It’s a big day for a Big Country guy ! Happy 65th birthday to Tony Butler, the longtime bassist for that Scottish band. Curiously, although the band was based in Scotland and were as Scottish-sounding as pretty much any ’80s band, none of the four members on their first record were actually born in the land of bagpipes and kilts.
Butler’s music career seems to have begun around the end of the ’70s when he played bass for a band called On The Air. They didn’t do much, career-wise, but did open for the Skids on tour. There Tony (and drummer Mark Brzezicki) met Stuart Adamson, so when he started his own band – Big Country – they both were in. Butler’s reputation might have also been helped out by another famous music family – the Townshends. On The Air also included Simon Townshend, brother of The Who’s Pete. When Pete decided to do some solo work, Tony was the go-to guy for playing the bass. Butler appeared on Pete’s solo records Empty Glass and All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. And when Pete Farndon died, Chrissie Hynde asked Tony to join The Pretenders. He didn’t, on a full-time basis, but did do a few shows with them and appeared on (as well as co-wrote) their singles “My City Was Gone” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”
Butler kept on as an integral part of Big Country through 2012, although the band went on hiatus for some time after the suicide of singer Adamson. Briefly he took over the reins as lead singer, but the band brought in Mike Peters of the Alarm to do so when they decided to make another record, which turned into The Journey. At that point, Butler quit after co-writing one song for it, “Home of the Brave.” He said that “losing Stuart was a seismic ordeal that I don’t think any of us knew how to deal with.” And that their new album, to his ears wasn’t going to live up to the band’s past standards. “”I didn’t want to be involved in something that…was not creative, or forward-thinking,” he told Loudersound. He then put out his third solo album; although the Big Country record got good reviews, neither it nor Butler’s sold in significant numbers.
Butler perhaps is now helping others be musically creative and forward-thinking; at last report he was teaching music in England.