Obituary: Butch McDade
Friday 18 December 1998
"Butch" McDade, the group's drummer and second vocalist, was born in 1946 and was educated at the Marion Military Institute and the University of Tennessee. He decided to become a drummer after hearing a James Brown record, and made his debut while in the second grade, with a rhythm band.
By 1972, he had met the bass-player Jeff "Stick" Davis and Russell Smith, a vocalist and guitarist. They got a gig backing the singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, who took a liking to two of Smith's compositions, "Third Rate Romance" and "The End is Not in Sight" and decided to include them on his album Learn to Love It (1974).
Winchester, in order to dodge his US draft, settled in Canada, and so touring opportunities were limited. McDade and Davis soon moved back to Nashville and hooked up again with Russell Smith who brought along a keyboard player, Billy Earheart III. With Barry Burton (guitar, mandolin) and James Hooker (keyboards), they became the Amazing Rhythm Aces.
Their fine musicianship and mix of country, rock, gospel and rhythm 'n' blues soon attracted record company interest and they signed to ABC Records. In 1975, they released their debut album, Stacked Deck. The smooth single "Third Rate Romance" attracted massive airplay and rose up the country charts before crossing over to the pop market and becoming a Top Fifteen hit.
The sextet never again equalled that success, although their second single, "Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song)", reached the country Top Ten. After five further albums (Toucan Do It Too, Burning the Ballroom Down, The Amazing Rhythm Aces and How the Hell Do You Spell Rhythum?), the group - often described as too rock for country and too country for rock - broke up in 1980.
"Back then, you couldn't make an album on your own, because of the technology. You had to have a big, hungry machine behind it because it was so expensive. Then you'd go out on the road and work yourself to death, and every dime you made went to pay back the machine. That's the main reason we split up: we were killing ourselves out there and not even earning a living," recalls Russell Smith.
Butch McDade kept busy, touring or recording with the likes of Leon Russell, Lonnie Mack, Roy Clark and Tanya Tucker, and also running a restaurant and working as a sports writer for his local paper.
By the mid-Nineties, fans were clamouring to get Amazing Rhythm Aces favourites on compact disc. Since their back catalogue was tied up in legal wranglings, the band decided to cut new versions of "Third Rate Romance", "King of the Cowboys" and McDade's poignant composition "Last Letter Home". The resulting collection, issued in 1994 on their own Breaker label and entitled Ride Again, sold so well in the US, Australia and New Zealand that the group began touring again.
Last year, they recorded Out of the Blue, an album of new material, including two excellent songs by McDade, "Oh, Lucky Me" and "Get Down", on which he sang lead. By the time the band took to the road earlier this year, McDade had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and did not join them on their first European trip. They received rave reviews for concerts in Switzerland, Ireland and Britain (at the Borderline, in London). Russell Smith said: "There was never a thought of naming a full-time replacement. People have always said there's something other than the musical nuts and bolts that makes the Aces special, and a whole lot of that was due to him. Every time he hit a drum, it sounded like he meant it."
David Hugh ("Butch") McDade, drummer, singer, songwriter: born Clarksdale, Missouri 24 February 1946; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Maryville, Tennessee 29 November 1998.
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 4 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 5 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader