DEDICATED TO WALTER TETLEY AND THE OTHER VOICE ACTORS WITH JAY WARD PRODUCTIONS
Category: Daws Butler
Daws Butler, Cartoon Voice Artist Legend, Part 2 (1916-1988)
The second of two “analyses” and tributes to voice artist, Daws Butler, who was a magician and a legend with his incredible range of voices. He died 30 years ago this summer. In Part 2, we look at multiple completely different voices that Daws Butler crafted for several of the Fractured Fairy Tales from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series. With the exception of one of these five characterizations, these are all different from Part 1. I hope you enjoy this!
Daws Butler, Cartoon Voice Artist Legend Part 1 (1916-1988)
First of two “analyses” and tributes to voice artist, Daws Butler, who was a magician and a legend with his incredible range of voices. He died 30 years ago this summer. In Part 1, we look at 6 different voices that Daws crafted together for a single 5-minute cartoon called the Princess and the Goblins (a fractured fairy tale from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series). You will be amazed, after viewing Parts 1 and 2, how totally different some of Daws’ voices were!
Daws Butler: The Nicest, Kindest Man of All
February 4, 2001
(Though rarely credited Daws Butler did most of the starring voices on the Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son. He also did most of the villains on George of the Jungle and his friends. Last but not least he voiced a couple colorful characters on commercials that Jay Ward produced: Cap’n Crunch for Quaker Oats and Professor Goody, who always battled Aunt Jemima’s incorrigible Waffle Whiffer!!
Of the four major voice-over stars, from Jay Ward cartoons, whom I wrote to, Daws Butler was, NO CONTEST, the nicest and kindest, of all!! Daws was the only one, of those four, who wrote to me more than once. He actually wrote four times (at least). I have only two of his four letters today.
Not only that, he was also the only one, whom I talked to, over the phone. Late in the fall semester of my freshman year of college (late 1978), just on a lark, I called Directory Assistance, in Beverly Hills and asked for a listing for Daws Butler. Never in a million years would I ever dream that there would be a listing for him, but there was!!
I am sure that he was the only one, of the four, whose number was listed. This tells you that he was not only a nice man, but a giving man as well…….that he did not mind making himself available to the rest of the world. You may be thinking,
‘Well why shouldn’t he have a listed number? Who really knew who Daws Butler was, since he was never seen on-camera……..’
Well……..Daws Butler had been so very good for such a long time that he did have a following, of his own, by this time. He was also a mentor to a number of today’s voice artists like Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson’s voice). I had heard that Daws not only gave individual attention to interested fans (like Nancy and me), but he also eventually began teaching formal classes in his
So you see, though you would think that Daws would be pretty much unknown, there were enough people who knew who he was…….or were trying to find him, that he was not totally an ordinary citizen………And he was just so incredibly unselfish to so many young people………
After he died, I sent a condolence card to his wife. She wrote back to me and told me that the young people, whom Daws had mentored, were his pride and joy!……..and he was especially proud of those of us who had “made it” in his field!
So the bottom line is, it was actually extraordinary that he did list his phone number. The conversation that he and I had, that fall, was really quite short. I did not really want to take up much of his time, since I was calling completely out of the blue; I intended to keep it short. He did remember me (by that time it had been a while since I had last written). We talked about one of his letters to me. Daws had told me that he would critique both voice work or creative writing, if I wished to send such things
to him (Daws was not only a voice artist, but a writer as well).
He had given me some feedback about one of my first novelettes that I had written. I sent him a story about a girl named Griselda Gilders. It was somewhat like the story which inspired the movie, Carrie, though I had never seen that
film when I wrote the story.
Though what Daws had to say, about my first creative effort, was not exactly flattering, coming from him I knew that he meant well. I also respected him as an adult, 43 years my senior, that he should know what he was talking about. His letter was still quite kind, despite the fact that he said that my first effort was a “mish-mash”. I told Daws that my mother had agreed with some of
the things that he had told me and he laughed and said, “Smart Lady!”.
That was the first and last time that I ever talked to Daws. How I wish that I had taken advantage of that time to make it a much more meaningful chat…….and that I would have really let him know how grateful I was to him, for his friendship and unselfish generosity.
I do not know everything about Daws, of course, but, one of his interviews seemed to point to the fact that he was a Christian. I read a quote from this interview in which he said, “Well God gave me this talent that I have……I have to give Him credit for that…….I did take it, however, and mold it and use it…….” (I am paraphrasing here).
In his nearly hour-long taped letter to me, he seemed elated, and very happy, by the end of the tape. It seemed that the opportunity to communicate with me was truly a joyous and fun experience for him. He then flattered me, very much, when he pointedly said: “I’d like you to write to me again!”. How very
happy I was to hear him say that.
He ended his letter saying: “So for now, this is your friend, Daws Butler, signing off !!…….”. I was only fourteen years old, at the time. When he said the words “your friend, Daws Butler”, my mind flashed back to all the times that I had seen the name “Daws Butler” in the credits of animated cartoons……..for years I had seen his name, here and there…….But that March 1974 day, Daws Butler was a lot more than just a name…….or a credit………or a voice……..He was now a man, extending a hand of kindness, toward me, and calling himself “my friend”. How incredibly honored I felt, at that time, to be worthy of being considered his friend………me, this fourteen-year-old boy, who came out of nowhere……..
(Listen to an eight minute audio segment, in which Daws Butler does his characters, from his cassette letter to me in March of 1974)
Then, promptly, he returned with a quick P.S. He told me, completely incredulous, that he had played, in my hometown of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, years ago, when he was part of a three-man comedy team called “The Three Short Waves”. I too was surprised that his comedy act had played in a small, little town
like Pottstown (especially back in the 1940s, when it had to be really tiny). Daws chuckled after he told me this and said: “So how do you like that?”. Then, once again, very upbeat, and in a voice which suggested he was beaming with joy, he said: “Alright…….That’s it for now…….See ‘ya!………..”
There was a big portion of his tape, in which he told me “The Daws Butler Story“. Much of what I will tell you here, has been documented before, by others, but not every single detail. Enjoy!:
Daws was a very shy boy, who, in high school, considered himself to be like a Peter Pan character, and a drifter. He was not proud, at all, that he as so withdrawn……..and he seemed to be ashamed that he felt like he was going nowhere in life.
His first step was take public speaking, when he was a junior in high school (to force himself on his feet). He joked that the public speaking teacher was not really very thrilled with him, because he made a gag routine out of every speech that he gave (his fellow students, however, thought that he was very funny).
To further work on his insecurities and inhibitions, he next competed in amateur contests, by himself, during the great Depression. Eventually he hooked up with two other guys. Daws and the other two fellows all did impersonations and voices. Most of their imitations were related to radio stars. Because they were all short (Daws was about 5′ 2”) and because they focused mostly on radio voices, they called their act “The Three Short Waves”.
Due to squabbles, among the three of them, and World War II, the act broke up (Daws’ career was put on hold while he served in the Navy). After his discharge, he worked first in radio, then in theatrical cartoons, and later in a puppet show, on TV, Time For Beany. Time for Beany ran 5 years.
After Time for Beany, incredibly, none of the cartoon studios wanted to hire him because he was typed as a puppeteer. As little sense as this all makes, he had to prove himself all over again!
Daws said that he wrote letters, and sent records of his voices, to 100-200 organizations (and studios) there in Hollywood, stating that he had talent for voice work and he could also write commercials. (As far as the “records” were concerned, Daws said that there were no cassette tapes back then; that’s why he had to send records.) As far as his letters were concerned, the amazing thing is that he actually wrote each and every one of those 100-200 letters, individually, because there was no such thing as xerox or mimeograph, back then!!!
As painful and time-consuming as that must have been for him, it paid off. Warner Brothers, who had told him, point blank, that Mel Blanc did everything for their cartoons began to use him, here and there, for voices that Mel could not do. Eventually Hanna and Barbera used him for some of their Tom and Jerry cartoons (while they were still at MGM…..They had not
yet started their own studio). Finally 1957 rolled around and Hanna-Barbera produced their very first cartoon series (Ruff and Reddy), with only two voice actors: Daws Butler and Don Messick. For quite a few years, Butler and Messick were almost the only voices heard in their cartoons.
Daws also mentioned that all that painstaking work of writing all those letters got him started as a writer for commercials. He never stopped writing, even after he re-establised himself as an actor.
Last but not least, Jay Ward’s studio tapped Daws, for some of their cartoons, in 1958 (though their first series, Rocky & His Friends, did not actually air until nearly the end of 1959). Jay Ward and Bill Scott used him right up until the end, when
their studio closed in the mid 80s.
I am sure that I am not alone in missing Daws Butler (he died in 1988). Just as I mentioned, in the piece on Paul Frees, there is many a time that I wish that Daws were still here. I’ll never forget him, for the many times that he wrote and that one actual phone call that we shared.
Daws Butler and June Foray are the finest voice artists, who ever lived, in my opinion. I would actually say that Mr. Butler, alone, wears “the crown”…….but then comparing Daws and June is quite unfair………definitely tantamount to comparing apples and oranges………
Before I ever thought of writing to any of Jay Ward’s stars: Daws Butler, June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott, and even Walter Tetley……..my mother remarked to me, one day, while we were watching a Hanna-Barbera cartoon together (in which Daws was voicing Hokey Wolf):
“Can you imagine what it must be like to make a living doing voices for cartoons?”
No one……..Absolutely no one……..ever answered that question better…….than my dear, beloved friend, Daws Butler………….
Greg: My friend Jack Cunningham helped me to scan this. I still have a little way’s to go before I’m totally comfortable with my scanner. Anyway—–this was the autograph on the reverse side of Daws’ photo that I was telling you about. You may recall that I had told you that I saw this photo […]