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|Born|| 20 November 1940 |
|This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2011)|
|Born|| 20 November 1940 |
Anthony Francis Butala was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania; the son of John and Mary Butala. Born the eighth of eleven children, he spent much of his early years on a farm owned by his grandparents and enjoying a rural upbringing, which included deer hunting. Butala said in a radio interview that hunting in those days was done more out of survival, rather than sport as it is today. He shot his first deer at the age of 12.
Butala began his professional singing career in 1948, when he appeared on "Starlets on Parade", a Saturday morning show on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. He quickly became a favorite in and around his hometown of Sharon during his pre-teen years.
In 1951, Butala's mother, who was a nurse, was called to California to assist her sister, who had been stricken with pneumonia and needed assistance with her children while she recovered. Butala's father, believing that there could be opportunities for his son on the West Coast, suggested that Tony accompany his mother to California. Tony quickly found work with the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir and performed with the choir through 1954. His notable works during this period included voice actor of Lost Boy Slightly in the hit Disney classic Peter Pan (1953), On Moonlight Bay (1951), White Christmas (1954), and The War of the Worlds (1953).
Butala's tenure with the boys' choir ended as his voice naturally changed as he entered his teen years. However, Mitchell, retained him as assistant choir director and paid for his private education as he continued his show business career.
As a teenager, Butala sang with a quartet called "The Fourmost", which included Concetta Ingolia, who would later become known by her stage name, Connie Stevens. Though the group would later disband, for Tony, it laid the foundation of what would become known as The Lettermen.
The first unofficial incarnation of the Lettermen came in 1958, with Butala, Mike Barnett, and Talmadge Russell, who would later be replaced by Jerry Paul. That same year, Gary Clark and Jimmy Blaine followed, and that combination made its first recording, but it was not successful.
Butala tried again with two new singers, Bob Engemann and Jim Pike. This lineup brought the group its first success, as the Lettermen scored their first Top 40 hit at #13 on the US charts in 1961 with "The Way You Look Tonight". This cover of a 1936 song went gold in the US.
The Lettermen's pop music chart success ended in 1969, but they continued to record and appear live in concert since then, and continue to enjoy success, under Butala's leadership.
Butala also owns Butala Vineyards, which he started from a Chatsworth, California ranch he purchased and planted grapes in 1969. Less than twenty years later, he purchased another ranch along the southern Vaca Mountain Range, which is the eastern border of the Napa Valley. He first began selling wine commercially in 1992 under the Castlebrooke label, and continues to produce both wine and grapes for other winemakers as well. Butala had learned winemaking beginning at age five from his Croatian immigrant grandfather Miko.
Tony Butala also co-founded the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in his hometown of Sharon in 1998.
He is the father of four children and five grandchildren. He has homes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and California.