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Bob Lind wrote this song, where he sees himself as a butterfly hunter. He is looking for romance, but he finds it as elusive as butterflies are to capture. It turned out to be the only hit for Lind, who did a lot of traveling as a kid and ended up playing Folk music around Denver when he flunked out of Western State College. He wrote "Elusive Butterfly" as the sun was coming up after staying up all night. He says the song is about "The magic of the quest, the thrill of searching, even when that which is sought is hard to see."
After signing a deal with Metro Music, Sonny Bono was assigned to work with Lind, but got busy and passed him off to Jack Nitzsche, who was known for his work with The Rolling Stones. "Elusive Butterfly" was one of the first songs they recorded, and Nitzsche came up with an innovative string arrangement, making this one of the first Folk-Rock songs to feature a string section.
Los Angeles in the '60s was a great place to find talented session musicians, and some of the best appeared on this track, including Leon Russell on piano and Carol Kaye
on bass. For Carol, it was a very memorable session as a mistake she made turned into a signature sound. Telling us about the session, Carol told us: "It was at Sunset Sound. It was kind of a boring tune. I think it was D-flat or something, and it stays a long time in that chord and then it moves in a funny way to the next chord, it's like a sidebar phrase or something like that. I missed it and I went to go up to the G-flat or whatever and I missed it and I came right back down. I did a slide up and down. And they stopped and I thought, 'Uh oh, he caught me.' He said, 'Do more of those!' (laughing) So the slide was born, then. I'd stick that slide in here and there on the records I cut."
This was originally the B-side in America of the 23-year-old Bob Lind's recording debut. The A-side was "Cheryl's Goin' Home
," and when a DJ on the Florida station WQAM flipped the record and started playing "Elusive Butterfly," it kickstarted the song's success.
The Irish singer Val Doonican covered this in the UK. His version was released as the same time as Bob Lind's and it also reached #5, thus preventing the original from charting higher.
Bob Lind's debut album Don't Be Concerned borrows its title from a line in this song: "Don't be concerned, it will not harm you."
With this song, Bob Lind gave World Pacific Records its one and only big hit, however his solo career lost impetus as World Pacific's choices for follow-up singles squandered the momentum of "Elusive Butterfly," problems with drugs and alcohol only making matters worse. Lind continues performing and touring into the '00s and over 200 artists have covered his songs.
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