Mike Compton remembers Butch

Noted mandolinist Mike Compton has also sent along his reflections on the death of Butch Baldassari, who passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer on January 10, 2009.

Butch’s passing has sort of caught me off-guard really. He seemed like he was actually going to just outlast the situation and come on back around. I meant to get over and see him again. Well, I put that off too long too. The last thing Butch said to me was that he wanted for me and David Grier to come over and play, me and Grier and ‘a bass,’ as he put it. Now I feel like a heel for not making it over and fulfilling his request. Can’t undo that now.

I met Butch back around the time Nashville Bluegrass Band got together. We crossed paths with the Weary Hearts ever so often and I was introduced to him then, seems like. I thought Butch was about as spit and polished as they came and I really didn’t get to know him very well for a long time. I so remember giving Butch a lot of grief about his hair, mainly because he had a good head of it and I didn’t. I heard he had played in Vegas, ran a pinball company back in Pennsylvania. A multi-faceted man all around.

Butch really got my attention when he started giving mandolin seminars in Nashville. He even let me audit one so that I could take notes on how to go about putting points across. I remember saying something about learning to read music again and he gave me a book called ‘I Can Read Music.’ It has notes in it the size of a butterbean. Then he gave me an entire Cristafaro Method book. The point is, he helped me a lot and went about it right away and asked for nothing in return. And then, there was the night I took in the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble. I’ve wanted to be in that group ever since.

Seems to me Butch was always working on something, looking for a way to ‘make it.’ He told me once, regarding business and finding more business, that he just ‘kept throwing things against the wall to see what stuck.’ Anybody can check Butch’s discography and see how productive he was. I always envied Butch’s ability to focus and stay on course. I don’t think he ever understood why I was doing more talking than getting stuff done. He just laughed and shook his head.

I don’t know, I reckon the main thing is I’m sort of bummed out that he’s gone on ahead of us. It’s hard to watch friends and acquaintances go, especially those who are vital in the community one circulates in. I hope that if nothing else, Butch’s example will stay with me and keep prodding me along to excel in my own right.

I miss you already, Butch. You’re hardly even gone and I feel the gap you’ve left. Hopefully the rest of us will be able to take up the slack. I’ll catch up with you later.

Mike Compton

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.