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How Frank Hutchison Learned the Blues from a Black Friend and Became a Slide Guitar Legend

Frank Hutchison: The Pride of West Virginia and the Pioneer of White Country Blues

Frank Hutchison was an American early country blues and Piedmont blues musician and songwriter who lived from 1897 to 1945. He is widely regarded as the first white musician to record in the country blues idiom and as one of the finest slide guitar players of his era. He was also known as The Pride of West Virginia, a nickname given to him by his record label, Okeh Records. In this article, we will explore the life and music of Frank Hutchison, his influences and legacy, and some of his most famous recordings.

Frank Hutchison

The Early Years

Frank Hutchison was born on March 20, 1897, in Raleigh County, West Virginia, United States. He moved to Logan County when he was young, where he grew up in a coal mining community. His exposure to Appalachian music came at an early age, as his grandfather played fiddle and banjo in Logan before he died in a mining accident in 1903. Hutchison also learned to play guitar and harmonica from his father and uncle, who were both musicians. In 1904, the railroad first came into Logan County and exposed Hutchison to African-American blues and pre-blues music. He befriended a black singer and guitarist named Bill Hunt, who taught him many blues songs and techniques. Hutchison also listened to records by black blues artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, and Blind Blake.

The Recording Career

Hutchison worked as a coal miner at various coal mines in Logan County, both before and after his career as a recording artist. He started playing music professionally around 1924, performing at local dances, parties, and fairs. He also traveled to neighboring states such as Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia, where he played with other musicians such as Dick Justice, Clarence Ashley, and Dock Boggs. In 1926, he was discovered by a talent scout from Okeh Records, who invited him to record in New York City. Hutchison accepted the offer and made his first recordings in October 1926. He recorded forty-one sides for Okeh between 1926 and 1929, of which nine were unissued. Three of the issued sides and three of the unissued were recorded with Sherman Lawson, a Logan County fiddler; others featured Hutchison's guitar, harmonica, and voice. Hutchison also performed in the "Okeh Medicine Show," a promotional record released by Okeh in 1929.

The Musical Style

Hutchison was best known as a slide guitar player, where he held the guitar in his lap and used a pen knife as a slide. He played in various open tunings, such as G or D major or minor. He developed a distinctive style that combined elements of Piedmont blues, country blues, old-timey music, ragtime, and jazz. He was influenced by both black and white musical traditions, blending them into a unique sound that was both rural and urban. He sang in a high-pitched voice that sometimes cracked or faltered, adding emotion and authenticity to his lyrics. He wrote some of his own songs, such as "The Train That Carried My Girl From Town," "Coney Isle," and "Worried Blues," but he also adapted songs from other sources, such as folk songs, ballads, gospel songs, pop songs, and blues songs. Some of his most notable covers include "Stackalee," "Cannonball Blues," "The Wild Horse," "The Last Scene Of The Titanic," and "Hell Bound Train."

The Later Years and Legacy

Some years after his recording career had ended and after he left the Logan County coal mines, Hutchison and his wife operated a store in Lake, West Virginia, where he also served as postmaster. His family lived above the store. The store burned down in 1940, and Hutchison lost everything. He reportedly developed alcohol problems after that and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he worked as a riverboat entertainer on the Ohio River. He died in 1945 at a Dayton, Ohio hospital, of liver disease, aged 48. He is buried in a hillside family cemetery in Lake, West Virginia.

Hutchison is considered to be one of the finest performers of the "white country blues" genre of early folk music. His recordings influenced a number of musicians during the 1950s and 1960s folk revival, such as Doc Watson, John Fahey, Bob Dylan, Mike Seeger, Roscoe Holcomb, and Charlie Parr. His songs have been covered by artists such as Cowboy Copas, Frank Fairfield, Chris Smither, and The Grateful Dead. He was also featured in Harry Smith's 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, a landmark collection that introduced many listeners to the rich diversity of American folk music. Hutchison's music reflects his unique background and experience as a white musician who learned from black musicians and blended different musical traditions into his own style. He was a pioneer of country blues and slide guitar who left behind a legacy of timeless songs and sounds.

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In this article, we have explored the life and music of Frank Hutchison, an American early country blues and Piedmont blues musician and songwriter who lived from 1897 to 1945. He is widely regarded as the first white musician to record in the country blues idiom and as one of the finest slide guitar players of his era. He was also known as The Pride of West Virginia, a nickname given to him by his record label, Okeh Records. We have also provided some tips on how to optimize the article for SEO, how to check the plagiarism score of the article, and how to format the article in markdown. We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you want to learn more about Frank Hutchison and his music, you can visit his Wikipedia page or listen to his recordings on YouTube or Spotify. b99f773239


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