Person - Arnold Butcher

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ARNOLD JOHN BUTCHER (1925 - 2013)

A good batsman, Arnold organised and captained a NT cricket team which practised at Moore Park near Sydney Boys High. He married NT actress and dancer Loretta Boutmy in 1950, composed music for Margaret Barr , and suspected NT member Clive Young was an ASIO mole. Arnold played piano for NT revue and for Pot of Message 1949 wrote “The Song of the Beautiful Big Blonde Spy”, its last line whispered to the Un-American Committee:

I shimmied my way through the Iron Curtain / Right into Stalin’s arms

I’m a big bad blonde and my message is certain / But he rejected my charms

So I came to the land of the prairie vast / Where the Reds spy without control

And the Iron in the Curtain found a home at last / When it entered into my soul.

Arnold was born on 1 August 1925 at Innisfail, Queensland sugar country where, on the way to school, pupils chewed on stalks which had fallen off the cane trains. The local community was cosmopolitan; neighbouring Yugoslavs had Sunday musical concerts.

The Depression affected Arnold’s father, a communist and union organiser who raised money for the International Brigade in Spain. Arnold went to CPA meetings as a child. His mother played piano for silent films and was his first piano teacher but Arnold’s musical education was sporadic.

In 1940 the family moved south because of the threat of the Japanese (a slit trench was dug at the back of the house). Arnold was in the public service from ages 15-18. Desperate to get into the RAAF despite his parents' opposition, he met air crew through playing Fats Waller in the officers’ mess. One, Bill Davis, had studied at the NSW Conservatorium, and Arnold became a leading aircraftman.

On a repatriation scholarship postwar, Arnold studied at the Conservatorium, then played in Kings Cross cafes and clubs (such as the California Café which "could get a bit rough, but the pianist always keeps going"). He was a casual wharfie, his workmates including writers and poets who liked the freedom of not being caught up in the rat race. Arnold was a member of Gang 364 (another was Clem Millward ) a “Brains Trust” who played chess during smokoes.

In 1961 he and Loretta sold up and went to England where Arnold worked in pantomime, did copying and arranging, and got some film work at Shepparton Studios. On his return in 1967 he worked for the ABC for 17 years, played in clubs, wrote music for television (such as Contrabandits) and orchestrations for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Arnold Butcher died on 13 November 2013. A 2006 sound interview of Loretta and Arnold Butcher, recorded by Alex and Annette Hood, is held by the National Library of Australia.



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