Tuesday, January 8, 2019

JD's History/Music Corner: Frank Hutchison

The last post rescued from G+ (for now)

Let's talk about Frank Hutchison!

By the time 1920 rolled around, the initial consolidation of record companies had reversed course; the technology to make records had gotten too widespread, too cheap and too standardized for any one entity to control. By 1940, the radio would hammer the revenue stream into place, but before that time wildcat local labels and record companies would bring formerly regional and racially segregated music to a new audience. Overlap between white country music and the blues was already occurring "in the wild", but the technological and financial changes of the 1920s accelerated this process. 

Here's Frank Hutchison, advertised as "the first white bluesman" (this is not true) in a 1929 recording of "K.C. Blues".  He was advertised this way because increasing pressure from radio stations made record labels much more aware of attracting the white audience it perceived as having the ability to buy radio sets.  It was more acceptable for white audiences in 1929 to buy a "white bluesman"'s record (usually by mail order) than just a bluesman's.  

Despite these homogenizing pressures, Hutchison's extremely unusual rhythmic signature sets him apart - just try to track how many parts this single slide guitar plays...and then laugh your ass off when you get to the minute-thirty breakdown. (And 1929 was during Prohibition no less!)  This is a very weird recording made at a time just before the venue for these very weird recordings begins to fade beneath the bright light of radio.