Jon Butcher - lead vocals, guitar; Thom Gimbel - keyboards, saxophone; Ronnie Sage - bass; Jamie Carter - drums
Jon Butcher would never break through as a big star - either in the U.S. or abroad - but his exceptional musicianship and powerful vocals gained him a loyal and determined cult following. This particular concert was originally aired on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles, but became an installment on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, which helped bring Butcher's music to a much wider FM rock audience. And while he still records and tours to this day, Butcher first forged his reputation amongst contemporaries as heir apparent to rock guitar potentate Jimi Hendrix thanks to late Eighties shows like this one. In the end, that passing of the torch failed to transpire, but not before Butcher got to write and record a string of impressive, well-received songs and albums.
Butcher, like Living Colour, broke out as an African-American guitarist fronting a rock band who made guitar-driven riff-rock albums. Butcher's first incarnation of Axis made several records in the early and mid '80s, including Stare at the Sun and Along the Axis, and had a brief spell getting some considerable airplay on MTV. By the end of the decade, however, he had failed to achieve any lasting commercial breakthrough, and became relegated to a role of cult icon for guitar hero devotees.
By the time this recording was made, Butcher had dropped the Axis, picked up a new backing band (which included Foreigner and Aersomith sideman Thom Gimbel) and released the introspective album Wishes. This recording is a fun listen, particularly for the obvious presence of Hendrix's influence on his music. Like Robin Trower, Jon Butcher is a talented guitarist trying hard to fill the void left by the late, great guitarist from Seattle. The three-piece backing band is the perfect compliment to Butcher's ballsy vocals and guitar stylings.
Born and raised near Boston, Butcher actually was inspired to pick up the guitar as a toddler watching Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other singing cowboys on Saturday morning television. By the time he was in high school, he was fully committed to the rock 'n' roll cause. By the early 1980s, Butler had formed his first version of Axis, and was playing to packed clubs in downtown Boston. "One night Peter Wolf, the lead singer from the J. Geils Band came down and we were playing," said Butcher in an interview conducted nearly a decade after this recording was made. "He really liked us and what I was all about and he asked us right then and there if were interested in touring with the J. Geils band on its Freeze Frame tour. We literally went from playing small clubs to stadiums, and we still hadn't been signed yet."
Getting a record deal wouldn't take long; by the time they came of the J. Geils Tour, Jon Butcher and Axis had struck a deal with Polydor Records. With the help of MTV, they soon became one of the staple popular acts of the early 1980s. Butcher eventually dropped the name Axis, and changed the band around when he moved over to Capitol Records in the mid 1990s. He currently remains a regular road warrior, touring several months a year.