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Author Topic: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio  (Read 2767 times)

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fischjaeger

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Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« on: January 17, 2007, 08:37:53 PM »
I write for a living and I love Frank. Info on Frank is hard to find. I'm hoping you guys might know something. I've been searching for a year now. If I could find a copy of his obituary, I could get the ball rolling. Right now I'm on a brick wall. I noticed Uncle Bud had a picture of Frank for his avatar, which is why I stopped by.

I started the West Virginia Blues society last year (never got much of anywhere with it, actually wound up kicking all the members out except one because nobody cared about history, they turned it into pure band self promotion) to promote Frank and Dick Justice, etc.

I don't know if y'all have ever heard of Fruteland Jackson, but he's a pretty big blues preservationist. I turned him on to Frank last year and he's  incorporating a little Frank into his show.

I did do a version of Miner's Blues. I'm playing harmonica, actually one like Frank would have played, it's a M. Hohner New Best Quality made around 1915. I only use it to play Frank Hutchison. Forgive the lyrics, they are a bit messed up, at the time the only Frank I had was from a really poor 78 and I had trouble figuring them out.

Here is the link, click on Miner's Blues... also a little Robert Johnson come on in my kitchen.... Same harmonica in song, but a Hohner Auto Valve from the 1930s on the intro...
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=113857169

Still having a little trouble with the last line of the first verse of Miner's Blues. Is it "I'm gonna hang around my shanty to the ball and jack?"

Anyway, I would appreciate any help.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2007, 09:01:40 PM by fischjaeger »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2007, 09:05:50 PM »
Hi fischjaeger - welcome to WC! I'm afraid I'm a bit of a Frank imposter. I love his music, he's tremendous, but I know next to nothing about his life.

Have you tried contacting Tony Russell? I suspect if you're working on a bio on Hutchison, you will be if you haven't already. I've tried unsuccessfully to turn up my copy of Blacks, Whites and Blues by Russell, in which he writes about him. It's out of print now as an individual title but published as a three-fer with, I think, Paul Oliver's Savannah Syncopators and another title on race recordings by the Dixon and Godrich team I believe. Yonder Comes the Blues is the title I think (it's late).

Others may chime in here as well. I'll be curious to hear any more details!

fischjaeger

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2007, 09:11:48 PM »
Minimum I need is date and place of death, which would make finding an obituary possible. Once I have an obit, there's a chance I can track down a living relative. I hear he moved to Columbus, then moved somewhere else in Ohio and died after world war ii.

I've always been interested in the mine wars, which isn't even covered in West Virginia history classes. He's a voice speaking to us from that awful time in our history. The miner "army" had 17,000 men it probably, virtually every miner down there played some part.  There is a very, very good chance, that he fought in it and certainly he was a part of it. It was a terrible ordeal, besides all the murders, etc. It was the only time a government in the U.S. dropped bombs from an airplane on American citizens and it was the largest armed insurrection besides the Civil War of course. It was the government of Logan County (frank's home county) that dropped the bombs, by the way.

No, I've not contacted Tony. Don't know who he is.
The Battle of Blair Mountain was fought in Logan County, btw... the main mine war was 1920-1921
« Last Edit: January 17, 2007, 09:17:57 PM by fischjaeger »

fischjaeger

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2007, 09:31:58 PM »
Here's all I know so far... Still don't have a date of death. I also heard that he opened a store in Columbus.

Hutchison was born in 1897 in Raleigh County, West Virginia, and grew up in Logan County. When he was seven or eight he met one of the black railroad workers who came to the county to lay tracks for the mines. This man's name was Henry Vaughan and he taught Hutchison to play blues on the guitar, using a knife as a slide. Some time later, Hutchison met 'a crippled Negro living back in the hills' named Bill Hunt who was a songster as well as a bluesman. Hunt taught the young Frank dozens of songs from his repertoire of 19th century traditional tunes that 'blacks and whites had shared before the blues became fashionable'. By 1920, Hutchison's repertoire contained a variety of rare old rags, blues, traditional ballads and novelties.

In the early 1920s, Hutchison eked out a living, playing small shows in mining camps, at political rallies, at private parties and at movie shows to introduce and even accompany silent movies. Pop Stoneman and others remembered him as 'a big red-headed Irishman' who 'always specialised in blues, just blues of all kinds'. Hutchison travelled often, but seldom left the West Virginia-Kentucky area. Somehow in 1926, he connected with Okeh Records and travelled to New York to record his first two sides: 'Worried Blues' and 'The Train That Carried My Girl From Town', both featuring him using a knife as a slide. Subsequently, he recorded a total of 32 sides for OKeh [1926-1929]. Later, Okeh seemed to want him to diversify, insisting on his working with a fiddler by the name of Sherman Lawson. After being involved with 'The Okeh Medicine Show', a six-part record series of skits, Hutchison ceased recording and then stopped playing music altogether. This was most likely because of the Depression rather than Okeh's demands. He spent his later life as a storekeeper and eventually moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he died in 1945.


Offline Rivers

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2007, 09:47:03 PM »
A worthy cause! Here are some highlights from Larry Cohn's Nothing But The Blues, some (most!) of which you've already mentioned:
  • Born 1897, reared in Logan County
  • Frank a teenager when Blair Mtn happened
  • Attracted to music of black railroad worker Henry Vaughn at age 7 or 8
  • A little later met crippled Bill Hunt, black songster aged 50 living back in the hills
  • Hunt taught Frank dozens of '19th century 'before the blues' songs
  • By 1920 Frank's rep included a bagful of rare old songs, rags, blues, trad,ballads & novelties like Coney Isle
  • Early 20's eking out a living playing stage shows in mining camps, political rallies, private parties and accompanying silent films
  • He was pretty lively
  • Pop Stoneman remembered him as a "big, red-headed Irishman"
  • Sideman recalls he told a lot of jokes at his shows
  • All agreed he "specialized in blues, blues of all kinds"
  • Late 1926 traveled to NY to record for Okeh "Worried Blues" & "The Train That Carried..."
  • More on his recordings...
  • Died Columbus Ohio 1945

I'll dig through some more books and see what I can find. Can't put my hands on Bruce Bastin's Red River Blues at the moment, is there anything in there?
« Last Edit: January 17, 2007, 10:00:45 PM by Rivers »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2007, 10:18:06 PM »
Can't help too much on the bio -- I only have the info in "Nothing But the Blues" and in the liner notes to the Rounder LP, but the last line of that verse of "Miner's Blues" is "Gonna hang 'round my shanty, do the ball and jack" -- it's a dance. Good luck -- I'm a big fan of Hutchison's too.
Chris

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2007, 11:39:37 PM »
Have you tried contacting Tony Russell? I suspect if you're working on a bio on Hutchison, you will be if you haven't already. I've tried unsuccessfully to turn up my copy of Blacks, Whites and Blues by Russell, in which he writes about him. It's out of print now as an individual title but published as a three-fer with, I think, Paul Oliver's Savannah Syncopators and another title on race recordings by the Dixon and Godrich team I believe. Yonder Comes the Blues is the title I think (it's late).
Yes published in 2001, the other work was Recording The Blues. Tony has added a new "afterword" to his BW&B chapter. I'm sure Tony also devoted an issue to Hutchison in his mid-70s magazine Old Time Music but would have to scramble around in the attic to find out. Something in the back of my mind thinks he also thought of writing a Hutchison biog, or maybe that was somebody else. It never happened whatever the case.

Offline Cambio

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2007, 06:08:14 AM »
I know that Gloria Goddwin Raheja, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota, has been working on a biography of Frank Hutchison.  She's been doing a lot of great field work in Logan County and has managed to contact some of Frank's relatives who are still alive and in the area.  I'm really looking forward to reading the biography, as I'm a big Hutchison fan.  I definitely feel that he is one of the more underrated and underappreciated players in the blues world, solely due to the fact that he was white.

fischjaeger

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2007, 09:21:58 AM »
I found his obituary, with the help of some nice folks at the Dayton Public LIbrary.
I had a hunch Frank didn't die in Colombus like its said, so I tried Dayton.

This is from the Dayton Daily News, Nov. 10, 1945.




Frank Hutchison, 47, 19 Malcom Drive, died at 3 a.m. Friday at St. Elizabeth Hospital. He had been ill seven weeks.
He was born in Beckley, W.Va. and had resided in Dayton for three years.
Surviving are his widow, Minnie, two daughters, Mrs. Louise Boster and Miss Katheleen Hutchison, both of Dayton, his mother, Mrs. R.E. Deskins of Waverly, Ohio; six sisters, Mrs. Roy Kirk of Logan, W.Va.; Mrs. Floyd Bockwith, Mrs. James Manbevers and Mrs. Parker Whaley all of Waverly, Ohio, Mrs. Jack Bethe of Toldeo and Mrs. Louis Wagner of Buffalo, N.Y. and three brothers, B.M. Deskins of Columbus and Woodrow and Paul Deskine, both of Waverly.
 Funeral services and burial will be held at Logan, W.Va.

fischjaeger

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Re: Info needed on Frank Hutchison, working on bio
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2007, 06:35:01 PM »
Well his birth certificate doesn't seem to be on file in Raleigh County. Also checked Logan, but it wasn't that rare for folks to not file one in those days. I did get his marriage records from where he married Minnie. He lied about his age evidently. He got married in April 1917. We declared war on Germany that month. I'll check the muster rolls to see if he enlisted and maybe got married before he did.
A lot of the accepted info on the internet is wrong and I've never heard of him being in the military, but I'll check to see.

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