Erskine Butterfield (February 9, 1913 – July 11, 1961) was an American pianist, singer, bandleader and composer, active in the 1930s to the 1950s, and best known for his boogie-woogie and swing piano style. Butterfield was credited with "helping to invent the style of 'cocktail piano'."
Born in Syracuse, New York, Butterfield played piano at an early age when his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he later studied piano. In the 1930s, he regularly appeared on radio, including WOR in New York City, and played with Noble Sissle's orchestra. He made his first sound recording and reproduction in 1937 on the Variety record label. In 1938, he signed with Decca Records, for which he recorded over forty titles between 1940 and 1942, many of which were released. Butterfield was called the "Singing Vagabond of the Keys" by the Chicago Defender in 1939. He "was innovative in utilizing black and white musicians together in his combo," which included session musicians such as Jimmy Lytell (clarinet), Carmen Mastren (guitar), and Haig Stevens (bass).
In 1939, Butterfield signed with Joe Davis of Beacon Records, with whom he would maintain a long term relationship. In 1943, Butterfield was drafted, but continued to play in a group including such musicians as Slim Furness (guitar), Eugene Brooks (drums) and Lynwood Jones (upright bass), and he cut V-Discs in 1945. In 1944, he recorded eight titles for Joe Davis under the name Erskine Butterfield and his Blue Boys.
Butterfield's "light swing and traditional piano phrases" resulted in some of his songs, such as "Lovin' Man" and "Because Of You," being used in film soundtracks.
After World War II, Butterfield formed a trio and toured extensively, but his music style was less successful commercially. He recorded for a number of small labels in the late 1940s, after which his recording activity dropped off. In 1956, however, he again recorded a number of titles for Joe Davis with a reformed group, Butterfield and his Blue Boys, including musicians such as Sam "The Man" Taylor (saxophone) and Panama Francis (drums).
Erskine Butterfield and his Blue Boys, Tuesday at Ten. Probably recorded in 1941 by World Broadcasting, Inc., for radio broadcast, and released on vinyl in 1983 by Circle Records, No CLP-62. (Music written by Butterfield is indicated by his name in parenthesis following the title.)
Tuesday at Ten
A Zoot Suit (Butterfield)
Blackberry Jam (Butterfield)
Something’s Bound to Happen
Monday’s Wash (Butterfield)
J.P. Dooley, III
The Boogie Beat’ll Get You
You Should Live So Long
1944-1956/Part-Time Boogie. Eight titles recorded at WOR Studios, New York, on August 17, 1944, and 10 titles recorded at Mastertone Studios, New York, on June 13, 1956, but released in 1957. Harlequin Records, 1986, No. HQ 2050. All are original Butterfield compositions.
Part Time Boogie
Saturday Night Twist
Boogie Woogie Barcarolle
Fantasy in Blue
Saturday Nite Twist
Monday’s Wash (Butterfield’s theme song on WOR radio)