The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

The Honorable Jerry Butler

Award-winning performer, producer and composer Jerry "The Iceman" Butler was born in Sunflower, Mississippi on December 8, 1939. He moved to Chicago, Illinois at the age of three and grew up in an area later known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects. Butler met Curtis Mayfield, with whom he began his musical career as part of a quintet called "Jerry Butler and The Impressions." In 1958, The Impressions had their first hit with the classic "For Your Precious Love," after which the group cordially split and 18-year-old Butler went on to pursue a solo career. Spanning five decades, Butler's musical career has produced over 50 albums, numerous hit songs and three Grammy Award nominations. Butler, a musical icon, is known for his smooth, distinguished voice.

Butler has had numerous hit songs go platinum during his career, including "For Your Precious Love" with The Impressions (1958), "He Will Break Your Heart" (1960), "Moon River" (1961), "Never Gonna Give You Up" (1967), "Hey Western Union Man" (1968), "Brand New Me" (1969), "Only The Strong Survive" (1969), and "Ain't Understanding Mellow" (1973). In addition to his recording credits, Butler has hosted and appeared on numerous television variety specials; been nominated for three Grammy Awards; and received various awards for singing, composing, and publishing, including several from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, two Billboard magazine awards, two Humanitarian Awards and several Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Awards. Butler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994, a non-profit organization for which he has served as the Chairman of the Board.

Influenced by the Civil Rights movement, Butler entered politics in the mid-1980s as a campaign supporter of Chicago's first African American Mayor, Harold Washington. Butler himself was first elected to public office in 1985 as the Cook County Commissioner, where he served three four-year terms. In 1993, at the age of 55, Butler received a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Governor's State College in University Park, Illinois. Butler and his wife, Annette, married in 1959, reside in Chicago and are parents to twin sons.

Accession Number

A2002.070

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/11/2002

Last Name

Butler

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Edward Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts

Salazar Elem Bilingual Center

Washburne Trade School

First Name

Jerome "Jerry"

Birth City, State, Country

Sunflower

HM ID

BUT01

State

Mississippi

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/8/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Short Description

Music composer, county commissioner, music producer, and singer The Honorable Jerry Butler (1939 - ) is a legendary soloist known as "the Iceman," and an original member of the Impressions. Butler is also the former Cook County commissioner.

Employment

Cook County Board of Commissioners

Timing Pairs
0,0:6451,109:8068,152:17930,306:21690,373:34554,562:36604,594:42426,721:50940,818:66710,1063:72398,1191:80576,1442:100934,1797:155180,2416$0,0:1700,66:15368,186:17216,227:17636,233:25444,335:32620,434:43302,617:68270,1040:80975,1239:107129,1711:131960,2050:147720,2296:148545,2317:149220,2331:174232,2693:183392,2878:198126,3069:207862,3222:225882,3503:226421,3511:228808,3564:231888,3640:245937,3858:256826,4023:265712,4124:266016,4129:274720,4232
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55925">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jerry Butler's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55926">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler talks about his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55927">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler talks about his grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55928">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler describes his mother's personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55929">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55930">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55931">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler describes his childhood memories of Monroe County, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55932">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler describes the apartments where he lived during his childhood in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55933">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55934">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jerry Butler describes his childhood home life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55935">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jerry Butler describes his childhood personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55936">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Jerry Butler describes his reaction to his father's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55937">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Jerry Butler describes two teachers who inspired him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55938">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Jerry Butler talks about his experience at Washburne Trade School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55939">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler talks about the racism of some labor unions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55940">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler describes becoming interested in being a chef</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55941">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler talks about the historical importance of the Lawson YMCA in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55942">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler discusses his early interest in music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55943">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler describes the formation of The Impressions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55944">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes how Eddie Thomas became the manager for The Impressions and their record deal with Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55945">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler describes the origin of his song 'For Your Precious Love'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55946">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler recalls how he felt the first time he heard 'For Your Precious Love' on the radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55947">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler describes his top billing with The Impressions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55948">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jerry Butler describes the members of The Impressions and their roles within the group</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55949">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Jerry Butler describes why he left The Impressions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55950">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Jerry Butler describes leaving The Impressions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55951">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler recounts his fear that Roy Hamilton would cover 'For Your Precious Love'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55952">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler describes Vee-Jay Records, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55953">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler describes Vee-Jay Records, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55954">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler talks about his manager, Irv Nahan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55955">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler talks about Irv Nahan's influence on his career at Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55956">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes the origin of his nickname, "The Iceman"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55957">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler talks about touring as a solo musician</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55958">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler talks about his songwriting work with Curtis Mayfield</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55959">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler discusses the importance of owning the rights to his own songs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55960">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Jerry Butler talks about the management of his solo career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55961">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler describes his ambitions as a solo performer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55962">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler describes the music scene in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55963">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler comments on being influenced by Nat Cole and others</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55964">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler talks about the decline of Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55965">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler describes the start and success of Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55966">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes the potential for Vee-Jay Records to have grown bigger than Motown</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55967">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler talks about Ewart Abner's departure from Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55968">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler describes the origin of Queen Booking Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55969">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler talks about leaving Queen Booking Agency</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55970">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler describes his relationship with Curtis Mayfield</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55971">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler talks about meeting his new lawyer and manager, Bill Matheson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55972">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler talks about Bill Mathewson finding unsigned contracts with Vee-Jay Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55973">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler talks about signing with Mercury Records in 1966</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55974">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes his first recording with Mercury Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55975">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler describes meeting songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55976">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler reflects upon working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55977">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler refers to his writing of 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' with Otis Redding</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55978">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Jerry Butler reflects on working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55979">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler talks about songwriting with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55980">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler describes the differences between the "Philadelphia Sound" and the "Sounds of Chicago"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55981">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler talks about his songwriting workshop at Mercury Records in 1969</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55982">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler describes his Mercury Records contract</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55983">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler talks about meeting Natalie Cole</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55984">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler talks about Terry Callier</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55985">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler describes his songwriting workshop</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55986">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler describes his career at Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55987">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler describes his recording 'I Stand Accused'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55988">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler describes recording 'I Stand Accused'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55989">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler talks about singing with Patti LaBelle</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55990">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler talks about meeting the guitarist Robert "Boogie" Bowles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55991">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler describes an encounter with Minister Louis Farrakhan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55992">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler recalls attending Dionne Warwick's birthday party with Don Cornelius</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55993">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler talks about helping Don Cornelius launch 'Soul Train' nationwide</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55994">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler reflects upon what he would have done differently in his music career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55995">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler talks about his musical talent</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55996">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler shares his views on what makes a good performance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55997">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler talks about balancing music and his other occupations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55998">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler talks about his transition out of the music industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/55999">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler describes his entry into politics, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56000">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler describes his entry into politics, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56001">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler talks about his experience running for County Commissioner of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56002">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler describes what he has learned as a Cook County Commissioner</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56003">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler talks about his plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56004">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler talks about how he has been blessed</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56005">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Jerry Butler talks about the issues he has dealt with on the Cook County Board of Commissioners</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56006">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Jerry Butler reflects on his experience in the music industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56007">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Jerry Butler reflects on the current state of the music industry, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56008">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Jerry Butler reflects on the current state of the music industry, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56009">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Jerry Butler describes the founding of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56010">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Jerry Butler describes the importance of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56011">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Jerry Butler talks about the legacy of Rhythm and Blues</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56012">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Jerry Butler reflects upon what his father would have thought of his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/56013">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Jerry Butler reflects upon his legacy</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$8

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
Jerry Butler describes the origin of his nickname, "The Iceman"
Jerry Butler describes his entry into politics, pt. 2
Transcript
Now I want to go--I want to stay within the Vee-Jay [Records] years though some--and really talk because are your early years as an artist. Those were still very productive years in terms of you know the records that you had--$$Um-hmm.$$--you know the songs that came out of that period. But before I do that, I'd like to go back to Georgie Woods because he gave you the name "The Iceman."$$(Smiles).$$But you never say how that even happened, you know just that he gave you the name "The Iceman." And so, why did he call you Ice--?$$Well, you know there are always stories about how things happened and some people say, "Well he started calling him 'The Iceman' because he was going to be a chef and he was doing ice sculpture" which was--it had nothing to do with the whole thing. What really happened was I was fresh out of the group and had gone there as a matter of fact, on my honeymoon. My wife [Annette Butler] and I got married [June 21, 1959] and I went back to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] because we needed the money, to perform. And Georgie had said, "Well you know if you come and perform you can spend your honeymoon and make some money at the same time," you know. And little did I know that wives don't want to hear about making money on honeymoons. But I was 19 years old, so what did I know. I thought it was the wise and prudent thing to do, so I did it. Had I lived to do it over again, I don't think I would do that. Anyway, I'm on stage performing and the sound, the electricity goes out and so all of the electrical instruments are silenced. And from my upbringing in the church was that you keep singing, you don't stop. You just keep on going, let the spirit let it flow. And so when it all stopped, I just kept on singing. It was quiet, the theater wasn't that large and the people could hear me. And when I finished, the audience for some reason, stood up and applauded what I had done and George ran on stage and said, that's the coolest thing I ever saw. So cool, going to call you "The Iceman." And the next morning he went to the radio station, WDAS, and that's what he started doing. And it's been with me ever since.$$So that meant really someone who was not phased, who could handle themselves under any circumstances, really?$$(Shaking head yes). Or under those circumstances.$$Cool, (unclear) cool?$$Yes exactly, the superlative of cool.$$For cool, in control.$So tell the story. So you go on--$$Which story?$$The rest of the story. How you got elected, [HM] Pervis Spann included.$$Oh man, a funny story. So anyway, I said well what do you do when you run for election? He said well first thing you need is money and people. Maybe not necessarily in that order but those are the two things that you need most. You got to let folks know you're running. You need a campaign manager. So I hired Carolyn Rush who was [HM] Bobby Rush's wife, who is Bobby Rush's wife rather, to be the campaign manager. She said, "Well you got to raise some money." I said, "Okay." So we have a meeting at Barbara Proctor's apartment on the South Side and Barbara Proctor says "Well you know I'll do the advertising, I'll do this and I'll do that and this--(makes sounds)." And they said, "We got to raise $250,000.00." I said, "$250,000.00? The job only pays $40,000.00. What are we going to do with all that money?" He said, "Well you know this is an expensive game." I said, "I don't know if I want to play. But we're out here now so let's go." So I said, "Well I know one thing that we can do, we can put on a fundraiser at the Arie Crown [Theater in Chicago, Illinois] and I'll call up some of my friends and I won't ask them to come and do it for nothing. I'll just ask them to do it of the favored nations and pay everybody $1,500.00 or something to come." So I call Pervis Spann and I said "You know you do the promotion thing and this is what I'm doing." Because he had asked me once before if I ever thought about getting into politics and I said yes, so I knew I could count on him to help me. So he said "Okay Butler," that--so now I've got an engagement in Washington, D.C. that I had been doing for, at that time, about four or five years and it was going to take me out of town for about a week, ten days. So I said, "Well okay, I'll get on a plane and go. I know Pervis will take care of this. And when I get back all I have to do is go do the show and we'll be straight." Well when I get back I find out that nothing has been done. So I call Pervis, I said, "Hey man, I thought you--he said, well Jerry you didn't leave me any money." I said, "but you didn't trust me. You didn't think my money was good?" He said, "Well Jerry you know, you're talking about lots of money here. I-" So the question then becomes well what do we do? We've got the Arie Crown Theater, we've got The Impressions, we've got Curtis [Mayfield], we've got [HM] Tyrone Davis, we've got Gene Chandler and they're all coming to town in ten days and you don't have hardly any tickets sold. So I said, um, um, um. I said, "Okay I tell you what, we've got about 500 seats that we're going to sell at $100.00 a pop to businesses and folks like that." And so we rushed out and we sold those 500 tickets at $100.00 a pop. I said and for that we're going to have pretty much what we had at the DuSable Museum. We're going to have nice little hors d'oeuvres and some food and tea and crumpets and we'll invite the mayor and the mayor will come and he'll say "Yeah, we want Jerry to run" and then I said and we're giving the rest of the tickets away. Okay, that's a plan and we ran with that. And now Harold [Washington] has been booked to do something for [HM] Dorothy Tillman but he says, "I will stop by on my way to Dorothy's function at your function." And so he stops in and naturally wherever the mayor goes, all the TV cameras come a-rolling. And so the TV cameras rolled in with the mayor and he said "I'm supporting Jerry" and he held up my hand and do-do-do. And one of the reporters asked somebody who had paid a hundred dollars, how much did you pay to get in here? He said $100.00. And so he did the math real quick, 2,500 people at a hundred dollars a pop, $250,000.00. And he rushed out of there and that was the headline the next morning on the [Chicago] Sun-Times. "Jerry Butler raises $250,000.00 one night." So that put me in the league with all of the heavy hitters in town when in fact we hadn't made a dime. But the bottom line was we couldn't have bought that kind of exposure and so it just--all things worked for good.$$So it was all meant to be?$$Yes.$$So how-