Angeline Butler: A Biography of the Woman, the Performing Artist, a Living Legend of the Sixties.
The Irish Times once referred to her as A Bird in Paradise”, her unconventional style, her ethnic appearance, her incredible technique in both song and drama, as she performed in the Coric Opera House and the Gaiety Theatre Noel Pearson and Elmer Bernstein’s productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and a Cole Porter Review “Playin’ Porter”. The Sydney Morning Herald referred to her as a “Singer who talks of Militantcy” while appearing in her supper club act at Chequers International and Leonard Feather (LA Times 1979) speaks of “her principal advantages are her powerful wide-ranging voice, the warm emotionalism she exudes and her versatility.”
Ms. Butler was trained in Music at Fisk University (Nashville), The Juilliard School, and in Drama at Columbia University, The Herbert Berghof School, The Gene Frankel Theatre, The Renata Mannhardt Theatre Foundation, and by the renowned drama coach Alice Spivak. To date, she has performed in Canada, Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, the Caribbean, and in America.
She was born in the city of Columbia, South Carolina to Vivian Ayers and was given up for adoption at twelve days old to Rev. and Mrs. Isaac Bartley Butler of the rural community of Eastover. As time passed and Angeline grew up, the Butler’s had five other daughters. They lived on a farm, they walked miles to school and they picked cotton, pulled fodder, hunted berries and fished in the streams.
When a senior at the Hopkins High School, Angeline won and represented her state of South Carolina at the “National Shrine Talent and Beauty Contest” in Philadelphia. This contest was the Black equivalent to Miss America. Little did Angeline know that this would be the beginning of a life of world travels, performance in entertainment, education, and social activism.
Johnny Carson, of the NBC TV “Tonight Show” was fascinated by the Angeline Butler, who was not only multi-talented, but who felt strongly about the position of her people in America and often demonstrated and went to jail to prove it. Johnny Carson documents Angeline at the Juilliard
School studying and at break time going back to the South to join other Student Non-Violent Participants on protests and in Jail. NBC “White Paper Series No. 2”, a film by Bob Young and Michael Roemer has been clipped in “Eyes on the Prize”(PBS), “A Century of Power” (KCET-TV2000), and museums all over the World on Angeline’s participation.
Jet magazine carried featured articles on the “Sit Inner to Show Biz” in Truman Capote’s and Harold Arlen’s “House of Flowers “. David Halberstam’s “Children” says “Angeline Butler, the strikingly beautiful young woman who had been one of the more important figures in the early sit in days….had always thought of a career in show business. Had she arrived twenty year later, her friends thought, it might have been a different story. As it was, her career was harder than Johnny Carson had prophesied on the Tonight Show.”
Angeline Butler is Artist Par Excellence. She began on the “Bell Telephone Hour”(NBC TV) with the Buster Davies Singers and moved quickly to folksinger on Columbia Records “Just Arrived The Pilgrims”, a group Tom Wilson produced around Angeline ‘s talent as the “Black answer” to “Peter, Paul and Mary” touring the college circuit. Angeline then ventured out in her own rite as a solo performer, making her debut with the Billy William’s Review in Chicago. Chicago Tribune reporter Bentley Stegner wrote of her “This day Lena is leaning towards the Met,” commenting on the beauty of her pure soprano voice.
Among her credits is “The Cave” with Ray Stevens (Vancouver), Puerto Rico Sheraton (Salon De Carnival), Johnny Carson on Tour (Westbury Fair, Detroit Civic, and Cleveland Auditorium), and Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music Concerts (Los Angeles & San Diego), The Count Basie Orchestra at the Tropicana Blue Room in Las Vegas (1968). Angeline Butler “Impressions”, on Coburt-MGM Records is still being heard on the radio. “Playboy after Dark” with Hugh Heffner repeats are on the Playboy channel. Angeline worked with Dick Cavett on ABC TV.
Recent performances in Belgium’s DEMUZE Jazz Cafe with Saxophonist Shawn Loescher and Lunaria Jazz Restaurant (Los Angeles), “The Art Hillary Songbook” with Pianist-Composer Art Hillary, Percussionist Bonnie Janofsky, Saxophonist Louis Taylor, In Paris, France Stephanie Campeon’s “MOVIN PARTS’: in Germany presented by Manfred Wolff, in America on MTV Video Music Awards ” Safe Sex Commercial” and by Woodie King, Jr. at the New Federal Theatre (NY) in the African Project “The Missing Face”. The Village Voice (Jose Germosen) singled out her “winning” performance in the African Queen, Nebe. ”
Ms. Butler produced cultural events for the California Afro-American Museum for the Smithsonian Exhibit, “Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington “, “The Louie Belson Orchestra In Concert” at USC Bovard Auditorium (1998) and a “Jazz Futures” day featuring Composer-Arranger-Pianist Art Hillery, Saxophonist Louis Taylor, Singer Barbara McNair, The B Sharp Quartet and others.
Her outstanding “African-American Contemporary Music Project” at the University of Southern California (USC) The “Ellington Tree: Black American Contribution to Contemporary Music,” focused on Duke Ellington and other African American composers, received a KCET-TV (Channel 21) Innovation Nomination (1981) featured Amiri Baraka, Trombonist Tom Macintosh, Guitarist Kenny Burrell and Singer Ernie Andrews , The Bill Berry Band, the H. B. Barnum Orchestra, Patti Bowen, Sarah Vaughn, Angeline Butler, Composer-Arranger Gerald Wilson, Author Stanley Dance and was supported by the Ellington family (Ruth and Mercer). —This project led the way for academic acceptance of Black American Composition in Jazz in American Universities and lead to the creation of Jazz Studies Department at the University of Southern California.
The City of Nashville recently honored and awarded Angeline Butler, as one of the Original Participants, Organizers of the Nashville Student Non-Violent Protest Movement, a founding member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, A Sit-Inner, A Freedom Rider of the 1960’s. In Los Angeles, Angeline Butler, along with Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, The Late Septima Poinsette Clark, Millicent Moore Hill, were honored in the founding of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum at the Crenshaw High School. Ms. Butler was a student advisor to the Late Martin Luther King, Jr. and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
Angeline sponsored the Civil Rights Legend the Late Septima Poinsette Clark of Charleston the last six years of her life and wrote a play “Voices of a Sit-In” in which Septima Clark spoke after each night at the Church In Ocean Park in Santa Monica (LA Times Coverage by Itebari Njeri “She Wrote the Book On Civil Rights” 1987).
On May 1, 2003, Angeline researched and sponsored a proposal adopted by the South Carolina House of Representatives, recognizing and extolling her father, Rev. Isaac Bartley Butler of Eastover, 97 years of age, for his countless good deeds and his fervent fight for improving the lives of so many people in the state. This was Angeline’s way of saying “Thanks’ dad”.
Angeline is back in New York, her artistic home, and is currently an Adjunct Professor of African American Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, since 2005, and has produced and written many projects that have been performed at the Gerald Lynch Theater and in other JJAY venues during her tenure. She is as excited about New York as she was the first day she arrived on the Silver Meteor from South Carolina years ago with only seventy-five dollars in her pocket. Angeline says “I’ve got some God given talents and I feel as strongly about them as I do my singing” and she continues to give them. First, I love talking to people. I love telling people stories, sharing with people the things I have learned about Life, Alternative Health and Nutrition, Metaphysical and Spiritual experiences. I love helping people solve complicated life problems. I’m also a gourmet cook, that’s my real relaxation, that and Yoga, dance movement, tennis, and walking.”