Les Butler: Solid Gospel Radio
by Susan Marquez
Les Butler laughs when he says he grew up “in the Gospel capital of the United States – Chicago, Illinois.” Les’s parents were from eastern Kentucky, and his father was a preacher. “They were members of the Canaan Record Club, which was active from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Every month we got a new Gospel album in the mail. That’s how I learned the songs. I also taught myself how to play guitar, piano, mandolin, and dobro by sitting in front of my parents’ huge stereo in the living room and listening to the records over and over again.”
Les’s taste in music was varied. “I listened to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and George Jones, which gave me my love of bluegrass and country, as well as the Happy Goodmans, the Florida Boys, The Inspirations and other great Gospel groups.” Les even had a brush with fame when, as a child, he spent the night at his uncle’s house. Flatt and Scruggs were his uncle’s house guests, and Scruggs showed Les how to do a three-finger roll.
Les passed his FCC 3rd Class (with Endorsement) radio license at age fourteen. “I was the youngest person at that time to pass the exam at the Chicago FCC offices.” With his distinct voice for radio and a love for Southern Gospel music, Les put his talents to work at a radio station in Chicago the first weekend in October 1978. He did a Southern Gospel radio program called Crossroads for Christ for a few years before marrying his wife, Bev, in 1983. The couple moved to Kissimmee, Florida, where Les went to work at WFID, a country station that let me play Gospel music on Sundays. “Later, I built a radio station in Haines City, Florida with the late Jack Moseman. The call letters were WHGL, and now it is WLVF Radio Gospel.”
In 1997, Les and Bev moved to Nashville, where he went to work for the Solid Gospel Radio Network. While there, he won the prestigious March of Dimes AIR award for his bluegrass Gospel radio show called Front Porch Fellowship.
Les served as the host for Delta Airlines’ Southern Gospel radio channel, and for many years, he published Singing News magazine.
In 2016, he flipped the switch on his own company, Butler Music Group. The company, based in Nashville, produces and publishes music for some of today’s best up-and-coming artists. His publishing companies include Hurry Up Publishing (BMI) and Hush Jean (ASCAP). BMG provides artists who want to take their music to the next level the opportunity to use the best musicians, studios, and production Nashville has to offer. Les and his staff work to guide the careers and ministries for artists such as Mark Wheeler & The Marksmen Quartet, Heart2Heart, Heaven’s Mountain Band, the Williamsons, Barry Rowland & Deliverance, and a group that Les is a member of, Old Time Preachers Quartet. Les and Bev’s son, Matt, runs the studio as the studio manager and engineer.
“He produces, he does the studio mixing, and he is also a great musician who does a lot of session work,” says Les.
Matt also teaches sound mixing for an online school run by top sound engineer Kevin Ward.
The Butler Music Group truly is a family affair. In addition to Les and Matt, Bev and daughter Amber are also involved. Bev serves as the office manager. “She is a walking encyclopedia of Southern Gospel Music, and I believe she knows every lyric to every song,” says Les. Bev keeps the office and mailroom running smoothly. A musical talent in her own right, Bev has been singing with the Les Butler Trio for over 35 years. Amber serves as the company’s director of marketing.
Les knows the music business from both sides. “I’ve been blessed to produce, play, and promote several Southern Gospel and Bluegrass Gospel number one songs. He enjoys playing with the Old Time Preacher’s Quartet, made up of all preachers. “We sing, or preach, or both at places like Dollywood. On weekends when he’s home, he is at his home church, Middle Tennessee Baptist in Murfreesboro.
With his syndicated radio program, Les Butler’s Southern Bluegrass, reaching one hundred markets, and his Live with Les video version of his radio network airing on Facebook and YouTube, Les is busier than ever. “I’ve got one speed, and that’s GO. I am one of those people who doesn’t require much sleep. I used to go fishing, but I don’t have time anymore.” That’s OK with Les, who is thankful he can do his favorite thing, preaching and singing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.