Leslie Hutchinson

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This artist, eventually known under the tantalizing moniker of Hutch Hutchinson, was scared into expatriate status by a Klu Klux Klan rally in Florida, only to become one of the most popular singers in…
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This artist, eventually known under the tantalizing moniker of Hutch Hutchinson, was scared into expatriate status by a Klu Klux Klan rally in Florida, only to become one of the most popular singers in merry old England. The country-hopping saga of Leslie Hutchinson actually begins in Grenada some eight decades prior to the invasion by Ronald Reagan. Hutchinson's father was the local church organist, starting out his son on lessons as soon the tyke was able to balance on the knee perch.

Hutchinson headed to New York City in his teens, originally to get a law degree. His financial situation forced him into many day jobs but he also began playing the piano and singing in bars, coming up with a pleasant style and getting the chance to record by the mid-'20s. He began performing with the ensemble of Henry "Broadway" Jones, a black band that often worked in front of audiences of white millionaires. The group became a target of the dreaded KKK, bent on burning down the band's somewhat shabby housing accommodations -- an idea that, minus all overtones of racism, has no doubt occurred to many traveling bands themselves.

Hutch's decision to skip the country is understandable. His timing was also impeccable, and not just musically: he showed up in Paris when the so-called "jazz age" was in full swing. Joe Zelli's, one of the hipper clubs, offered Hutchinson a regular gig at which he was spotted by an impresario who subsequently presented Hutchinson in a Rodgers & Hart show at the London Pavilion in 1927. Hutchinson became a popular cabaret attraction in London: Cole Porter's song "Let's Do It" was one of his trademarks and he supposedly made up some 70 new verses. His records sold well through the late '40s and he continued performing on television and radio through the '60s.