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Joseph Butler

Joseph Butler was a jazz bass player frequently heard at Preservation Hall in New Orleans's French Quarter.

Joseph Butler

Courtesy of Tulane University, William Ransom Hogan Archive of New Orleans Jazz

Joseph "Kid Twat" Butler. Crawford, Ralston (Photographer)

Joseph “Kid Twat” Butler was a double bass traditional jazz player from New Orleans. More widely known by his rather distinctive nickname, “Kid Twat” or just “Twat,” Butler was a regular player at Preservation Hall throughout the height of the New Orleans jazz revival. Most remember Butler for his talents as a bassist, but he was also a gifted blues pianist and singer, performing throughout the 1920s in small venues and clubs in the Crescent City. Butler is perhaps best known as the bassist in “Kid” Thomas Valentine‘s band.

Butler was born on December 26, 1905, in New Orleans’s Algiers neighborhood. His first instrument was a homemade one-string bass. He and friend Henry “Red” Allen would often follow parades and play music together informally as youths. Although Butler did take some lessons with Pinchback Touro, he was largely self-taught.

Among Butler’s first professional performances was a gig playing with Raymond Brown’s band in Grand Isle, which also featured drummer Sammy Penn. In his twenties Butler had a standing gig with Houma drummer Nolan “Shine” Williams, who recorded with Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band. In these early years of his career, Butler also performed with bandleaders A. J. Piron, Sidney Desvigne, and Papa Celestin. Butler’s best-known compositions remain “Big Lunch Blues,” a series of songs about his experiences during the Great Depression. The songs tell of economical and emotional difficulties Butler faced during the 1930s but show his strength of will, character, and positive outlook. In the early 1940s Butler recorded a tune called “Doggone Lowdown Dirty Shame” with saxophonist Edgar Saucier.

But Butler would be best remembered for his work with Kid Thomas. Performing with Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers on the stand-up bass, Butler was a well-regarded, no-frills bass player and occasional vocalist. The Algiers Stompers also included Emanuel Paul (tenor saxophone), Louis Nelson (trombone), Charlie Hamilton (piano), and Sammy Penn (drums). With this band Butler played a diverse repertoire of New Orleans swing, blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues geared toward dance.

During the 1960s Butler was a regular performer atPreservation Hall with Kid Thomas, “Sweet” Emma Barrett, and others. Butler is prominently featured on Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers’s recordings for Riverside Records’ New Orleans: Living Legends series and the Icon label. He also recorded with Billie and Dede Pierce for Mono.

Butler died on June 19, 1982, in New Orleans.