The driving rhythmic force behind some of the most innovative and influential records in popular music history, Nashville drummer Kenny Buttrey was born in Music City on April 1, 1945. By 12, he was already playing professionally, and he was a member of an outfit named the Escorts before fellow Nashville session legend Charlie McCoy joined the group, which later became known as Charlie McCoy & the Escorts. McCoy's patronage helped Buttrey earn his first studio gigs, and he soon scored his first notable credit backing Arthur Alexander on his 1962 R&B classic "Anna (Go to Him)." Perhaps his most significant work appears on Bob Dylan's landmark 1966 effort Blonde on Blonde -- Buttrey's drumming is sublime, moving seamlessly from the woozy, march-like opener "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" to the nuanced beauty of "Visions of Johanna." He would also collaborate with Dylan on the classics John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, which together pointed the way toward a true fusion of country and rock & roll, a path that much of Buttrey's most significant work would follow.
In 1969 he co-founded Area Code 615, an instrumental unit also featuring session luminaries including McCoy, fiddler Buddy Spicher, and steel guitarist Weldon Myrick. Though neither of their LPs enjoyed significant commercial success, the group's self-titled debut and its 1970 follow-up, Trip in the Country, remain notable for their flawless musicianship. The former also yielded "Stone Fox Chase," the longtime theme song for the BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test. In 1970 Buttrey inaugurated a long and fruitful partnership with Neil Young, beginning with the classic After the Gold Rush and resuming two years later with the chart-topping Harvest. For a short time, he also served as a member of Young's then-touring band the Stray Gators, and also appeared on the classic Tonight's the Night. Buttrey and McCoy reunited in 1974 in the Southern rock combo Barefoot Jerry, scoring the hit "Boogie Woogie," and three years later the drummer appeared on Jimmy Buffett's Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes, contributing to the singer's signature hit, "Margaritaville." After a long bout with cancer, Buttrey died on September 12, 2004.