Charles Dawson “Daws” Butler (November 16, 1916—May 18, 1988) was a voice actor originally from Toledo, Ohio. He worked mostly for theHanna-Barbera animation production company and originated the voices of many familiar animated cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, and Huckleberry Hound.
Daws Butler was born on November 16, 1916 in Toledo, Ohio, the only child of Ruth Butler and Charles Allen Butler. The family later moved from Ohio to Oak Park, Chicago, where Butler got interested in impersonating people.
In 1934, the future voice master started as an impressionist, entering multiple amateur contests and winning most of them. He had entered them, not with the intention of showing his talent but as a personal challenge to overcome his shyness, with success. Nonetheless, Butler won professional engagements at vaudeville theaters. Later he teamed up with fellow performers, Jack Lavin and Willard Ovitz to form the comedy trio The Three Short Waves. The team played in theaters, radio and nightclubs, generating positive reviews from regional critics and audiences. They dissolved when in 1941, Daws Butler joined the U.S. Navy as America entered World War Two. Some time after, he met his wife Myrtis during a wartime function atNorth Carolina.
His first voice work for an animated character came in 1948 in the animated short Short Snorts on Sports, which was produced by Screen Gems. That same year at MGM, Tex Avery hired Butler to provide the voice of a British wolf on Little Rural Riding Hood and also narrate several of his cartoons. Throughout the decade, he had roles in many Avery-directed cartoons; The Fox in Out-Foxed, The Narrator in The Cuckoo Clock, The Cobbler in The Peachy Cobbler, Mr. Theeves in Droopy’s “Double Trouble”, Mysto the Magician in Magical Maestro, John the Cab and John the B-29 Bomber in One Cab’s Family and Little Johnny Jet and Maxie in The Legend of Rockabye Point.
Starting with The Three Little Pups, Butler provided the voice for a nameless wolf that spoke in a Southern accent and whistled all the time. This character also appeared in Sheep Wrecked, Billy Boy and many more cartoons. While at MGM, Avery wanted Butler to try to do the voice of Droopy, at a time when Bill Thompson had been unavailable due to radio engagements. Instead Butler then told Avery about Don Messick, another voice actor and Butler’s lifelong friend, who could imitate Thompson. Thus Messick voiced Droopy on several shorts.
In 1949, Butler landed a role in a televised puppet show created by former Warner Bros. cartoon director Bob Clampett called Time for Beany. Butler was teamed up with Stan Freberg, and together they did all the voices of the puppets. Butler voiced Beany Boy and Captain Huffenpuff. Freberg voiced Cecil and Dishonest John. An entire stable of recurring characters were seen. The show’s writers were Charles Shows and Lloyd Turner, whose dependably funny dialog was still always at the mercy of Butler’s and Freberg’s ad libs. Time for Beany ran from 1949 to 1954 and won several Emmy Awards. It was the basis for the cartoon Beany and Cecil.
In Mr. Magoo, the UPA theatrical animated short series for Columbia Pictures, Butler voiced the part of Magoo’s nephew Waldo (also voiced by Jerry Hausner at various times).
Butler briefly turned his attention to TV commercials, although he quickly moved to providing the voice to many nameless Walter Lantz characters for theatrical shorts later seen on the Woody Woodpecker program. His notable character was the penguin “Chilly Willy” and his sidekick, the southern-speaking dog Smedley (the same voice used for Tex Avery’s laid-back wolf character).
Also in the 1950s, Stan Freberg asked Butler to help him write comedy skits for his Capitol Records albums. Their first collaboration, “St. George and the Dragon-Net” (based on Dragnet), was the first comedy record to sell over one million copies. Freberg was more of a satirist who did song parodies, but the bulk of his “talking” routines were co-written by, and co-starred, Daws Butler. Butler also teamed up again with Freberg and cartoon actress June Foray in a CBS radio series, The Stan Freberg Show, which ran from July to October 1957 as a summer replacement for Jack Benny’s program. Freberg’s box-set, Tip of the Freberg (Rhino Entertainment, 1999) chronicles every aspect of Freberg’s career except the cartoon voice-over work, and it showcases his career with Daws Butler.
In 1957, when MGM closed down their animation division, producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera quickly formed their own company, and Daws Butler and Don Messick were on-hand to provide voices. The first, The Ruff & Reddy Show where Butler voiced Reddy, set the formula for the rest of the series of cartoons that the two would helm until the mid-1960s.