Sound check: Butch Engle

(By Jackson Love | Student Reporter) Sonoma may be a small town but there is no shortage of talent in it. Butch Engle, for example, who is familiar to Sonomans for his popular Reader’s Theatre series. But that is only a small part of the story of Butch Engle.

In the early 60s Butch was drawn to music as a senior at Mill Valley High. A talent show caught the eye of a few of his buddies, so they formed a trio and entered. They didn’t win, so the band didn’t last long. But its members were bitten by the music bug, and all three went on to form their own bands.

Butch (lower center of photo) was asked to join a new band as the lead singer, and he found that he liked the spotlight. The band, “Butch Engle and The Styx,” went on to win the famed “Band Bash” at the Cow Palace, a competition between some 200 bands. A review of his performance that night described him as a “combination of Jimmy Cagney and Mick Jagger.”

As for the band’s name, “One of our moms brought out a Quiji Board,” Butch recalls. “We just messed around with it until we liked what it spelled; STYX, pronounced STICKS.”

The band became popular and began touring locally and producing albums with Base Sound Records. “We were really popular with the Sixties crowd.” The band released three singles before breaking up in 1968. The compilation CD “No Matter What You Say/The Best of Butch Engle and the Styx” on Sundazed Records was released in 2000.

Butch met his wife Janice during this crazy time and they’ve been together ever since. “We met for the first time at the California Teenage Worlds Fair for the Miss Teenage America Pageant. We had just won the Cow Palace competition and had been hired to play this show. Janice had come as a guest of our equipment manager’s sister who was supposedly my date for the evening but as it turned out, in the end she became Janice’s maid of honor at our wedding, and stayed a best friend.”

Butch’s head wasn’t in music for too long, and he began focusing on writing and acting when the band broke up. His career in acting took off with the lead role in the popular play “The Tooth of Crime” at the Marin Theatre Company.

Through the years he and his wife talked a lot about living in Sonoma “someday.” Butch would always tell Janice “one day we will live in Sonoma, one day.”

Butch remembers one visit to Sonoma, looking out of the hotel window above the current Sunflower Caffé. “We would watch the Plaza develop a bit every time we visited.” It was on that balcony that they made the decision to stop waiting for someday, and make the move.

Since moving to Sonoma, Butch and Janice have not had a single regret. Butch has been involved in local theatre as an actor, a director and a writer. Sonomans might remember that he was the voice of the plant in Theatre at the Center’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

In recent years Butch has been lending his talent to voice-over work for commercials and video games such as “Walking Dead,” and “Dante’s Inferno,” with Butch as the voice of the Devil himself.

Recently, while waiting outside for his “call” at a voice-over gig in San Francisco, Butch realized he across from the very building where he recorded his record album in so many years before. He was happy to realize he was still creatively involved in his passions after all of these years.


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