Butterfield was born in 1917
in Middleton, Ohio. He attended high school in Wyoming and studied
medicine at Transylvania College. His early gigs included Austin Wyle
in Pittsburgh before joining the Bob Crosby band in 1936. He worked and
recorded with Crosby until 1940, then with Artie Shaw until 1941. After
this he worked with Benny Goodman and Les Brown before being called up
by the Army.
After the war, he formed his own band which continued until 1947, after which he began a prolific studio recording career in New York. Throughout the 40's and 50's, Billy continued working at Nick's and Condon's as well as touring with his own small group. From 1968-73 he worked regularly with the World's Greatest Jazzband and appeared at many jazz festivals well into the 80's.