One of the most fascinating stories from the early jazz age would have to that of Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, who left behind a budding career in the US in fear of the Ku Klux Klan, only to become a star in Europe. In fact, during the 1920s and 1930s he was one of the biggest cabaret performers around; a handsome, charismatic singer and pianist whose lifestyle led to him being called ‘high society’s favorite gigolo’.
Born in 1900 on the Caribbean island of Grenada, Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson was the son of a church organist who made sure his offspring had a musical background, even though he had higher hopes for him. While still in his teens, young Leslie moved to New York to study but found himself drawn to a musical career. He began by playing piano and singing in bars, and within a few years he was playing in area bands and beginning to make records.
Unfortunately, the band Hutch played for was so popular with high society fans that it was targeted by the KKK, and he fled to Europe. Shortly before that he had married and fathered a daughter, but it’s unclear whether they made the trip with him. In any case, it didn’t take long for him to become a cabaret star — first in Paris, and then in London — while also becoming the favorite of many of his upper class female fans. (And possibly a few men too — he was rumored to be bisexual.) At least one of his affairs with a British socialite resulted in a scandal when it produced another of what would eventually be his eight children (with seven different women).
Although Hutch continued to be a popular attraction in England for many years, he did have a setback in the mid-1930s when he was romantically linked with a titled member of the British aristocracy. Some of his previous fans deserted him after that, and he was no longer welcome to perform at any royal functions. Still, he continued to stay busy on stage, radio, and TV as the years passed, but eventually his career wound down and he was also dogged by ill health. He died in 1969.
Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – “Begin the Beguine”