Butch Cook has been one of the most enduring musician of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s and his name is synonymous with the southern African music industry over those years!! There are few he hasn’t played with and he is truly one who has “seen it all”!
Butch was born in Bulawayo in May, 1951, the youngest of three children. He had an older brother, Ken, who sadly passed away in 2002 and a sister, Rose, who now resides in the United States. The family lived in Montrose and Butch attended the local junior school.
As a six year old he taught himself harmonica and then, as an eight-year-old, took an interest in learning to play the drums. It was about this time that his desire was further fuelled by the influence of his sister’s boyfriend of the time, Eddie Sierra. Eddie was a drummer for the RAMBLERS. Butch immediately showed a natural flair for the drums and, to this day, still considers himself to be a drummer at heart ahead of anything else. He adopted an unusual style of playing, left-handed and right-fotted a la Ian Paice of Deep Purple.
Before his tenth birthday he formed his first band with JOSEPH ROY on guitar and Joseph’s sister, VERONICA, on vocals. Despite their tender years they even played a Sunday lunchtime gig at the Carlton Hotel!
In 1960 Butch moved with his parents to Lusaka in what-was-then Northern Rhodesia. Whilst there he was approached to play the drums in a theatre production adapted from the Cliff Richard film, Expresso Bongo.
Shortly after this, his parents were on the move again, this time to Broken Hill (Kabwe) where he completed his secondary schooling at the King George VI High School.
It was as a ten-year-old that his interest in guitar evolved, largely thanks to his brother, Ken, who was dabbling in the instrument at the time. He quickly learnt his way around this instrument to the point that he became fairly proficient in a reasonably short time.
In 1962, whilst still at high school, he formed his first band, THE CHINCHILLAS. The line-up was:
- Jack Thain – Vocals
- Butch Cook – Guitar
- Ken Cook – Rhythm guitar
- George Felton – Bass
Apart from their instruments their backline consisted of two Vox AC 10 amps! Charging an entry fee of 50 cents per head, the Chinchillas were a regular attraction at the local Moth club where they ruled the scene. Their hallmark song was a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud”.
In due course the Chinchillas lost some of their fur when Jack and George completed their schooling and relocated to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia. As fate would have it, however, Butch’s father was transferred back to Bulawayo by Rhodesia Railways in 1962. The family took up residence in the suburb of Greenhill, a stone’s throw away from their original abode in Montrose.
Butch’s return to Bulawayo brought about a reunion with his former Chinchillas, Jack Thain and George Felton, who were by then members of a local band called the SILHOUETTES. It wasn’t long before Butch also found himself a member of the band whose line-up was then:
- Jack Thain – Vocals
- Butch Cook – Lead guitar
- George Felton – Bass
- Mike Shelton – Drums
The SILHOUETTES went on to enjoy considerable success as, initially, the SILHOUETTES and, later, LINCOLN. Please visit these entries under BANDS for the full details of this success.
In 1981, after many years of gigging with numerous bands, Butch moved to Cape Town and started to play solo gigs. These initially were hosted by the Sportman’s bar in Newlands Hotel before he moved to Lady Di’s in the Fairmead Hotel. Thereafter he returned to the Sportman’s for a spell before accepting gigs at Wynberg’s Chelsea Arms and the Woodstock Holiday Inn. At the same time he established a home recording studio and produced jingles and independent material, often for church groups.
He was then offered a contract with Southern Sun hotels and travelled widely gigging at many of their establishments, including the Duke of York pub at Sunnyside Park in Johannesburg, the Oyster Bar at the Port Elizabeth Sun and Sportman’s at Newlands (for the umpteenth time!).
It was whilst playing at the Sunnyside Hotel that Butch met up with former Silhouettes’ member, Trevor Ellis. Trevor offered him a job outside the music field which he accepted and, since then, he has kept himself busy in the chemicals and construction industries. The good news is, however, that Butch continues to gig part-time and is a regular attraction wherever he is which, presently, is in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.