Carl Robert Butler was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 2, 1927. He grew up influenced by Roy Acuff and the old time music around his home. He began singing at local dances at the age of 12 and, after service in World War II, sang with several bluegrass bands and then as a solo act on numerous radio shows, including the “Mid Day Merry Go Round” on WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee. During this period he met Pearl Dee Jones, a Nashville native born September 30, 1927, whom he married in 1952.
In 1961, Carl Butler recorded “Honky Tonkitis” which made it to number 25 on the country charts. The following year, the Butlers were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, and the exposure provided by the show helped them push “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” to number one. Their first single as a duo spent almost three months at the top of the country music charts and they remained one of country music’s most popular duos for the next two decades. Later chart records included “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could”, “Too Late To Try Again”, “Loving Arms” and “I’m Hanging Up The Phone”.
Carl Butler was also a gifted songwriter, penning classics including “If Teardrops Were Pennies”, a No. 8 hit for Carl Smith in 1951 and a top 10 single for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in 1973, and “Crying My Heart Out Over You” which became Ricky Skaggs’ first number one hit in 1981. The Butlers were also among Dolly Parton‘s earliest supporters, whom they had worked with in Knoxville in the 1950s, and helped to get her established in Nashville in the early ’60s. (Parton, in turn, paid tribute to the Butlers when she included “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” on Treasures, a 1996 album of covers of some of her favorite songs.)
The Butlers continued to record throughout the 70s but essentially retired to their ranch, “Crossover Acres”, near Franklin, Tennessee, in the early 80s. They made occasional guest appearances on the Opry until Pearl Butler died at the age of 60 on March 1, 1988. Carl made an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback after her death and died of a heart attack on September 4, 1992.
- June, 02, 1927
- Knoxville, Tennessee
- September, 04, 1992
- Franklin, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- massive heart attack
- Williamson Memorial Gardens
- Franklin, Tennessee