90s blues legends The Red Devils and Lester Butler
The Red Devils where a L.A. based blues band led by Harmonica player Lester Butler from 1988 to 1994. Butler was an excellent harmonica player in the style of Chicago Blues greats like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells. The Devils are exploding blues monster who made in their short existence a big mark on blues music around the world. Their album King King is what you could name a classic.
No other blues band made me so revive the music Howlin´ Wolf or Muddy Waters bands made once. It were the song ´She´s Dangerous´, ´Automatic, I´ve Been Wrong´ and so on, so on. The Red Devils make blues that stays close to the post-war basics. Beat, Groove, Harp and a gritty voice. You will find all these elements in their music, it may sound easy but it ain’t. It is blues magic.
Lester Butler on Little Walter
Butler was influenced by Little Walter since the tunes of Walter were stomped out of the amplifier at his home for the first time. He recalls: “You couldn’t hear if it was a harmonica or a Saxophone”. The Red Devils were also highly influenced by former revivalists Canned Heat and ZZ Top.
The Red Devils at the King King
During the late 80s the Red Devils became the Monday-evening house band of L.A. Club the King King. With their performances in the King King they soon drew the interest of Rick Rubin and George Drakoulias of Def American Recordings. Soon after they met, Rubin made it clear he would produce their first album, titled after the club that was like a living room to them. King King was recorded during several of their Monday evening performances in 1991.
THE RED DEVILS feat. LESTER BUTLER ~ devil woman
Break up of the Red Devils
Due to drug problems of Butler the Red Devils were disbanded by the end of 1994. After the Red Devils, Butler fronted the band 13. With 13 Lester made an also magical album called “13” on Hightone Records in 1997. Listen to it below.
Butler died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine on May 9, 1998, in Los Angeles at the age of 38. Two of his friends were convicted in his death of involuntary manslaughter.
Of all modern blues bands I consider the Red Devils as one of the best because how these guys could rock the stage with classic Chicago Blues was unique and maybe the last time you could see that kind of Blues on stage. Listen to some of their best songs throughout this article.
Find out more about the Red Devils at Nofightin´.
Feature picture credit: Original album cover of the Red Devils Album King King. Credits to Def American records or the graphic artist. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work for which it serves as cover art.