Rock 'n' roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis released his latest album, "Mean Old Man," in September. With a title track composed by Kris Kristofferson and a sprinkling of covers of classic songs from the Stones' "Sweet Virginia" to Creedence's "Bad Moon Rising," the project features a host of stellar guest musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and John Fogerty. And for bass duties on a couple of tracks the rock pioneer relied on Maui's James "Hutch" Hutchinson.
Hutch previously teamed with Lewis on his earlier star-studded recording, "Last Man Standing," and actually played on the soundtrack of the Lewis biopic "Great Balls of Fire," starring Dennis Quaid.
"I had a band with Dennis at the time and I was asked to play with Jerry and his original guitarist," Hutch recalls. "It was Jerry's original band and me. Jerry Lee is the last man standing from the entire Sun Records catalogue. It's an incredible achievement. On 'Mean Old Man,' I played on 'Roll Over Beethoven' with Ringo and (drummer) Jim Keltner, double drums. John Lennon used Ringo and Keltner on a lot of his stuff."
James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Ricky Fataar photo
An esteemed bassist, over the years Hutch has contributed to 21 Grammy Award-winning records, and worked with an amazing, diverse roster of artists from B.B. King to Ziggy Marley, Elton John to Ringo Starr, and Willie Nelson to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Most recently he played some bass on the brilliant new CD by the Doobie Brothers, "World Gone Crazy," which was hailed by the New York Post as a Grammy contender for Album of the Year.
"I love those guys," Hutch enthuses. "I played on a track with Willie Nelson, so it's kind of a Maui track." Co-composed by Pat Simmons and Nelson, the beautiful ballad "I Know We Won" is destined for classic status. "It's really nice and I got to stretch out on the bass part," he adds. "I have a history with those guys going back to the early '70s."
John Cruz, accompanied by bassist "Hutch" Hutchinson, plays Stella Blues Supper Club on Friday and Saturday. Dinner and show costs $60, show only costs $30. Reservations are required. Call-874-3779.
Ask about a particular recording and you tap into Hutch's encyclopedic knowledge of music across a complete spectrum of styles. He's privileged to have worked with so many great artists, and obviously there's mutual respect because they keep calling.
So it's no surprise to hear he almost joined the Rolling Stones. A former member of New Orleans' legendary Neville Brothers band, Hutch knew the Stones well from opening a number of tour dates.
"I did preproduction for (Stones' CD) 'Voodoo Lounge,' " he explains. "I was one of the finalists for the gig. When Bill Wyman left the band, my mom, who was a big Stones fan, said you should call Keith (Richards) and tell him you want the gig. I said, he probably assumes that. I talked with John Entwhistle (The Who's bassist) about it and he said, 'You'll be perfect.' A couple of months go by and I was in Paris recording with Bryan Adams, when Mick (Jagger) calls and asks me to go to Ireland where they were working at Ron Wood's studio.
"So I hung out with the Stones for three weeks and recorded a bunch of tracks, and I think a few have come out on bootlegs. (Stones' drummer) Charlie (Watts) would make tea about 1 in the afternoon and Mick would show up and the three of us would work on arrangements. Keith and Ronnie would get up around 4:30 in the afternoon. The World Cup was on so we'd watch football after dinner and then we'd adjourn to the studio and work to about 1 or 2 in the morning when Mick would leave, and Charlie, Ronnie and Keith and I would stay to around 6 a.m. It was great.
"Ron had a pub on the property next to the recording studio. And all these farmers would come in from the fields and have pints with Keith and Ronnie. We'd be chatting away. It was like the local for all these guys."
A couple of years earlier Hutch had been invited by Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr to play on his critically acclaimed comeback album, "Time Takes Time."
"Ringo is one of the best drummers on the planet," he notes. "The Beatles took a long time to make records and they would refine and refine their parts. Jim Keltner pointed out to me if you listen to Beatles' outtakes, George and John and Paul would be noodling around on tunes, but on every take, from the very earliest ones, Ringo is spot on. He's a consummate musician and just a wonderful human being. And he has an incredible sense of humor."
Growing up in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass., Hutch hung around clubs in Harvard Square and Boston in the early and mid-1960s during the folk and blues revival. He later attended the Berklee School of Music. As a preteen he had sung and played guitar and mandolin in bluegrass groups, but switched to the bass guitar after seeing soul great Wilson Pickett and his band.
Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, he met legendary guitarist John Cipollina of the pioneering psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service, and was soon jamming with musicians like Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart and former Rod Stewart keyboardist Pete Sears. Hutch joined Cipollina's group, Copperhead, who performed at one of the Diamond Head Crater Festivals (known then as Sunshine fests) in the early 1970s.
He next spent time in Central America playing Latin jazz, and then back in the States he moved to New Orleans, where he spent five years playing bass with the Neville Brothers and other local legends like Professor Longhair, James Booker and The Wild Tchoupitoulas.
While playing with the Nevilles, opening shows on the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You tour, Hutch struck up a friendship with their keyboardist, Ian McLagen, who subsequently introduced him to Bonnie Raitt. Joining Raitt's band in 1983, he's played with the acclaimed, multi-Grammy-winning musician ever since.
Over the years in between recording and touring with Raitt, his studio credits include working with Brian Wilson, Al Green, The Chieftains, Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, Bob Seger, Garth Brooks, Lyle Lovett, The B-52s, Etta James, Vince Gill, Randy Newman, Stevie Nicks and Roy Orbison.
"One of my most interesting weeks was working with Ziggy Marley, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Chieftains, and B.B. King all in the same week," he reports.
So how does he effortlessly cross genres and styles with so many extraordinary artists?
"You have to be open to different forms and genres," he suggests. "So many people limit themselves. There were forms initially that I wasn't attracted to that I would force myself to listen to because I wanted to find out culturally and socially why people listened to that type of music. I get as much joy out of playing a simple country bass part as I do playing jazz or Afro-Cuban music."
Moving to Maui around five years ago, Hutch is often asked to perform with local artists like John Cruz, Paula Fuga, Hapa, and Barry Flanagan and Eric Gilliom. He closed out 2008 playing with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann at Charley's (and subsequently toured with him), and closed 2009 at Charley's backing Willie Nelson and special guest Alanis Morissette.
Earlier this year he toured with Hapa on a number of North American dates.
Barry Flanagan first met the bassist after opening a Bonnie Raitt concert on Maui in 2007.
"He's a mentor to me," says Barry. "Being around Hutch these last three years has had a profound effect on me. He's always a reminder to think and be more musical, as he is truly an individual who looks at art, music and life very intimately."
"I played with Hapa in Boston on St. Patrick's Day, and then went and played with Matt Molloy, one of The Chieftains," Hutch says.
"Matt's son said, 'Only you would play with a Hawaiian band in the most Irish of cities on the most Irish of holidays.' I played with Hapa at Club Passim, which used to be called Club 47, where Dylan and Joan Baez started out. I saw Bill Monroe and Howlin' Wolf there when I was a kid. I actually had a tear in my eye playing there with my friends from Hawaii. It was an incredible chicken-skin moment."
Legendary Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann brings his new 7 Walkers band to Charley's on Friday night and Paia Gardens on Saturday, performing with funky bluesman/voodoo electronic pioneer Papa Mali and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard.
The new collective has recorded a debut album with some songs co-composed by famed Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. JamBase praised their music as "a fiery and funky collection of tunes that quite brilliantly captures these two very different musical shamans." And Willie Nelson sings on one track, "King Cotton Blues."
Popular "new roots" reggae band Iration returns to Maui to play two shows at Lahaina's Hard Rock Caf on Saturday.
Iration's debut album, "No Time for Rest," featured one of the last recorded performances by reggae legend Mikey Dread. They've shared the stage with Steel Pulse, Stephen Marley, The English Beat and Yellowman, and their music was featured on MTV's "Maui Fever" and "Living Lahaina."
The 3 p.m. show is for all ages; It's 21 and over at 9 p.m. The Throwdowns will open. Tickets are $20.