Musician Larry Butler, a Pensacola native who moved back home after a successful songwriting and producing career in Nashville, passed away this morning at age 69.
Born in 1942, Butler became known as a prodigious child pianist who performed on WEAR’s Lynn Toney Show for many years. He graduated from Escambia High School in 1960 and studied music at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State College) before moving to Nashville in 1963. His unique playing style made him a popular session and backup pianist for singers like Conway Twitty, Bobby Goldsboro, and Dolly Parton.
He started songwriting with collaborator Chips Moman and became an in-house producer for Capitol Records, then CBS Records, and later United Artists. He eventually started his own company, Larry Butler Productions. Over the course of four decades, Butler produced songs for a “who’s who” of musicians that included Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Don McLean, Mac Davis, John Denver, and many more. He had over a hundred gold and platinum records to his name, many of which he donated to Pensacola State College in 2009 and are now on display in the Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium.
Butler and Moman won a Best Song Grammy for the 1975 B.J. Thomas hit, “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” In 1980 Butler won another Grammy for Producer of the Year — the only Nashville-based producer to receive that award. He also won two Academy of Country Music Awards, two Country Music Association Awards, and was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars.
Butler maintained ties to the Gulf Coast, helping to found the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival in 1984, and moved back to the area in 2000. After Hurricane Ivan devastated the region in 2004, he contacted his friend Willie Nelson about doing a benefit concert for Rebuild Northwest Florida. Along with local singer Will Hedgecock, they raised over a half-million dollars for the organization.
He continued to work and perform locally until his death. He is survived by his wife Peggy Butler and daughter Schanda Butler Olssen.