|Author: Compton, Cliff
I never understood Lloyd Butlers sense of rhythm until I saw Jimmy Rodgers on an old film clip. I think the song he was playing was “T for Texas”. I remember sitting back in my chair and saying to my myself, “He’s playing that like Lloyd.” Then I thought, no, Lloyd’s playing that like Jimmy.
Those of you who never knew Lloyd Butler, you missed out on something precious. That old reprobate had a way of slipping under your skin and staying there. I never saw anyone play guitar quite like him. He’d tape his pick to his thumb, and he’d pop that G string like a bow and arrow, and if you was asleep, he’d wake you up. And he’d pick all night long, always with a well visited gallon jug of wine on the ground beside him. That jug was as big as he was. I never knew where he put that stuff, but I guess he must have drunk it, because I’ve seen him playing songs when he was strumming three inches away from the strings without noticing it.
Lloyd Butler and Wayne and Betty Nolan’s camp was a warm and welcoming place where anyone could come and feel at home. Unless you happened to be a little full of yourself and made the mistake of standing in front of Lloyd with your backside toward his face. Lloyd didn’t have no problem sticking his boot on your hind end and sending you flying out of the circle. Lloyd was an old ex-prison guard, and didn’t put up with disrespect.
But as for, I loved this old rascal. And I think he loved me too.
He wasn’t a religious man, but he respected God, though he liked to pretend otherwise. If I played a gospel song., he’d put his hands up in the air and say hallelujah, then he’s take a pull off that wine bottle and play “backslider blues”. and I’d tell him, “Jesus loves you Lloyd, and so do I”, and he’d snort and chuckle. But it’s a funny thing, Whenever he saw me, he’d always say, “Sing me a gospel song Cliff, and I would.
When Lloyd got cancer, it hit me hard. When my eight year old son would say his prayers at night, we always Prayed for Lloyd…..I couldn’t imagine life without him. For a while, it looked like he might make it. We saw him at the campout in Turlock. He looked strong, and full of life, and he was pickin’ like a man on a mission. I remember him stopping in the middle of a jam and pointing at me and saying, “ if I ever get to heaven that guys gonna be the reason.” That touched my heart. I’d hate to think anyone was depending on my to get them into heaven. I’m a pretty low rent savior. But I reckon there’s someone above my pay grade who can see that the work is done.
A month or so before Lloyd died, Jim and carol Johnson, Betty Nolan, my wife Trudy and myself went up to visit him. Jim and I wanted to play with him one more time before he died.
He was frail and skin and bones. Him and his dear wife Doris, suffering through the hospice stage of life.
But his eyes were bright and ornery as ever. And he wanted to play. I mean he really wanted to play. And we played. For a couple of hours we played.
And I told him that I hoped to play with him again in the great beyond. And he let me know him and God were working on that. And it was a wonderful day. I day I will always cherish.
And we played all of the Lloyd songs, and the Wayne Nolan songs. We played T for Texas, Roll on Buddy, Sitting on Top of the world, I wonder where you are tonight. And my wife had her video camera and she recorded Lloyd singing “I’m a Pilgrim”.
I’m a pilgrim
And a stranger
This wearisome land
I’ve got a home
In yonder city
Not built by human hands
I’ve got a mother
Sister and a brother
Who have gone on before
And I know
I’m gonna meet them
Over on that other shore
I called His wife Doris the other day to see how she’s getting by. Things are hard, as you’d expect, but underneath it all, she was at peace. She said “ when the time came. Lloyd was ready to go.”
I’m glad he was ready to go.
But I sure miss him.
Copyright © 2002 California
Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
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