Q. There was a Jim Butler who played for the football Cardinals. There was a Jim Butler who was a KMOX radio personality. And there is currently a Jim Butler auto dealership. Has anyone ever seen these three people at the same time at the same place? Where are they now?
— Bob Rettle, of Belleville
A. As zany appliance dealer-showman Steve Mizerany was fond of saying, don’t be confused. There is a simple way to keep the three straight. Ready?
Jim Butler the football player is the only graduate of Edward Waters College ever to be drafted into the National Football League. (Yeah, I never heard of it, either. It’s a private school in Jacksonville, Fla., founded in 1866 to educate freed slaves.) Jim Butler the radio personality was the featured speaker at my National Honor Society induction on May 7, 1970, at Belleville West. (You can see he left an impression.) And, to add even more fun to your question, the car dealership that has ingrained the advertising earworm “Jim Butler is the Chevy powerhouse!” permanently into my brain actually has been headed by not one but two Jim Butlers in its 35-year history.
OK, I suppose that still doesn’t explain why, in theory, they could have been at the same place at the same time, so here are a few more details to differentiate them.
Jim “Cannonball” Butler was a Quincy, Fla., native who wound up playing eight years in the NFL after being taken by Pittsburgh in the 14th round of the 1965 draft. Early on, he was primarily a kick returner, but after being traded to Atlanta in 1968, he also showed his power as a running back with three 600-yard seasons. His best year was 1969, when his 655 yards of rushing (4.0 average) and 799 yards of kick returns (21.6 average) earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl. But after fumbling 10 times in 1971, he was shuffled off to the old St. Louis Cardinals, where, in five games, he ended his career by rushing for three yards and returning four kicks for 85. The 5-10, 190-pounder died Feb. 10, 2014, at age 70.
During what many old-timers might call KMOX’s golden years, another Jim Butler joined the likes of Robert Hyland, Bob Hardy, Rex Davis, etc., etc., in turning AM-1120 into a broadcasting monster.
“As soon as Jim opened his mouth, people knew who he was,” St. Louis radio historian Frank Absher said in tribute when Butler died of pneumonia in Fresno, Calif., at age 76 on July 28, 2003. “His voice was so unique.”
Born in Olney, Butler joined KMOX in 1951 as a morning personality and, during the next 38 years, would become the station’s program director. His eventual nighttime show became so popular that an obituary said he was once declared the night mayor of St. Louis. He retired in 1989 and moved to San Francisco. See him behind the mike in his early years at www.stlmediahistory.com/index.php/Radio/RadioPhotos/butler-jim. (Before you ask, KMOX’s current longtime news director — John Butler — is a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and not Jim’s son.)
Retirement only raised the curtain to the second act of the life of yet another St. Louis Jim Butler. After 33 years in sales in sales and marketing in the regional Chevrolet organization, 62-year-old Jim Butler quit in 1980, promptly bought the old Anthony dealership at 9900 Watson Road in Crestwood and opened Jim Butler Chevrolet. He soon turned it over to his sons, Jim and Tom, who have created a dynasty that, over the years, added Saturn, Fiat, Kia and Mitsubishi. The elder Jim Butler died of cancer Feb. 2, 1997, at age 79, while the younger Jim Butler’s son-in-law, Brad Sowers, is now president of the automotive group.
Now, some day, I’ll have to tell you about Jim Butler the lawyer who won the thalidomide drug case in 1971, Jimmy Butler the Chicago Bulls All-Star ...
Q. I am looking for a cartridge/needle for a turntable. Suggestions?
— Kathryn, of Collinsville
A. They may not have them in stock, but there’s a store in your very neighborhood that promises to do its darndest to find one for you — Rich’s Record Emporium at 131 W. Main St. in Collinsville.
“We stock several cartridges from about 30 bucks, and have some styluses,” the folks there quickly e-mailed me back Monday. “Either way, if we can see the table (she should bring it in), we cannot only get her a proper replacement, but Rich (Cartier) also has the mounting and alignment tools to get it set right. If it requires something unusual, he can usually order it.”
And, who knows, you may find an old vinyl gem in their stock in the process.
Besides the very real Davy Crockett, what popular fictional TV character can Limestone, Tenn., (population 5,880) claim as a native son ... er ... daughter?
Answer to Tuesday’s trivia: At one time, Ernest Evans entertained customers as he plucked chickens at Farm Fresh Poultry in Philadelphia. But in terms of record chart performance, Evans became the most successful singer in history when, as Chubby Checker, he took “The Twist” to No. 1 on the Billboard survey not once, but twice — two years apart. In 1960, he spent 35 minutes recording three takes of the song, which subsequently became the top hit for teens for a week on Sept. 19. Then, a year later, adults became caught up in the popular dance, and, after Checker’s appearance on Ed Sullivan on Oct. 22, 1961, it rose to No. 1 again, this time for two weeks starting Jan. 13, 1962. It remains the only song in history to hit the top spot twice in two different chart runs.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.