Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Passing of My Father, James Aubrey Hutchens

James Aubrey Hutchens and his great grand son Mason Michael Bennett............

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Passing of my Father, Aubrey Hutchens

James Aubrey Hutchens and his great grandson Mason Michael Bennett

Yesterday morning about 9:15 March 12, 2009 my father passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time, it was his time.

My sister Vicki has been his constant caretaker for the past 4 weeks, never leaving him. We all take such comfort in that in his last days, he wasn't in pain. He will be with us as we awake in the morning and as we retire each evening for as long as we live.

Dad was one of those guys that all the little kids and animals took too. A couple of years ago we had a stray cat that someone put out and it showed up at the barn. He was solid black and we started calling him Midnight. You could tell that the cat had been mistreated and was very very shy. After it had been around about a month one morning I went around to the back of the house and Daddy said watch this. When he opened the basement door to let our dog Bobo out (Dad always put the dog in the basement in cold weather) and the dog and the cat walked out and both were all around dad's legs, each wanting more attention that the other. A few days later when I happened to be out at the barn when Dad fed the horse, he said "Watch this". As he leaned over into the stall to put some sweet feed in there for Bill, the horse, Midnight was in the loft just above his head and when he leaned over into the stall, the cat would tap him on the cap, he would lean in again and the cat would tap him again. Dad had gotten some cat food and was feeding him at the barn each morning and evening as he put Bill up.

He loved all of us but his pride and joy was the Grand Kids, Brikk, Gage and Cristen and then Brikk's little boy Mason. He dearly loved them.

I sure wish they could have had more time together.

When I started to learn to play the banjo, Dad got me my first one for Christmas in 1963. Lillian my Mom, and her family all could play the guitar and two of Dad's younger brothers, Bruce and John played, but Dad never did.

He did enjoy music though. He and Mom loved to dance. In the early 1960's, when they started having "Round and Square Dances" at the local Virginia North Carolina Ruritan Building they needed someone to call the dances. Up until that time he had never done it but he started and called the dances for all the years that the dance continued. I have very fond memories of trying to learn to play the banjo and watching Mom and Dad and my sisters Kathy and Vicki dancing.

In the late 60's he and I went to the first show where I saw Bill Monroe. It was from that show that we heard of a festival that was going to be held at Terrell North Carolina the first week of November so we went and slept in the car for two nights. Boy Oh Boy it was cold, but we enjoyed it.

Later when I went to work with Bill Monroe for the summer of 1971 Bill had told me that they would call when they got to Bristol and to meet them at the truck stop in Roanoke. So Mom and Dad and my sisters all went. I was really excited to be able to go to travel with Bill Monroe. When we got there they were just coming out of the truck stop after eating and I put my stuff on the bus. Bill, Dad and Mom all stood by the car and talked for a little while. Then it was time to go and Dad and Bill walked away and talked for a few minutes. That is one of the most wonderful memories I have in life seeing my Dad and Bill just walking and talking and knowing that Dad was probably telling Bill something like now that boy's never been away from home that much and if he gets out there and gets into something you set him straight. I never ask Bill or Dad what was said, but I've always tried to be the kind of person that both of them would be proud of.

In the mid 80's my sisters and I decided that we needed to take Mom and Dad to Nashville. Back then you had to get tickets months in advance if you wanted the good seats. At that point the Artist had to let the Opry know by Wednesday if they would be in town for the either Friday or Saturday shows. My spirits were crushed when I found that Bill wasn't going to be in town that weekend. For some reason I just had a feeling so I called Kenny Bakers number after we got in town on friday and low and behold he answered. I said I thought you guys were out of town and he said that they had a date cancelled and would be working the Opry that night. Again I felt pretty bad because we only had tickets for Saturday nights show. He said "Well, just call out the the farm and Bill will take care of you". I burned the phone up all afternoon to no avail, when I tried to call Kenny back he had left too. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to be able to see Bill this time. We went on out to the Cracker Barrell on Music Valley Drive and were eating supper and in a few minutes Bill walked in. He immediately saw Mom and Dad and came over. He asked if we were coming to the Opry and I told him that we had tickets for Saturday night. He said "Well I'll take care of that". So after eating he put Mom and Dad in his Limo and the rest of us followed. Mom and Dad really had a great time back stage at the Opry. It couldn't have turned out better.
Bill checking the schedule of who he was introducing on his portion of the Opry

Bill after introducing the act after he had opened the show....from Mom and Dad's seat ON STAGE.....

Mom, Bill, Dad back stage at the Opry

After Dad retired he started helping LaRay Smith who runs a machine shop in the area. It gave Dad something to do that he enjoyed. One weekend I mentioned something about a guy who was having problems getting capos made. He inquired about what the problem was and I told him that they wanted them made of Stainless Steel and so far hadn't found anyone to make them. He said let him talk to LaRay and see what he thought. I was on the road somewhere for Gibson and called home and Dad said that LaRay wanted to see what we wanted made. I told him which banjo had one like I was talking about so he took it and that led to LaRay and Tom McKinney getting together. This was about the time that Tom's patented capo was ready to be made. Soon they started making those for Tom and later for Bill Stokes at Showcase. LaRay still makes components for several of those products.

A year or so after this Little Roy Lewis started saying that someone had to start making some good fingerpicks. That led to LaRay making the tooling to stamp the Roy's Own picks. For the first few years I punched them and did the the shaping and finishing as well. Later Lynwood Lunceford, Jamie Holt did the punching but Dad took over the shaping and finishing.

Later when Jamie Holt went to college, Dad took over the complete operation. Doing the punching all the shaping and the finishing and Mom would package them. About this time we started doing some special picks for Bob Perry and Dad even did a special run of picks for Ralph Stanley. Dad always took such pride in anything he did. Little Roy would call them every month or so and he and Dad always enjoyed each other’s company. When ever Ralph was in the area they would sit and talk about things.

Mom and Dad both have enjoyed the music through the years and I thank them for the encouragement to go and follow my dream.

I'll close for now, but I just had to get a few feelings committed into words and anyone who had chosen to read, I thank you.

Arrangements are:
Visitation 6-8PM Saturday March 14, 2009 at Community Funeral Home in Patrick Springs, Virginia with the Funeral Services to be held at 2PM Sunday March 15, 2009 at the same location. Burial will be at the Pleasant Grove Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. go to movie

Doug Hutchens

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Successful Life

"A successful life is made up of the people you meet and the experiences you share."

Doug Hutchens

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


"True Leaders give birth to new paths; but many times followers deepen, widen and sometimes turn them into ruts". (in a meeting during the summer of 1975)

Doug Hutchens

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Meeting Arthur Johnson and being a member of the Appalachian Semester Panel

In the early 1970’s , I think it was 1971, Julian Mosley the Director of the Appalachian Semester at Union College in Barbourville Kentucky ask me to be on a panel with Arthur Johnson and Julia Ann Fleming.

(This was about the time that the of Berea’s First Appalachian Music Symposium was held as well. Dr. Gary English asked Glenn Lawson, Dean Louie Smith and I go out to Indian Fort Theater and do some photos for the promotion of an Appalachian Music Symposium beginnings which were little more than a concert of local entertainers at Phelps Stokes Chapel. Later it became a multi-day more scholarly approach of traditional music. This was my innatial introduction to Glenn who became a wonderful friend and band mate for the remainder of our time in college. At that point Glenn was playing a 12 string guitar with a big Peace Symbol on it and we didn‘t know if for some time but Dean Smith didn‘t play the fiddle, it was one he just bought somewhere and it was a joke having him
look as if he was playing. Dean Louie Smith was one of the most beloved members of the Berea College Community)

Julia Ann who was a musicologist and working on an advanced degree at Indiana University and Arthur who was a living, breathing and walking encyclopedia of traditional music from the mountains. I was to add a Bluegrass perspective to the group. Our sessions were always held on a Friday.

The original format was two morning sessions, two afternoon sessions and an evening performance. It was a very informal atmosphere with the 3 of us sitting on a corner couch and chair and with students either sitting on the floor or in folding chairs.
The morning usually began with Julia Ann or Arthur with either a dulcimer or guitar accompanied song and that would lead to a lively interchange of facts and questions. a discussion of music and its role through the ages, music from the British Isles, Child Ballads, Broadsides, early collectors like Cecil Sharp were usually a good area of discussion.

As the day progressed, the discussion moved into the role of music in the daily life of the pioneers, immigration patterns of people and how traditions were maintained and evolved, the various schools of thought of the origin of the dulcimer, early commercial entertainers on the radio such as the Carter Family, The Monroe Brothers, Early Radio Programs, like Farm and Fun Time, WSL Barn Dance, WSM Grand Ole Opry, The Renfro Valley Barn Dance then on into early country entertainers, then known as hillbilly musicians.
We would talk about the music for a while then someone would sing or play an example.

I learned a lot. Most of the information I knew was from early (commercial) country music. I had been a member of a the Berea Country Dancer’s a folk dance troupe that did all sorts of Folk Dances from around the world and had heard of Cecil Sharpe. I don’t mind telling you that I felt totally out of my element the first morning, but as the day progressed Arthur in his folksy way brought me around. He has a wonderful and sensitive approach to the music and its people and I’ve never felt out of place around him since then.
After the first year Julian left Union College and Sherman Oxendine took over the Appalachian Semester. Sherman was a wonderful warm individual that always reminded me of my Uncle Eustace. Easy going and so appreciative of all that we did at Union College. It was during the time that Sherman was the Director of the Appalachian Semester that it really blossomed. After a few years it was only Arthur and I doing the sessions. We kept the same format as before with Arthur filling in on the things that Julia had talked about in previous years.
Sherman arranged for us to visit to the local radio station WYWY during the noon hour while folks were eating their lunch which provided a great opportunity to invite the community to the evening concert. Soon our audience grew so large we had to move from the multi-purpose room to the Little Theater there at Union College.

We had a number of wonderful students as well as local entertainers that always came and was a part of the program. I can remember Doc (and my mind goes blank of his last name) and his Full Gospel Banjo Band who always had request for “The Cat Came Back“ , The Phipps Family who did wonderful Original Carter Family Music. There were many, many others which escape me now, but those evenings were a wonderful and magical example of the power of music.
The evening sessions were always well attended by the community.

When Sherman retired in 1984 the format of The Appalachian Semester Traditional Music Symposium remained but 1985 was the last year that I participated. Since then Arthur and I have performed many times. He came to Alice Lloyd College for a couple of performances while I worked there and did convocations of which I had the honor to play with him on and for the past several years he had graciously joined us at Our Appalachia Day at Alice Lloyd College.

For some of Arthurs music,%20Kentucky/field/all/mode/exact/conn/and/order/subjec
Arthur Johnson is a wonderful entertainer and great friend.

Doug Hutchens