Johnny Butten has been around the block once or twice. Born 1964, the son of a coal worker and house wife, at age 9, he discovered the banjo through his Fathers interest in the 'Beverly Hillbillies' TV show.
He began his musical career when he was just 11 years old, playing during the intermission of professional acts on stages around England.
"Playing banjo, was weird to most kids in my school, I was the weird kid, and got bullied for it. Bluegrass banjo was a rarity in England back then, and a snot nosed kid playing one? Well, that was just asking to be picked on (pun intended)"
Johnny found favour though among his elder peers, when visiting the few bluegrass festivals that existed in the UK, back in the 70's.
When he was 16, he joined hometown country band 'Denver Spur' and also started a 3 year apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery.
"Pretty soon the college principal threatened to kick me out because I was always late, or just absent for days or weeks at a time. I was playing every gig I could with whomever I could get in with. Working an 8 hour shift on a construction site, drive 200 miles to a gig, get cleaned up and changed, play 3 or sometimes 4 x 45 minute sets, break down the gear, grab some fast food, get home around 6.00am, have breakfast and a shower and go to work.....I was living life in the fast lane (laugh)"
Through his career, Johnny has worked with some fantastic people including Peter Rowan, Charlie Pride, Marty Stuart, Acker Bilk, The Oakridge Boys, Albert Lee, Kenny Baker, Chris Jagger, Leapy Lee, Uncle Josh Graves, Bill Keith, Jools Holland, Hayseed Dixie, Bob Black, Randy Kohrs, Johan de Meij, and countless others, as well as working for radio stations and TV networks and recording studios across Europe and the USA.
On September 15, 2007 he became the Guinness World Records 'Fastest banjo player', facilitating a move to the US', for 4 years, playing venues and festivals across 21 states, winning awards and recording with many artists as well as recording 2 albums of his own - 'Solo' a bluegrass instrumentals album on which Johnny plays all the instruments, banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass. The second album is with his band 'Newgrass Underground' featuring Joe Smart, winner of the International Flatpicking Contest in Winfield, Kansas in 2005.
Returning to the UK in 2012, Johnny went to work with 'Rockgrass' band, Hayseed Dixie, touring Europe and Scandinavia, playing covers of rock music on bluegrass instruments, and bringing a party, wherever they played.
He now makes his living as a remote session player, providing tracks to artists, studios, tv and radio media, all around the world.
You may be fortunate to catch an occasional live show.