Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as "Hutch" (born Gouyave, Grenada, 7 March, 1900 – died London, England, 18 August, 1969) was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s.
Born in Grenada in 1900 to George Hutchinson and Marianne (née Turnbull) 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.
His rise to fame and social notoriety was extraordinary. Along the way he worked for the Spanish royal family and Ataturk, the Turkish president; befriended Josephine Baker as well as the future Edward VIII; taught dance to the Aga Khan and slept with just about everyone of repute in the period, including Tallulah Bankhead, Cole Porter, Merle Oberon and Edwina Mountbatten.
In the process Hutch launched an enormously successful recording career, appearing at the most exclusive clubs throughout Europe, Africa and the Far East, developing an inimitably elegant style, which seduced all who saw him perform. Breeze stresses that
Hutch; Spike Hughes & Al Bowlly 1933
"Hutch's charm and talent for being what people wanted him to be caused many prejudices to be set aside, and many social barriers to melt."
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 favourite 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.
made up some 70 new verses.
Yet his chameleon-like personae had its darker side; a disowned wife and heavy drinking took their toll after the Second World War, and Hutch was increasingly forced onto the road and into insalubrious bookings as his crooning fell out of fashion and his health began to fail. He became "a diffident ambassador from a golden era, gamely seeking to brighten an increasingly grey world."
He married Ella Byrd in 1923 or 1924. Their daughter Leslie Bagley Yvonne was born on 9 April 1926. Hutch would go on to sire six further children to five different mothers. Gordon was born in August 1928, Gabrielle in Sept 1930, Gerald and Chris in 1948, and Graham (Chris' full brother) in 1953 and Emma in April 1964.For all his glamour, Hutch was a profoundly insecure man in thrall to insatiable appetites for sex, drink, gambling and social status which precipitated his fall from stardom and fame to a squalid, hand-to-mouth existence by the late 1960s.By 1967, with his bloated, heavily made-up face and dyed hair, Hutchinson was a caricature of the once beautiful black Adonis that conquered the heights of British society and stardom. He died in 1969 of 'overwhelming pneumonia' and virtually penniless. Only 42 people attended his funeral yet notably, Lord Mountbatten paid for the cost of his funeral. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia & Amazon)