The Lettermen name first appeared in February 1958 on the marquee of the Desert Inn Hotel Resort Showroom in Las Vegas Nevada, where Butala, Mike Barnett and Talmadge Russell performed in the record-shattering revue, “Newcomers of 1928,” which starred the most popular big band leader of the 1920’s and 30s, Paul Whiteman, silent film comic Buster Keaton, singers Rudy Vallee and Harry Richmond, film star Fifi D’Orsay and the sneezing comedian Billy Gilbert. Butala played the part of Bing Crosby, who sang lead in the “Rhythm Boys” the vocal group that had hits and toured in the 1920’s with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra.
The early vision of The Lettermen was of three very strong soloists who also had the ability and showmanship to perform and entertain an audience on their own but who also had the individual discipline needed to be group singers. The style they came up with was a sound between the big band vocal groups such as the Modernaires, Pied Pipers, Mills Brothers, Four Freshmen and the early Rhythm and Blues, soft rock groups such as the Ink Spots, Flamingos and the Platters. Butala began singing professionally at age seven in Sharon, Pennsylvania and by the age of eight was singing on KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh, PA. Within a few years, he moved to Hollywood, California and became a member of the famous Mitchell Boys Choir, which since 1932 had appeared in over one hundred motion pictures, scores of television and radio shows, radio and television commercials, and world-wide concert tours. While in the boys choir, he appeared in such classic films as “White Christmas,äó “War of the Worlds,äó “On Moonlight Bay,äó and was the voice of one of the Lost Boys in the classic Walt Disney animated film “Peter Pan.äó