Northeast Hall of Famer George Ballard dies at 92

George Edward “Butch” Ballard, a legendary jazz drummer from Frankford and 2010 inductee into the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame, died Saturday.

Ballard was 92 and was predeceased by his wife of 67 years, Jessie.

Over the years, Ballard worked with superstars such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Pearl Bailey.

In later years, Ballard taught music and performed locally. The Butch Ballard Trio was a fixture at the annual Frankford Festival and was the Saturday night house band at the former mozaic restaurant at 4524 Frankford Ave.

Born in Camden, N.J., he grew up on Hawthorne Street in Frankford. He’d watch the many American Legion parades and focus on the drummer.

He lived much of his adult life on Plum Street, and was a 23rd Ward Democratic committeeman, block captain and trustee at Second Baptist Church.

At Warren G. Harding Middle School and Northeast High School, he played in the band. He later served in World War II.

For his musical talents and community involvement, he received many awards.

In 2006, he earned the Mellon Jazz Community Award and donated the $5,000 prize to the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts Inc.

In 2007, he received a proclamation and a miniature Liberty Bell during a City Council session.

In 2008, he was filmed at mozaic as part of a documentary about the former Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and its famed Swing Era drummer, William Henry “Chick” Webb.

Last October, he was inducted into the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Holy Family University. He was too ill to attend, and WRTI radio personality Bob Perkins accepted on his behalf.

“Butch was really beloved in the Frankford community, respected in the jazz community and known throughout the world as a jazz musician,” said Jack McCarthy, project director for the local Hall of Fame. “He brought credit to Northeast Philadelphia.”

Other honors came from New York’s Lincoln Center, the Historical Society of Frankford and state Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-2nd dist.).

Funeral arrangements were incomplete as the Times went to press.