John Boutte earned a business degree in college, but his heart always turned toward music. He'd watched his sister, Lillian Boutte, star in a musical theater production of One Mo' Time before she left their hometown of New Orleans to make a career in music for herself in Europe. But despite his own love of music, he took a job with a credit union after serving four years in the U.S. Army. It wasn't until he met Stevie Wonder and the superstar told him he had a definite shot at making it as a singer, that Boutte gave any serious thought to his own musical journey. The word Wonder used to describe Boutte's voice was "incredible." Still, after meeting the superstar, Boutte went back to his office job. Less than a month later, however, sister Lillian mailed him a plane ticket to Europe and asked that he go on tour with her. With Wonder's encouragement fresh in his mind, Boutte took off to start the career he had always wanted and he never looked back.
Growing up in New Orleans, Boutte was exposed to music as part of the city's daily life. From his Creole family's home, not far from where he lives today in the French Quarter, he could easily hear the music of weddings and funerals coming from the church out back. At a different time of year, the music of Carnival days and Mardi Gras was prevalent. He gravitated to music while in school, contributing the sounds of his trumpet and cornet to marching bands. He also participated in school-sponsored talent competitions. Later, he moved on to street corner performances, singing with a cappella groups. He learned from a set of musical friends that included jazz artists such as Danny Barker, Louis "Big Eye" Nelson, and Paul Babarin. Upon his graduation from high school, Boutte attended New Orleans' Xavier University to pursue a business degree. Stationed with the Army in Texas, Virginia, and Korea, he sang for and directed gospel choirs. In addition to his solo recordings, he contributed vocals to an album called Mardi Gras Mambo from Cubanismo, a dance band from Havana. Boutte and sister Lillian are not the only members of the family who have made music into a career. Niece Tania Boutte joined forces with Terri Degruy to establish TNT. Tricia Boutte, another niece, is known as vocalist Sista Teedy. ~ Linda Seida