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cloud angel over Duchaine

   When I was 8 years old, my dad showed me the D chord on his 12-string guitar and a finger-picking pattern from Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘I’m Not Saying’ and it all followed from there. I bought my first guitar, a Brazilian Giannini when I was 12, with a loan from my dad that he had to eventually forgive. It had a thinner neck than a regular guitar and was perfect for me. I still have it.


I played in my first band, Catalyst, with my brother Renn, when I was 14, in 1974 and went on to play with the Shabada brothers, Brian and Barry, my brother Garner and Tom Saumer. We were Oneway from Onoway and played at regional high school dances and local halls. Oneway ended after I graduated from high school - oh wait! - I lie, I never graduated from high school but they did ask me to be the master of ceremonies at my graduation where I didn’t graduate and later gave me an honorary degree. Hahahahaha


I went on to play in bands I formed and joined and played for several years with a great musician, Eric Martin as a duo called Cloud Nine. I moved to Banff when I was 21 and teamed up with Dave “Swanee” Swanson, and learned how to be a comedian. We were called T0L 0C0 (two loco guys). We played bars and ski hills and did old-timey music and comedy. Swanee taught me how to be funny and gave me the confidence to trust in my natural ability. 


After five fun years in Banff, my wife and I moved to Vancouver and lived in basements. I played in sing-along pubs where I learned to despise drinking songs and drunken crowds; I had to drink to tolerate it. Fortunately, my developing comedy chops got me out of the bars and into fairs and conventions where I lingered for the next 30 years, still drinking and more or less forgot my dream of being a singer-songwriter as I toiled on the torture-rack of corporate comedy gigs. The money was good. 


I moved to Vancouver Island in 1994, known to Islanders as The Island as if there are no other islands in the world. The Big Island as it is called by the little island people on Hornby, Denman, Gabriola, Quadra, Salt Springs and the other gulf islands. I bought a house in the Comox Valley, near Courtenay, where we, my wife, Joanne and daughter Nellie, resided for the next 20 years. 


I began writing satirical songs for CBC Radio Vancouver and became a national contributor. My album, A Canadian Loonie, contains some of those early CBC songs.  The first time I appeared on Madly Off in All Directions, the #1 radio comedy show in Canada, I had written a parody song called “There’s Salmon Happening Here” set to Steven Stills' “For What It’s Worth.” His lawyer sent me a letter of cease and desist after it got air play all over BC. I had a record 13 appearances on Madly Off and I guest-hosted 5 concert tapings in 2004.


I made several albums with my childhood friend, Doug Cox, a dobro player. We played the local bars and some festivals for the next 7 years. Our album, Dobro and Guitar, made Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s top 10 list in 2004. We also made a recording, Live Blues, of which I’m very proud and will post on this website soon.


My next album, Idle Canadian, was recorded at Dove Creek Studios in Courtenay, BC with my long-time bandmates, Lee Oliphant on bass and Vince Ditrich on drums. The three of us had been playing together for many years as the Todd Butler Band and had done several tours around western Canada. It won Album of the Year, Song of the Year for “Home” and Songwriter of the Year at the 2006 Vancouver Island Music Awards. 


I made Hamburger Soup, an all-instrumental album, in my home recording studio, playing all the instruments myself. It was an adventure in multi-tracking and represented a cross-section of about 40 recordings I made that year. It was immensely satisfying and it signified, for me, the beginning of the end of my comedy career treadmill. I knew I couldn’t keep up the comedic schtick for much longer, my heart wasn’t in it. It was in this music.

I was tied to a mortgage and continued to do the corporate circuit. I began drinking heavily. I felt trapped. Too weak to change my life, my subconscious did it for me. I chewed my own leg off. I torpedoed my comedy career by showing up drunk and eventually no one would hire me. There must be 50 ways to lose your liver.. 


My long-time music relationship with Doug Cox and the Vancouver Island Music Festival was also severed because of my drinking. I deeply regret that. 


My marriage ended, my career ended, my health ended, and on August 25, 2015, my liver and kidneys failed. 


After 3 years of intense emotional, mental and physical suffering, I emerged with a new liver on September 1, 2018, and with an understanding that I am completely loved by The Great Imagination that creates me and sustains me. I thank God every day for putting me through such a cleansing ordeal that has allowed me to live, to continue to play music and to accept and give love more deeply. To live in grace, to live in gratitude. 


I married my wife, lily, October 2, 2021, presided over by Terry Slemko, my 3rd grade principal, attended by my father, Derril, his wife Janet, Brian Shabada, childhood friend, his wife, Jody, and their son, Gabe, on the porch of our hand-built house overlooking Duchaine Lake, Lac St. Anne County, Alberta. This is 10 miles north of where I grew up on the Sturgeon River, where the commune, Sturgeon River School of Living, still lives in the memories of many. This is significant for me: going home has been a journey of completion. 


If you’d like more details, I refer you to my book, Love Drunk. It’s finished, but not fully edited yet. Available soon. It tells all about my parents fateful switch from the Church of LDS to the Church of LSD. From that I wrote, “Timothy Leary Stole My Parents,” a true story. The book chronicles my life and adventures as an entertainer and my eventual descent into hell. It has a happy ending.


Thanks for reading and visiting my website. I hope you enjoy my offerings. I have never been a stickler for perfection when recording and always preferred to leave the bumps and farts rather than toil for hours trying to achieve an unattainable standard of perfection. I like music that sounds like it was made by humans. 


Todd Butler 

Hillsboro, New Mexico

February 2024

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