Originally created 10/07/04

The Lettermen are still performing for fans



The Lettermen never played sports at Newberry (S.C.) College, but their annual concerts in the Newberry Opera House have been racking up a lot of points with fans.

For the seventh year, The Lettermen will perform in the 1881-built vaudeville theater, with shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. Tickets cost $37.50. Call (803) 276-6264 or order online at newberryoperahouse.com.

The present configuration of the trio has existed since Darren Dowler was hired in 1995. He joined Donovan Scott Tea, hired in 1984, and Tony Butala, who helped form the group in the late 50s.

In 1960, The Lettermen's first Warner Bros. single, Their Hearts Were Full of Spring, was a regional hit. The next year the group switched to Capitol Records and scored a national hit with The Way You Look Tonight. More about their history can be found at thelettermen.com.

Mr. Butala is heard on more than 70 albums and singles, including When I Fall in Love, Smile, Theme From a Summer Place, Put Your Head on My Shoulder, Hurt So Bad, Shangri-La and their biggest single combining two songs, Goin' Out of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off You.

"I grew up on all kinds of music, and our albums reflect that," Mr. Butala told me during a previous Newberry concert stop. "We did our Kind of Country album in 1976. We were too early with our pop country, even before Kenny Rogers. Maybe, it's time for us to bring back the Sons of the Pioneers western stuff with Lettermen harmony."

Even before he helped form The Lettermen, Mr. Butala was heard nationally in other media.

"I sang the solo voice of one of The Lost Boys in the Walt Disney movie Peter Pan when the boy sang, 'We're following the leader, the leader.'

"And I was the singing voice for Tommy Rettig in the Lassie TV series. He couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. So every time he sang Happy Birthday to Lassie, that really was me you were hearing."

Don Rhodes has been writing about country music for 33 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or don.rhodes@morris.com.