Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012

In the words of a great friend Herb Mayfield: My Gosh, My Golly.

In just a few minutes, at a little after 8:AM this morning I will become 60 years old.

Never thought of myself saying that....

I call my students, my experts, they see the world in a way that those of us have been around for a while have forgotten. I rely on their wisdom on a regular basis...

A few weeks ago somehow the subject of age came up in a class discussion. One little girl asked "Mr. Hutchens how old are you?" and I said I'm which she immediately replied."You know what my grandpa said about 59". To which I said no, what?

She replied "The only reason to be 59 is to give you a year to be prepared to become 60?.

My experts are correct again, it has made it easier to say 60.

I guess I feel 60, as I've never been it before, but I know that I've had a great run, met so many wonderful individuals all over the country and across the globe taking a little of each of our experiences that we have shared and made it in my own way mine.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sonny Osborne's answering machine

Never take the words you say or the words you hear for granted........

In the late 80's I was living the "Life of Riley"....working for The Gibson Guitar Company that appreciated what I did {at least I thought so}and being allowed to do some things for people who had deserved them for a long time, but never been given credit...

I called Sonny Osborne's number one day and of course got his answering machine....and at the end...Sonny in his warm baritone voice....said "be sure to be careful out on those highways, look out for the other fellow and by all means wear your seat belt".
I thought this was pretty neat....soon I got a new answering machine at home and it had a 25 second space for my message that needed to be filled....otherwise I'd get in and get the message......something like " 532 give me a call when you come in".... with me not knowing who in the heck called...I decided that I needed to completely fill the 25 seconds welcome time so folks who called couldn't start leaving their message too soon.....

So from that point on and until this day my answering machine message says "Hi friends, This is
Doug, I hope things are well in your world today. I'm not by the phone right now, but if you'd like to leave your name, your number and a message and I'll be more than happy to get back with you when I come in.....In the mean time, be sure to be careful out on those highways, look out for the other fellow and by all means wear those seat belts."........

Well, here is the rest of the story.....In the late 80's I did a syndicated radio program called Blue Grass Today and from time to time I would call the record company's for various reasons....I had called Turquoise Records in Whitesburg, Ky for something one day and later Pat Martin its owner returned my call.....With me not being at home she got my answering machine and thinking the message was cute she redialed the number and let her daughter Crystal listen to it.......They laughed and went on about their business....

Later in the day....They were going to take a lawnmower over to Norton Va (I think they were driving a Blazer, or some sort of vehicle where the lawnmower was inside with them) to have some work done on it and when they got in the vehicle Crystal said to Pat....Mom, You know what Doug said "Be sure to wear your seat belt....." So she put it on, they laughed and went on to Norton, got the mower fixed and headed back home.....Again Crystal reminded Mom what Doug had said......
Well for those who do not know: there is a mountain where Virginia and Ky meet on Highway 23 just above Jenkins Ky.....At this point in time it was a winding two lane road.....and on the way back and going down grade toward Jenkins Pat's right front wheel went off the pavement and caused the vehicle flip and to plummet over the guard rail and down the mountain side......

Some of the first rescue workers at the scene were Pat's neighbors....Knowing that Pat....excuse my language but "drove like a bat out of hell sometimes and never wore a seat belt"...thought that things were not going to be good.....The vehicle flipped several times and finally caught on a small tree....Pat and Crystal were pulled from the wreckage.......

They were banged up and bruised...but both were OK.....

Sonny Osborne's message that I took and used possibly and probably saved the lives of these two great ladies.....or at least caused their injuries to be much less severe.

I don't think I have even told Sonny about this.....

The Long and the Short of this.....say what you mean, mean what you say and love the people you say it too......

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Association with The Gibson Guitar Company

In 1984 I was in Nashville doing some things for Bill Monroe's birthday and I asked around to find where the Gibson was located. I knew they had moved to Nashville but I'd never had any contact with the company. I'd know some of the workers at Kalamazoo, Jim Durlu and J.P.Moats, but I'd never made any contact with anyone in Nashville.

I went down on Massman Drive and went into the receptionist area and asked if they did factory tours to which I found that they didn't. I spoke to the nice receptionist and told her of my interest in the banjo and she said "Wait a minute" and got on the phone. Shortly a pleasant sandy headed gentleman came out and they spoke for a second. He was Nick Kimmons, he came over to me and said that " said you are interested in banjos" and continued while they didn't have a tour as such, he could give me a 10 or 15 minute quick look inside.

We went into the plant and I was immediately amazed. Work stations were laid out around the plant, neck shaping, sanding, binding......... Then I looked up at a long serpentine moving line about 14 or 15 feet in the air that traveled thru out the plant. It reminded me of the moving rack that some Dry Cleaners have to call up your order, except it was a continuously moving with guitar necks and bodies....every now and then you'd see a banjo neck, a rim or a resonator on the line. The parts once they were "prepped" were put on the line which went thru the "paint booth" where the stain and finish were applied. After each application they were put back on the line in order to dry before the next coat of finish.

We went to the back of the building where the wood came into the plant then to the huge CNC carving machines creating Les Paul bodies.

I asked about the banjo department and he kind of chuckled as we walked, soon we got to this possibly 8 or 10 foot cubicle with a rack of tubes where finished banjo necks awaited assembly and a shelving unit that had some pot assemblies and resonators on it...this along with his work bench was pretty much the banjo department.

He explained that the wooden parts went thru the same neck shaping stations where the guitar necks were shaped, the rims and resonators were prepared (sanded and bound) by the same people that did the work on all the other instruments then they were put on the "line" for stain and finish.
I was amazed.
As we sat and talked he said he had been assembling banjos for a few years now and asked me since I knew something about banjos, "Were these nuts put on right?. He pulled a RB 250 pot assembly off the shelf and handed it to me. He said that some there at the factory said they went one way and others said they went the other way. They were all upside down from the way the Pre War Gibson's were done. Nick explained that they seemed to grab the threads faster the way he was doing them but if they were wrong he'd change them.

That 10 or 15 minute tour turned into 2 hours, talking about different aspect of banjo building and assembly.

I asked him about what they did when they had 2nd parts. I had for some time been buying Martin 2nd guitar parts thru the 1833 shop at Martin and 2nd banjo parts from Stewart MacDonald in Athens Ohio. I'd even purchased some 2nd Gibson parts from Dave Kennedy who would get them from the factory in Kalamazoo. He said that any thing with much of a flaw was scrapped and sent to the dumpster. I kidded him "now just where is this dumpster" which he said "As you go back out the door its to your left at the end of the building"...and from time to time you would see people going thru the dumpster. As I left, I thought what the heck and walked down to the dumpster....most of it was boxes but I could see some bandsawn parts of electric guitars...fully finished mind you but cut to where they were unusable. I didn't go diving, but I did manage to find the scroll from a F5 Mandolin and a couple of Earl Scruggs banjo peg heads that had been cut off....
I was so glad that I had went by and met Nick, little did either of us know that a few years later we would work together.

Recently I asked Nick about how he became the lead man in the banjo department.  

I had been working in the machining dept for about 2 years,starting employment in Oct.1978,  

A job posting came up for final assembly,I told my supervisor I wanted to put in for that position.  He told me the next step after that would be out the door.  I wanted to try anyway. Little did he know after 38 years I still work for them engraving.

The harder and longer the guitars took to assembled the better I  liked it.  I started working for the R & D department with Bruce Bowling and Jim Huchinson assembling;  L5's ,Super 400 , , Johnny Smith and the other carved top guitars,  I also started assembling Charlie Derrington's production mandolins. 

Kalamazoo was all gone except the banjos and orders started piling up in the R and D dept and no one was interested in them.  At about that time the Union tried to get in the plant and the company changed there job placement program, so when the banjos were offered as a position, they offered it to the senior person in final assembly which was Mary St.John. She wanted it and they flew Roger Siminoff in to train her for 1 week.  She lasted about 2 to 3 weeks and kept wanting me to help her with repairs and so on and I finally ask her why she didn't let somebody who wanted that job to have it. She ask who and I replied myself, little did I know that a tube and plate with a black rim ,3 piece neck would start my adventure with those banjos.  

I started with one model and in Oct.2002 and had 22 models going.when I left to start my own business ...  I started engraving in 1993 and continue today(12/2015) I've been engraving for them now for 23 years.  
Nick Kimmons and Earl Scruggs with an early Earl Scruggs Model Gibson Banjo...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My association with Gibson Guitar Part 2

The 1986 at the first International Bluegrass Music Trade Show and Fan Fest was held outside in English Park in Owensboro Kentucky.

I had started a radio program that I hoped to syndicate to stations across the country. Tony Testerman helped me and we participated in the Trade Show. Just up the tent from where we were set up, Gibson had a display of instruments. It was the typical line of acoustic guitars, F5 mandolins and banjos of the day with the exception of a prototype "Granada" which after looking at it from afar I was disgusted with it...

Charlie Deerington was in charge  mandolin building at Gibson at the time and were making reasonable mandolins and a run of the mill RB 250 and two years earlier issued a Earl Scruggs Model.

Charlie asked what I thought of the "Granada" and I wouldn't even pick it up. Its looks were, to the trained eye, nothing like a Granada of the 1930's which this was supposed to be a recreation of. Charlie just thought I was a snob I guess until he asked Pete Kuykendall "Who does this guy think he is." Pete told him that I had been studying and working on pre-war instruments for several years.

Fast forward a few months.... (Remainder Under Construction)

Founding Member of the IBMA

February 9, 1986
It took a few months to get things going but they've been going ever since.

During 1985 Lance Leroy was the driving force that encouraged the formation of an organization dedicated to Blue Grass Music. Using the frameworks of a Nashville Blue Grass Orgainzation which published a regular perodical "The Nashville Skyline Rag", he assembled a group of Industry professionals in the late spring for the purpose of making a Blue Grass Organization a reality.
In October of 1985 I attended the second organisational meeting of what was to become the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association).
It was held in Nashville; in a small auditorium, if my memory serves me right, on the Belmont College Campus.

Electricity was in the air that day. Several attempts had been made to create a National Blue Grass Music Association and to this point in time all had failed with the exception of SPBGMA, which was more of a mid west(Missouri area) based organization(even though they had moved thier award program to Nashville). Interested individuals who worked or was interested in Blue Grass Music had traveled from all parts of the country to be at this meeting.

Art Menius agreed to act as Executive Director and Randall Hylton agreed handle the Secretary/Treasurer's duties. It was decided that in order to move forward with the creation of such an organization there was a need for some "seed money"; for postage and other incidentals to get the ball rolling.
It was decided that anyone willing to make the donation of $100.00 would be known as a "Founding Member" .

I was proud to be able to be there and become a part of history.

First Meetings with Sonny Osborne

The first time I ever saw The Osborne Brothers was at Stones Dairy Barn. "Up this Hill and Down" had just come out as a single. That would put it in the summer of 1966. I had a cousin who was about to graduate at Berea College, he was going to meet a friend there and ask if I wanted to go.
Stones Dairy Barn was near Bassett Va. and was an old actual dairy barn that had been changed into a place where they had weekly dance. Reno & Smiley worked Stones Dairy Barn regularly and would always tell who was working there each week on their TV show.We went on over and the Osborne’s were there. They had a bus it wasn't painted like Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg's Bus that I'd seen but impressive none the less.......I learned later that that it was a bus that they had purchased from (I thought they said Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper) but Sonny recently said it was from Charlie Louvin. I never saw them in that bus again.

I saw them the November of 68 at the Lake Norman Music Hall at the first festival that I attended.

Our first real conversation was March 7, 1969
I went to the Sandy Ridge School about 6 miles from home to see Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs... To my surprise there was The Osborne Brothers were parked where Flatt and Scruggs always parked their bus. I paid and went on inside.

The Sandy Ridge High School Auditorium which was, for that period, was a typical school house auditorium that was located in the center of the building with classrooms on both sides of the seating area and past the stage area as well. I was headed back to the classroom where I had seen Lester and Earl and Jim and Jesse use as a tune up room at past shows and as I passed the back stage door there was Sonny. He was sitting on the stage with his banjo, curtains drawn and just sitting there with his banjo.
As I approached he smiled and motioned for me to drag up a chair. I did and asked if some of Flatt and Scruggs band was sick or something....To which he looked me straight in the eye and said "You haven't heard?" I stuttered and stammered no...He said "They broke up". I was shocked.
He said that they had broken up the past Saturday night and Earl had called him on Monday and asked if they would work a few of the upcoming up dates rather than cancel them.

We sat there for a long time, he told me that the two bands had played several shows in the past few weeks together.......Then he said some words that are cemented in my brain and showed me who the real Sonny Osborne was. He said with in a voice so sincere. "You know I've never known a world with out a Flatt and Scruggs." As he said those words a tear trailed down his cheek and fell onto the banjo head. That night I found that Sonny, deep down, was one of the most caring individuals I would ever know when it came to his circle of friends and those in the entertainment world. When the IBMA was formed he worked tirelessly in making sure that a Trust Fund was an important component of the new organization. On numerous occasions Sonny has gone to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund to assist musicians around the country when they had hard times.
I'm so proud and honored to be able to call him a friend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harry Sparks and Sonny Osborne

Doug Hutchens Harry Sparks

Harry has been the greatest influence on me to learn the fine points of Gibson banjos and to always be honest, and truthful in dealing in instruments. January 14, 2012

This is the first time Harry Sparks and I ever had a photo made together. Harry is the person who me inspired me via a banjo parts trade in Berryville Va, 1969 to love the instrument. His guidance and friendship encouraged me to study what The Gibson Guitar Company did during the Golden Age of banjos from the late 20's thru the early 1940's.

Harry has always been the big brother I never had as far as a model for honesty, integrity to our fellow man and being a good steward in the care and some time resurection of these instruments we love.

I took the information he intrusted with me and hope that I did some good things for the banjo world. Had it not been for Harry Sparks and the time he invested in me; the changes of the Gibson banjo line 1987 would have never happened the way it did.

In this photo Harry and I had not seen each other in about 24 years, but within 10 minutes of greeting each other....we began the conversation where we left off in 1988.

Harry Sparks, Sonny Osborne, Doug Hutchens
Taken January 14, 2012 at a gathering where old banjos caused wonderful people to gather.

This is the 2nd photo that Harry Sparks and I ever had taken......The other guy...He's not just any other guy.....It has been an honor to be able to call this great entertainer and a Prince of a Human Being our friend. Harry, Sonny and I, we do have a little history together too. The planets were in alignment...and things were "just supposed to be the way they happened".
Guys, I cannot imagine who I would be had our paths not crossed....and I hope they cross many more times..I love both of you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

3 years ago I began this journey

After returning from the Banjothon in 2009 I wrote the following(My first Blog entry; in part).

........I guess what scares me the most about this undertaking is that after all my remembrances are no longer stored in my body, what will be left of me; a few bones in a bag of skin; for who I am is not of my making. Many, many wonderful people have a lot of time, effort and friendship invested in who I am. After all my thoughts, feelings and words are released, there will be little left of me.
Its been a wonderful trip so far, and I'll share it with anyone who wishes to take a few minutes...
January 16, 2009

January 16, 2012
I had great intentions of writing more often , I've not been a good steward of the oportunity, I will do better!
I have committed some of myself, but when I sit down to put words to paper, so many wonderful memories fight each other for the space I am to fill at that sitting... Possibly its just a way those memories see an opportunity to escape my captivity and and again flow in the light that made them so special in my world of the past...

I only hope and pray at some point in time; some word I say, some action I take, or some deed I'm associated with, makes a difference for someone....not for them to remember my name but to make all my friends efforts in me worthwhile.