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In Memoriam: Butch Miles

Feb 4, 2023, 08:00 AM by Hillary Henry

ButchMilesJazz drummer Butch Miles died on Feb. 2, 2023. He was best known as the drummer for the Count Basie Orchestra from 1975–79 and again from 1997–2007. He also performed with 

Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dave Brubeck, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Dick Hyman, Willie Nelson, Eddie Condon, and others. Known primarily as a big band drummer, whose style was influenced by Buddy Rich, he was also comfortable in small group and Dixieland band settings.

Born Charles J. Thornton Jr. on July 4, 1944, Miles studied music at West Virginia State College before beginning his professional playing career in the late 1960s. Butch played on over 100 albums, including three that won Grammy awards. He also appeared in three motion pictures: The Australian Jazz Fest filmed while Butch was touring with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, The Last of the Blue Devils filmed while he was touring with the Count Basie Orchestra, and briefly in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Butch also played on the soundtrack of the 2003 film The Alamo. For many years he gave clinics for the Ludwig Drum Company and was a faculty member in jazz studies at Texas State University in San Marcos.

In 2011, Miles was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Butch was also honored by the Senate of the State of West Virginia in 2013 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conn Selmer Institute in 2016 among other awards from the Zildjian Cymbal Company, the Ludwig Drum Company, the International Association of Jazz Educators, the United States Air Force Band – the Airmen of Note, The Elkhart Jazz Festival, and the Austin, Texas Jazz Society.

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