The Second Leg
Following on from the Pharther Lap post, another New Zealand guitarist who was early to make a name for himself in Australia was Len Hutchinson. At the Auckland town hall in 1957 he performed with Bernie Allen in some of New Zealand’s earliest rock’n’roll shows, and in June 1959 was name-checked by John Berry in his evocative article for Te Ao Hou, “Maori Entertainers in Auckland”:
Another Maori guitarist with remarkable talent is 21-year-old Lennie Hutchinson, who came to Auckland from Dargaville. He made such rapid progress, playing with the Campbells, the nationally-known John McKenzie trio and with Crombie Murdoch that he decided to try his fortune in Australia. He is now in regular night club work in Sydney. Lennie’s personality and fine fingering technique should take him to the top there.
Soon, Hutchinson would be advertising for Maton guitars, then fly the coop for work in Australia. By 1963 he was playing – like so many New Zealanders – at the Latin Quarter club in Sydney’s King’s Cross. Details of Hutchinson’s career in Australia are sketchy. He can be heard here in 1969 as part of a small jazz combo performing Derek Strahan’s piece ‘On the Reef’ on ABC Radio.
In 1973, for HMV Australia he recorded the live album Guitar Spectacular. The cover has a decidedly K-Tel quality, and the tracks are the standards of a 1960s dine and dance: ‘Girl from Ipanema’, ‘Zorba the Greek’, ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ and ‘Lara’s Theme’. It’s good to see Arthur Smith’s ‘Guitar Boogie’ is there: it was hugely influential on Maori showbands and Gerry Merito among many others. Guitar Spectacular Vol 2 appeared a year or so later, and included a “Maori Medley” of ‘Hoki Mai’ and ‘Pokarekare Ana’.
The photo below shows Hutchinson at a Sydney session in 1976 – it comes from Studio Connections, a website devoted to Sydney musos from the mid-70s who recorded tracks for TV and radio shows. In the flares is Paul Baker, who was in demand at Sydney studios for over 20 years.
On YouTube, Lennie Hutchinson can be heard playing with Swamp Salad, a bunch of top Australia session musicians who made an album called On the Country Line in 1971. Especially trippy is ‘Swamp Salad’, the track that provided their band name. Other tracks include ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘Ode to Billy Joe’ and ‘Willie and Laura Mae ’. That the vocalist on some tracks is a woman called Christine Barnett suggests another New Zealand connection.