Always with a song

Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

October 22, 2013

Travis Butler was a musician who has been fondly remembered by friends and family as someone who touched many lives as a Shriner, a Mason, and as an excellent singer, attributes that can be found in an insert in a recently released memorial CD titled ‘Remembering Travis’.

Proceeds from sale of that CD will benefit the Shriners Hospitals for children, something that was always near and dear to Butler’s heart.

“I was the first person to pay him to sing,” recalled Harold Butler, Travis Butler’s brother, about the musician. “I asked him to sing at church; he didn’t want to go up there in front. I told him that I would give him a quarter, which was likely all I had on me at the time, and he went up and he did it. He sang.”

The first song Travis ever sang in public was ‘How Great Thou Art’ and his father, Quinton Butler, played for him on the piano at Calvary Church. Travis was only 5 years old.

Ronnie Cashwell, Travis’ sound man, as Harold called him, recorded many of his songs while they were out performing. They were inseparable during touring and the innumerable performances and special events. Both Travis Butler and Ronnie Cashwell worked for Carolina Telephone, and Butler’s brother-in-law also worked there. Cashwell ran the lights and sound and Butler sang. Butler and Cashwell both performed at their first Sampson County office Christmas party, leading to new contacts after Travis’ band, Travis Butler and Southern Breeze, moved on to new horizons. Cashwell and Butler used their old contacts as well as making new ones as they began to flourish in the local vacinity and eventually all over the United States.

That traveling began with Wayne Peterson, then president of Carolina Telephone, who started implementing a new program for the company called a quality circle process, according to Cashwell in a phone interview last week. He explained that the quality circle process was a program that was geared to improving customer service, saving money, and empowering the employees. The company had lots of participation all over the state, and some of these groups were even all over the country. One weekend a group met in eastern North Carolina at the Greenville Hilton.

“It was a Tuesday or Wednesday morning, back in the 80s,” said Cashwell. He remembered Gene Godwin being in charge of that particular conference and Godwin began asking around if anyone knew of someone that could sing for a colonel that was coming in for this conference. Cashwell spoke up.

“I told him that I had a guy that does ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ wonderfully,” recalled Cashwell.

Travis Butler had his chance to open for the colonel and it ended up turning into a week long project that started new things for Butler and Cashwell. Cashwell said Butler was very respectful and always gave 110 percent. Cashwell said he loved people and he loved life

“He just blistered it, as I say,” said Cashwell, choking up. That week long project was the catalyst for the singer to become an Ambassador for Carolina Telephone.

This was just the beginning for Butler and Cashwell. With Cashwell handling the technical aspect, and Butler singing, the two ended up performing for a party connected to a Super Bowl in Miami and going to Denver to play for Sprint International Golf Tournament, and numerous other gigs.

“It just mushroomed,” said Cashwell. They kept moving on to even more of the national quality circle conferences all over the place and Coors even sponsored them for a 30-minute segment at one of these conferences.

“We always ended with ‘God Bless the U.S.A’. every time we did this,” said Cashwell. They played at military bases and even participated in the celebrations after the return from Desert Storm.

“Travis and I had a team dynamic and we were the best of friends,” Cashwell said. “Anything we did, we did, together.”

One time when they were out performing for the cross country completion of I-40 out towards Newton Grove, Butler sang ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ and a lady from Channel 11 news came up to him afterwards, said Cashwell. She said she wanted to interview with Mr. Lee Greenwood. She was convinced that Butler was Lee Greenwood and she was determined to get an interview with him. By the time it was all said and done Butler had to show the woman his driver’s license to convince her that he was no,t in fact, Greenwood.

Cashwell’s biggest regret, he said, was not getting more recordings of Butler performing.

“I do regret not getting enough recordings,” he reiterated. “I wish we had more.”

Later after Butler’s death in 2011, Cashwell and the Butler family, along with others, created a CD for sale with net proceeds benefiting the Travis Butler Shrine Fund. Together with local businesses selling the CDs they have raised $7,000 and sold 350 CDs since May.

The goal is to raise $10,000.

The current plan is to do another CD similar to the first after Christmas that will feature one of Butler’s songs, “Peace in the Valley.” Cashwell is looking forward to this challenge to make another CD and he said that he wants this new CD to be a CD that Travis Butler would be proud of.

If you would like to obtain a CD please visit Harold’s Barbershop in Salemburg, Hinson Tire, WCLN, Insurance Service Center, or Matthews Drugs. Checks can be made payable to the Travis Butler Shrine Fund and the suggested donation is $20.