Today I wanted to take a moment and remember former Grand Ole Opry member Carl Butler, who passed away on September 4, 1992. Carl was born on June 2, 1927 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He achieved success as a vocalist and songwriter. He also recorded with his wife Pearl.
"Carl & Pearl Butler's first charted duet became their greatest success; 'Don't Let Me Cross Over,' which spent eleven weeks at #1 on the country charts in 1962 and 1963. On the strength of that success Pearl joined her husband on the Grand Ole Opry, where he had been a regular since 1958.
Carl Butler had been playing guitar in public since age twelve, when he entertained between square dance sets. Later he was featured on WROL and WNOX in Knoxville and WPTF in Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Knoxville he began amassing credits as a tunesmith with such songs as 'My Tears Don't Show,' 'If Teardrops Were Pennies,' 'Guilty Conscience,' 'Hold Back the Dawn,' and 'Cryin My Heart Out Over You.' The songs were recorded through the years by Roy Acuff, Carl Smith, Bill Monroe, Rosemary Clooney, Flatt & Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs. Pearl Jones co-wrote 'Kisses Don't Lie,' a Carl Smith hit.
Carl Butler kicked off his solo recording career in 1951 with Capital Records, switching to Columbia in 1953. His early recordings included 'River of Tears' and 'That's What It's Like to Be Lonesome,' but 'Honkytonkitis' became his first record to hit the country charts (#25, 1961).
Although Pearl often sang with her husband at shows, she resisted recording until 'Don't Let Me Cross Over.' In 1964 the couple had another Billboard Top Ten hit, 'Too Late to Try Again' (#9), and a few months later scored again with 'I'm Hanging Up the Phone' (#14). Their last chart entry, 'We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning' (#63, 1969), was later recorded as a duet by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
In Knoxville the Butlers took in child performer Dolly Parton when she performed for Cas Walker's local TV show and later helped arrange for Parton's first appearance on the Opry in 1959.
The Butlers appeared in the film, 'Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1967)."
In the 1970s, Carl and Pearl continued to tour and record, but they spent much of their time on their ranch, 'Crossover Acres', which was located in Franklin, Tennessee. By the 1980s, they were basically retired, although they continued to make some appearances on the Opry. Pearl Butler died on March 1, 1988 at the age of 60. After her death, Carl attempted a comeback with his solo career, even making several Opry appearances, but he had little success and he passed away on September 4, 1992, after suffering a heart attack.
Several people who would know this information, told me that after their career tailed off, the Butler's had a very difficult time and had some serious financial problems. It was to the point that they were close to losing their beloved 'Crossover Acres' home. But without knowledge to anyone, Dolly Parton, in an act of kindness and remembering how Carl and Pearl had helped her out on her way up, and in gratitude for what they did for her, quietly helped them out in their later years, allowing them to keep their home and their furnishings.
(I guess it goes back to the saying that you will meet the same people on the way down as you met on the way up and a lot of how you will be treated when you are no longer the hot superstar will be dictated by how you treated folks when you were on top. People do remember, as Dolly did in this case).
Carl Butler was not one of the superstars of the business, but almost everyone remembers that big hit, 'Don't Let Me Cross Over.' I don't think there has ever been a country music info-commercial that has not included that song. It was a great one. Thank's for taking a moment with me to remember Carl Butler.