The result, in 1968, was the world’s first distributed amplifier intercom system, the RS-100 analog single-channel beltpack that became the foundation of the company and will still work with every product the company has put out since. At the NAB Show this month, the company will demonstrate a system incorporating 50 years of products, with a CS-200 2-channel throw down Clear-Com 2-wire Master Station with an RS-100 Beltpack into an LQ-2W2 2-wire network-connected box on into an Eclipse matrix via the brand new E-IPA Matrix network card. And it works.
The full history is well laid out on the company’s impressive website. Suffice to say it includes expansion into broadcast, theater and events, early advances into digital (1982), and various company owners, now happily settled in with Butten’s longtime friends at HME. The legacy is intact, the name has come to define a product category, like Kleenex or Xerox.
Much of that can be attributed to Butten, a colorful, crazy-uncle-type character with an incisive, sharp mind and an affinity for analog electronics. He drops in stories about the first Fender and Marshall amps and his time on stage helping out Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton (Cream days) and Herbie Hubert.
He laughs loud, sometimes at odd moments, and has an infectious love of life. He peppers conversations with his belief in the KISS philosophy, then offers his own version of the Six Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. At 72, he still goes to work every day, in a rumpled suit, sneakers and with a full head of disheveled hair.
Charlie Butten doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, for either Butten Sound or for his role with Bob Cohen in creating an industry, but he’s a damn fine man and he belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Live Sound. He really does.