as “among the next generation of Texas guitar heroes,” has achieved his goal and now will reward his biggest fan with the prize of a lifetime.

No, it’s not concert tickets or a backstage pass. Not a limo ride or a walk on the red carpet at the Grammys. Instead, the prize is a trip home – which is where brothers belong.

Home, in this case, is Ireland, and Butler’s biggest fan is his younger brother, Ashley. And while these facts may not seem outstanding on the surface, there is a story underneath that tugs at the heartstrings in much the same way as Rhett Butler works his acoustic guitar.

Ashley, now 25, is the longest living survivor of PNET, or Primative Neuroectodermal Tumor, a rare malignant cancer that struck Ashley at the age of 2. According to Rhett Butler, doctors advised their parents not even to attempt treatments, but instead to take the child home and love and care for him for the four or six months that he was expected to survive.

But Hugh and Cindy Butler, Ashley and Rhett’s parents, “were not interested in watching their child die without a fight,” Rhett wrote in the liner notes for “The Kid from Kilkenny,” an acoustic album entirely dedicated to songs for and about his brother. Hugh Butler devoted himself to learning about PNET – outpacing the physicians treating Ashley, according to Rhett – while Cindy Butler moved to New York with Ashley to enter an experimental treatment program.

Somehow, Ashley survived.

“He’s a special person – he’s the reason I am who I am,” said Rhett.

“He makes life worth living,” Hugh Butler is quoted as saying in the liner notes.

Ashley did not emerge unscathed, however. The cancer treatments left him visually impaired and the tumor impeded physical growth, leaving him with a perpetually youthful cast and a personality that has “childlike qualities,” Rhett said.

Worse yet, the radiation spawned additional cancerous tumors. A benign brain tumor was discovered in 1987, and in November 2004, doctors discovered two thyroid cancer tumors in his neck. The tumors were surgically removed, Rhett said, and Ashley has just passed the six-month mark since the operation and the cancer has not recurred – a terrific sign, according to Ashley.

While such trials and tribulations seem almost too much to imagine, let alone to bear, Ashley has battled through the difficulties with the unvanquished spirit of a warrior. It was Ashley who initiated research on the family name and traced their roots back to Ireland – a project that inspired Rhett to embark on a fund-raising tour that would allow him to take his brother back to the old sod, in Irish parlance: the ultimate trip home.

To raise money, Rhett stepped up his self-describe campaign to “make his mark on the guitar world one coffee shop at a time,” scheduling a series of shows on college campuses and intimate venues throughout the country. As part of the series, Rhett played at the Purple Onion in Danville on Saturday, adding $500 to his collection coffers.

The trip funding-goal, however, has been more than met; Rhett has collected $13,000, well above the $8,000 required for the trip across the pond. But the extra proceeds will not be wasted; they will be given to the Ashley Butler Foundation, a charity established in his brother’s name that assists the families of pediatric cancer patients receiving care at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Rhett’s visit to Danville was more than just a coincidence. His sister, Amy Carter, is a former Danville resident who has since moved to Virginia Beach. Ashley, meanwhile, lives in Austin, Texas, with his parents. According to Rhett, the Purple Onion was suggested as a venue by Tony Turner, director of the “The Acoustic Runs Groove” concert series, which helps promote independent music acts.

Rhett’s popular appeal, however, is not based solely on his heartwarming story. Rather, he is an accomplished musician who has opened for such legendary guitarists as Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani.

“I’m known for playing two guitars at the same time,” said Butler, who also admitted to musical aspirations that go beyond fund-raising. “I want to be respected by other musicians – I’d like to be in guitar magazines and for others to say, ‘I really like what he does.’ I want a career in music and to play for as many people as I can.”

Judging by his progress thus far, it would seem that those goals are well within reach – because unlike his namesake in Gone with the Wind, this Rhett Butler does give a damn. - Danville Register and Bee - By Amy M. Nodden 6/20/05


2006 ...In This World (with The Dallas Symphony)
2005 Live at Houston Northwest
2005 The Kid from Kilkenny
2004 Action Figure
2002 A New Way Home
2001 The Physics of Acoustics
2000 Solitaire
2000 A Guitar for Christmas
1999 Live and Uncut


Feeling a bit camera shy


"Rhett Butler is among the next generation of Texas Guitar Heroes."
Texas Music Magazine

VIDEOS @ www.myspace.com/rhettbutlerguitar



Last November, jazz guitarist Rhett Butler was heading home on Interstate 20, exhausted from a two-week concert tour that took him from Georgia through Alabama and Louisiana, when his cellphone rang. Lowering the blare of his favorite Van Halen CD, Butler heard his father's slightly shaken voice on the other end: Doctors had discovered two possibly cancerous tumors growing on his younger brother's neck. Once again, Ashley Butler faced the grim prospect of hospital beds, chemo treatments, and perhaps losing a battle he had been waging for more than 20 years.

On hearing the news, 31-year old Rhett, usually a tower of older-brother strength and resilience, crumpled into a mass of frustration and fear. All he could do was pull his Nissan Frontier truck to the side of the freeway, turn off the ignition and cry. For 45 minutes.

"I always feared getting that call," Butler recalls, "when I did, it just about destroyed me."

After his eyes had no more tears to give, Butler slowly collected himself and headed for his baby brother's side.

Of the ensuing daily vigil at the hospital, Rhett Butler would later write in the liner notes of his most recent CD: "In a fairly comfortable chair, I sit with my feet propped up on the bed. One hand is holding a pen and the other is holding my baby brothers [sic] hand. I listen anxiously for every breath that he takes . . ."

Ashley's lifelong struggle against cancer is the underlying refrain in the sibling saga of Rhett and Ashley Butler. It has informed nearly every facet of Rhett's personal and artistic life. It's the reason he picked up the guitar in the first place and why it became his primary escape. It's embedded in his passionate guitar style, all percussive bursts of melodic energy.

It's apparent in the grin that animates Rhett's face every time Ashley walks into a room.

The stoic grace with which Ashley has shouldered his cancer has made him a role model of strength and resilience. It is Rhett who relies on Ashley as both musical muse and flesh-and-blood compass -- offering perspective as Rhett navigates the narcissistic waters of professional music.

"People always ask me if I'm getting stressed out about getting a new CD done or what I'm thinking before attempting to play two guitars at the same time," says Rhett. "And I always say that my brother's life-and-death fight with cancer is more than I ever could do just playing the guitar. I mean, he's defied the odds just to be here, and that makes him so inspirational."

As Ashley gently pats his big brother's arm, Rhett adds: "He just makes me believe I can do whatever I need to do."

All about Ashley

Rhett Butler -- yes, his real name, chosen, along with Ashley's, by their mother, Cindy, who was a huge Gone With the Wind fan -- was born in Atlanta. His family moved to Humble when he was 3.

In 1982, when Rhett was only 8, his family was brought to its knees by the news that a golf ball-sized tumor had been discovered on 2-year-old Ashley's brain. Formerly known as primitive neuroectodermal, the cancerous growth is notorious for metastasizing so rampantly that doctors at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston excised 90 percent of the growth before telling the Butlers "to simply take Ashley home and just love him."

Translation: Ashley had only months to live.

But the Butlers would fight that gallows timetable. They took Ashley to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City for six months of radiation, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, all designed to burn away the rest of the tumor and any lingering cancer cells.

Against all odds, Ashley began to grow stronger. There would be setbacks. Two more operations to remove tumors on both Ashley's brain and neck left him almost completely blind, with a stunted physique (he's 5 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds) and with partial learning disabilities.

But he's alive. And having just celebrated his 26th birthday, Ashley Butler is one of the world's longest-living survivors of this especially ruthless pediatric cancer. "He's really one of a kind," beams Rhett.

Only three years after weathering the trauma of Ashley's first brain operation, 12-year-old Rhett asked his parents for a guitar for Christmas.

"Everybody in the family had been dealing with Ashley's condition in their own way," recalls Rhett. "For me, I just got a guitar, then disappeared into it."

After seven months of lessons, he pursued the instrument on his own intense terms. Day after day, he retreated into a musical shell. What blossomed was Butler's fiery musical work ethic marked by his constant repetition of some blindingly fast guitar passages by everyone from Eddie Van Halen to Stevie Ray Vaughn.

"We listened to so much Edd