1900-03-07

The British/Grenadian jazz musician LESLIE HUTCHINSON was born on this date (d. 1969). Known as “Hutch”, he was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s.  He was born on the Island of Grenada as Leslie Arthur Hutchinson, he took piano lessons as a child. He moved to New York City in his teens, originally to take a degree in medicine as he won a place due to his high aptitude, and began playing the piano and singing in bars.

He then joined a black band led by Henry “Broadway” Jones, who often played for white millionaires such as the Vanderbilts, attracting the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1924 he left America for Paris, where he had a residency in Joe Zelli’s club and became a friend and lover of Cole Porter.  He was for some time the highest paid star in Britain and was one of the biggest stars during the twenties and thirties in the UK.

“Hutch” was believed to have had relationships with Ivor Novello, Merle Oberon, and actress Tallulah Bankhead. The rumors include affairs with Edwina Mountbatten and members of the British Royal Family which supposedly led to his social ostracism and the destruction of his professional career.

Encouraged by his lover Edwina Mountbatten, he came to England in 1927 to perform in a Rodgers and Hart musical, and soon became the darling of society and the population in general. “Hutch” was a favorite singer of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII). He was regularly heard on air with the BBC. One of his greatest hits was “These Foolish Things”. He was a much-loved wartime entertainer.  As well as being a friend and lover of Cole Porter, he recorded several of his songs, including “Begin the Beguine” and Porter’s list song “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)”, to which he supposedly made up some 70 new verses.

He later married and had a daughter. He would go on to sire six further children to five different mothers.

Hutchinson died from pneumonia in 1969. Only forty-two people attended his funeral. He was, most recently, the basis for the black jazz musician in Downton Abbey.

AUDIO EXTRA!  We’ve often featured musicians and wondered “what did they sound like?”  Well, in Hutchinson’s case, his recordings date back enough that they’re no longer copyright protected.  And the Internet Archive has a great collection of his work you can listen to or even download for future enjoyment.  He had a great voice and the arrangements are quite fun.  So, perhaps you can download a bit of his music and enjoy this largely forgotten singer.  Just go to:

http://www.archive.org/details/LeslieHutchinson-01-10

…and give a little listen.  A little player will pop up on that page for you to listen to his music.