Goodbye to Butch Baldassari

Red HenryThis month, we said a sad "goodbye" to our friend Butch Baldassari, whose death leaves a large gap in the mandolin world. Butch, along with being a virtuoso player and human being, left the mandolin world much better off than it was before.

When we heard the news, our son Chris and I sat and talked about Butch and about his musical achievements. Along with helping to bring a new respectability to the mandolin through his own high-grade music, teaching, and recordings, Butch was always encouraging to promising new talent and did what he could to help people along.

My favorites among Butch's recordings are his still-remarkable 'Evergreen' CD, the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble's 'Gifts' and 'All the Rage', and the Butch Baldassari Trio's 'American Portraits', though he released many other very fine (and sometimes amazing) projects such as 'New Classics', the NME's 'Plectrasonics', and the more recent 'Bach, Beatles, and Bluegrass'. Only a few weeks before his death, he'd brought out a new CD project, 'Victorian Christmas'.

(Don't jump on me if I've gotten some of the CD titles wrong, because I'm working from memory. Check out Butch's recordings at http://www.soundartrecordings.com . )

And as part of his warm encouragement of young musicians, Butch suggested and produced Christopher's 'Monroe Approved' CD, which made the IBMA 'Instrumental Recording of the Year' "long list" in 2007 and has received highly-favorable reviews. Butch's guidance was invaluable to its production.

Chris and I went over to Butch's care facility in October and played some mandolin tunes for him in his room. He was very weak and practically unable to move, but was lovingly looked after by his wife Sinclair. In spite of his physical condition, Butch was as encouraging and enthusiastic as ever about mandolin playing. Thank you, Butch, and it's good that you're in a better place now. Maybe Monroe himself will drop by and listen to you play, as he did years ago. We'll listen to your music and remember you.

Posted in By Red, General and tagged , on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.