Saxophone player and novelty singer Butch Stone spent over thirty years with Les Brown’s Band of Renown, first joining the orchestra in late 1941. A natural showman, he was immensely popular with audiences and critics alike. Though he attempted on several occasions in the mid-1940s to front groups of his own, Stone never managed a successful solo career, and he always returned to Brown’s fold, where he finally settled for good in 1948. Stone became such a fixture in Brown’s orchestra that in 1955 one reviewer commented: “The eternal Butch Stone, now in his 97th year with the band.”
Stone played and sang with Van Alexander’s orchestra from 1938 until the leader disbanded in September 1940. Stone then joined Jack Teagarden. By January 1941 he was with Larry Clinton, for whom Alexander was arranging. Stone was singing with Clinton when Brown heard him perform the song “My Feet’s Too Big” at Loew’s State Theater in New York. When Clinton took a two-week layoff in October 1941, in which his musicians wouldn’t be getting paid, Stone was among those who sought other jobs, and Brown offered him a position. Stone’s arrival in the band gave Brown six saxophones.
Stone became a valued member of Brown’s band. His comedy timing and novelty songs were always one of the highlights of a Brown show, and Brown himself served as a perfect straight man for Stone’s humor. Stone was constantly encouraged to start a unit of his own, and in September 1945 he announced that he would form his own band after the beginning of the new year. By December, however, a crowded field of new groups had made him second guess his decision, and he remained with Brown.
When the band business briefly collapsed at the end of 1946, Brown dissolved his orchestra, as did several other name leaders. Stone was one of only two former members who joined Brown’s newly reorganized band when it debuted at the Hollywood Palladium in March 1947. That same month, he signed with the Advance label to record under his own using a studio combo, though he intended to remain with Brown. By May, though, Stone had left Brown to form his own small band on the West Coast, with Alexander writing its book. The group debuted on April 30, receiving good reviews from critics and doing steady business at clubs. Stone recorded several sides on the Majestic label that year and on Modern in 1948.
Stone continued with his combo until at least January 1948. By March, though, he was on his own as part of a package deal with singer Carolyn Grey and vibist Johnny White’s quartet. The package broke up in early April when White scrapped his band, and Stone returned to Brown, where he remained into the 1970s.