The Jock of Rock Presents: Ben Butterworth

Publish Notes: June, 2013

The Jock of Rock Presents: Ben Butterworth
The Jock of Rock Presents: Ben Butterworth
The Jock of Rock Presents: Ben Butterworth
The Jock of Rock Presents: Ben Butterworth

NORWICH, VT. - Let’s meet local rocker Ben Butterworth, a long-time area musician keeping very busy these days while rocking with several bands including Pulse, The George Johnson Band and The Empty Pocket Blues Band just to name a few.

Photos courtesy of Ben Butterworth

“From my experience, if you want to make some kind of living at this and you’re not a front-man, you have to be in two, ‘main priority’-status bands,” Ben states. “Then you have a few other bands that you fill-in for on a somewhat regular basis… which all definitely keeps me on my toes!”

Born in Connecticut, Ben’s family lived in Vermont before and after he was born. “I had to be born in Connecticut due to medical reasons, but up until my birth and just afterwards, my family has been in Vermont.” Ben attended high school in Woodstock and started dabbling in guitar during high school.

“After a rather weak attempt of learning guitar in the latter stages of high school, I eventually started playing bass at age 20. In fact, it was after an unavoidable stint in rehab after high school that I got my first bass and combo amp – in which case I blew the speaker after maybe a couple years and the rest as they say, is history!”

One of Ben’s early musical influences included Eddie Van Halen. “He always made it look so easy and always had a big grin on his face! The, through reading interviews with Eddie, I started getting into Eric Clapton, then Cream and then The Yardbirds, (writer’s note: I love The Yardbirds) Jeff Beck and the Rolling Stones. Then, I made a copy of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland from my dad’s reel-to-reel and well… that was it for me!” Some of Ben’s bass guitar influences include Paul Samwell-Smith (The Yardbirds), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jack Bruce (Cream) and Noel Redding (Hendrix).

Ben’s first band was a folk-trio called Root Cellar. “Comprised of like-minded musicians I had met after rehab, I was very fortunate that in Root Cellar, the only thing that took priority (along with the music) for us as a band was staying clean and sober! I was barely clean for a few months when we formed a band - we did a smattering of originals and covers of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Traffic and acoustic Beatles and Stones.” Also during this time, marked Ben’s first studio recording experience, playing live in the studio for television.

With time, Ben’s bass influences expanded into different genres and techniques, including Michael Manring, Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) and Bootsy Collins. “I first remember really getting into the unusual bass sounds of Michael Manring – think (bass legend) Jaco Pastorious on illegal bass-performance supplements! I got into Jaco for a while… John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) was also a huge influence… okay, the more I talk about bass - the more I want to talk about bass!

“However, the single biggest singer/songwriter influence for me has to be the late Chris Whitley. He was a brilliant guitarist/singer and a master of the ‘show, don’t tell’ style of lyricism, where the lyrics can be deeply personal, yet mean vastly different things to different people. I also love the fact that he did spend some years of his life in Vermont.”

Currently Ben enjoys playing the classic rock and sometimes working-class country of Pulse, while also working with The George Johnson Band and The Empty Pockets Blues Band, a blues trio based in Sunapee, New Hampshire. “Last month, we (George Johnson Band) were in Texas for a week recording a CD. Other regional bands and artists I have recently worked with include Mark Harding, Tony Lee Thomas, Arthur James, Frydaddy, Hurricane Alley and Duane Carleton’s Backwoods Messiahs.

“Music is transcendence for me,” Ben explains. “I have daily pain caused by an accident I was in years ago, but during a gig is probably the only time during a day in which I don’t feel it… music is the most universal language that exists – a happy (/major) chord sounds the same in any language. Happy is happy – no matter what language one speaks. So, despite differing scales within different forms of music, the emotion which music elicits is of a universal experience. Music is a body of knowledge and in different styles, genres and forms, I see more as branches growing from a central tree trunk, rather than as any kind of a different entity.

“With playing bass, the most important dynamic for me is to always be in service to the song and to the performer behind which I am playing. Because like life, even though living my life is my number-one job, humans are social animals and life is not always an insular, solo experience. Yeah, man – I am very lucky to be able to reach out and touch people through music… in some way, shape or form.”