Leslie Hutchinson


'I was lucky, I suppose,
to be in Paris at the time Cole Porter
was starting to write his big hits...
He taught me how to sing his songs and introduced me to the right people."

Hutch - Desert Island Disks 1953

Leslie Arthur Hutchinson was born on the Spice Island of Grenada on the 7th March, 1900. His father, a hatter and dry goods merchant, played the organ in the local church and young Hutch learned to tickle the ivories as soon as he were able to clamber on his knee. HutchThat apart, there was little to suggest that he would have a career in show business.
In his early teens Hutchinson went to New York to study law but he quickly realised that his funds couldn't hope to pay for his tuition let alone his upkeep. He worked in a variety of mundane day-jobs, playing the piano and singing in bars at night, and gradually he developed his own style - a skillful mix of technique, tact and velvet-voiced charm. By 1925, Hutch had already recorded a couple of records and was a member of The Henry 'Broadway' Jones band, playing the millionaire's playground - Palm Beach, Miami. The band lodged in the Negro quarters, segregated from the white wonderland by a narrow wooden bridge, and one steamy Florida night, a sinister flame appeared on a hill overlooking the city. It was the fiery cross of the Klu-Klux-Klan.

'I knew the real ague of terror that night. My legs trembled as the Klansmen passed in parade
Without legal rights of search, they kicked open doors, flashing torches on our faces, demanding to know if we were harbouring their intended victim. When we gave innocent answers, furniture was smashed and our possessions throw around'

Hutch left the USA shortly afterwards and headed instead for France. JazzyWhen he arrived in 1926, fashionable Paris was in the grip of the Jazz-age; the sophisticated night clubs along the Champs-Elysees thronging with society flappers, foreign millionaires and European aristocracy. Hutch, with his suave good looks and mastery of the keyboard, was soon proving quite a draw at Joe Zelli's, a club which numbered amongst its clientele some of the richest hep-cats in all of Europe.

It was here that Hutch was spotted by the London impresario C. B. CochraneQuaglino's who straightaway booked him to play in the Rogers & Hart revue 'One Damn Thing After Another' at the London Pavilion in 1927. He was an immediate hit. The audiences adored his relaxed poise and fluid style. His debonair trademarks of a red carnation buttonhole and a white breast-pocket handkerchief (with which he mopped his brow with flamboyant aplomb), drew such a plethora of gifts from admirers, that he could have easily opened a florists cum milliners with the surplus.

Hutch became the resident entertainer at Quaglino's, one of London's top cabaret night spots, where his renditions of classic Cole Porter song included 'Let's Do It' - a song which Hutch had made his own, and to which he frequently added extra verses... sometimes up to seventy or more.

Hutch's peak years were from the early 1920's till the late 40's and during those two decades, he was a huge star, his records selling by the millions. During the 50's and 60's he regularly appeared on TV and radio, and though ill-health plagued his later years, he continued to perform in cabaret.

Leslie Hutchinson died on the 19th August 1969, and despite his past fame only thirty people attended his funeral. His memory is still alive today in hearts of the many who saw him perform and in the hundreds of classic recordings he left behind him.

Episode V of Series III
The Sexton's Tales:

'Let's Do It'

Airdate: 18th June 1997