Born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1924, Carl Butler started singing at local dances and events at the age of 12. After serving in the military he sang with bluegrass bands like the Bailey Brothers and the Sauceman Brothers, eventually moving on to a solo career that found him making appearances on regional radio stations; it was one such appearance in 1950 that led to his being signed by Capitol Records. Somewhere along the way from Capitol to Columbia, Carl recorded 12 songs for Okeh, including the two found here.
“You Can’t Insure a House of Dreams” is a sweet and steady number that tells of just how unsteady the foundation of a couple’s love can be. The song makes great use of Butler’s full, resonant voice. The addition of Shot Jackson’s dobro is a real plus, as well as Marvin Hughe’s piano, which saunters through the door at the 1:55 mark.
“Just For Fooling Around” also prominently features the dobro, along with Tommy Jackson’s just-right fiddle. It’s another tale of heartbreak and regret over the damn fool things we do when we think we can get away with them.
Both of these songs are great examples of how 1950’s country was so good at balancing a high lonesome voice telling tales of heartache against a musical background that sounds like nothing but taking a leisurely stroll in the pasture on a hot summer’s day.
Still, in spite of positive press from The Billboard magazine (they used the definite article back then) this single failed to chart.
Indeed, success would continue to elude Butler until he finally got smart and invited his wife, Pearl, to sing harmonies. Here we see them together singing his breakout hit from 1962, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over.” It’s directly followed by a performance of “I Thought I’d Let You Know.”
That footage was taken from the 1966 film Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar. If the full Eastmancolor assault of those nudie suits was too much for you, here’s an earlier version, sans Pearl, introduced by June Carter.
Carl and Pearl had continued success throughout the 1960’s, championing a young, fellow Tennessean songwriter named Dolly Parton along the way. Pearl died in 1990, and Carl died in 1992.