“Butch Miles was a man who realized his life dream – and then some. When we met, as students at West Virginia State College, his goal was to play drums with the Count Basie band. He worked hard and, when the opportunity presented itself, he was ready. And as they say, the rest is history. Butch went on to become one of the world’s greatest drummers, playing with many of the great legends in jazz. And, as he traveled the world, he never forgot his teacher here in Charleston, Frank Thompson, who constantly received cards and letters from him. Butch was a great musician, and a great friend to all who knew him. His passing is a great loss to the world of jazz.” – Jazz pianist Bob Thompson
“There are two driving principles in my drumming. The first came from my teacher Mr. Frank Thompson who told me, ‘Always let the band know where “1” is.’ The second came from the great Count Basie who said, ‘LISTEN’.” – Butch Miles
We are sad to share the news that 2011 West Virginia Music Hall of Fame inductee Charles “Butch” Miles passed away February 2, 2023.
While Butch’s career was bookeneded by stints with the world-renowned Count Basie Orchestra, the rest of his resume is no less impressive. He played and recorded with everyone from Sinatra, Brubeck and Ella Fitzgerald to Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman.
Butch was born July 4, 1944, in Ironton, OH, while his mother, who lived in Hinton, WV (Summers County) was attending a family reunion in Russell, KY.
His family had moved to Charleston by the time he started school and at age nine, Butch had started playing drums. In high school, he played in local bands and studied with the great Charleston drummer Frank Thompson, who remained one of his most important mentors.
His “education” continued at after-hours jams at Charleston clubs like the Shallomar and Crazy Horse where out-of-town musicians gathered after their shows. Soon, Butch began playing with local dance bands, including Jules Micheaux’s group and the Monterreys. He majored in music at West Virginia State College and went on to join firebrand singer Iris Bell’s trio. That group played throughout the eastern U.S., finally settling in Ann Arbor, MI, where a two-week engagement at the Rubaiyat Supper Club turned into a seven-year residency.
From that point on, there was no stopping Butch Miles. He signed on with Mel Torme; then, thanks to a recommendation from none other than his idol Buddy Rich, he landed his dream job with The Count Basie Orchestra. Next came a stint with Dave Brubeck… Tony Bennett… Lena Horne… Ella Fitzgerald… Frank Sinatra… and finally, in 1997, a return to The Count Basie Orchestra. When Butch retired from the Basie band, he joined the faculty at Texas State University.
Butch performed at every major jazz festival in the world, toured Europe, Australia, the Far East, the Americas and the Caribbean. His film credits include Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Butch played on more than 100 albums – three of which earned Grammys – with artists including Gerry Mulligan, Wild Bill Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald.
For his many accomplishments in music, Butch was honored by the Texas Senate in 2005 and, in 2013, the West Virginia Senate. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2011.
The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame family extends thoughts and prayers to Butch’s family. He will be missed.