By Robert M. Marovich

JGM learned of the passing last week of singer, guitarist, and GRAMMY nominee Sam Butler. He was 70 years old.

From preschool age, Samuel Butler Jr. had an estimable apprenticeship learning at the feet of his father, the Reverend Samuel Butler Sr., who played guitar for the Original Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. It’s Sam Sr. you hear playing the steel guitar on the group’s 1952 single, “Precious Memories.” The elder Sam also accompanied the Brooklyn All Stars in the late 1960s, including on its iconic 1969 cover of “I Stood on the Banks of Jordan.”

Sam Jr. originally sang as “Little Junior” of Little Junior and the Butleraires, a Florida-based family quartet. Between 1964 and the very early 1970s, the Butleraires, which variously featured both Sam Sr. and Jr., recorded for the Fuller, Gospel Label, Savoy, and Jewel record companies. The younger Sam was recruited by the Dorothy Norwood Singers when the group opened for the Rolling Stones. When Keith Richards of the Stones was recording his debut solo album, 1989’s Talk is Cheap, producer Steve Jordan called on Sam Jr. to moan on one of the album tracks. Butler has also collaborated with Donald Fagen, co-founder of Steely Dan, among others.

Sam Jr. is perhaps best known as a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama. With the iconic Alabama quartet, Sam appeared in the stage musical The Gospel at Colonus. He released a solo album called Raise Your Hands! (Severn) and collaborated with Blind Boys mate Clarence Fountain on Clarence Fountain Presents Sam Butler. The two also put together the 2009 album Stepping Up and Stepping Out.

His wife, Valerie Littles-Butler, provided funeral service information:

Saturday, January 6
Visitation 12:00pm
Service 1:00pm
Progressive Baptist Church
1505 Burns Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55106

Cards and other items can be sent to
11 Logan Avenue West
St. Paul, MN. 55118

JGM extends its deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and many fans of Sam Butler. “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”


  1. Bishop M. L. Redding January 7, 2024 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    To the family of Rev Samuel Butlers:
    Rest peacefully in the arms of the Master Dear friend and co-laborer in the Gospel.
    You will be remembered for your many acts of kindness and words of comfort; your multi-talented service of Christian worship; your warm and entreating smile for those that you met; and most of all for the Love of God which you gladly shared with all.
    Condolences to your family. You will be greatly missed.
    The legacy of THE BUTLERAIRES will be remembered as your children hold on to memories such as you did from your parents before you.
    Sincere prayers from your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus from the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, Inc. (Lewis Dominion)✝️
    Bishop M.L.Redding, Diocesan
    NE Fl Diocese II
    Bishop M.H. Lewis, Chief Overseer

  2. Debbie Tumbling February 25, 2024 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Samuel Sr & Samuel Butler Jr , joined together in Heaven. You both are truly missed, I miss those calls either waking me up or talking to you before going to bed. I hear your music when I waking up. Words can’t explain how much I miss you both. It hurts to know your gone to your Heavenly home.But I no longer have to worry about you both, you have joined Mom, Dad and our sister Kathy. Rest in peace until we meet again, love you your sister.

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.