John Dale (aka J.D.) Hutchison, 81, of Athens, died on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at The Laurels of Athens.
J.D. Hutchison was born just west of Barnesville, Ohio, on Oct. 5, 1940, to Emma Jane (Harper) Hutchison and John William Hutchison. His father was a guitarist and fiddler, and his parents performed as a singing duo around Belmont County, Ohio.
J.D., an Air Force veteran, was the second of four sons. He was preceded in death by his parents and by two brothers, James Hutchison and Robert Lewis Hutchison.
He is survived by his brother William Hutchison of Warnock, Ohio, and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, a great-great niece and a great-great nephew.
J.D. was an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist. His stage performances were always memorable, blending traditional Appalachian folksongs, early country and western songs, Elizabethan ballads, Delta Blues and humorous impersonations. His own compositions could touchingly evoke heartbreak and sorrow or blisteringly lampoon current cultural phenomena.
In addition to performing musically as a solo artist, J.D. was a member, with his brother Robert Hutchison, of the acclaimed bluegrass group the Hutchison Brothers Band, which recorded two albums and toured throughout the eastern U.S. in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In the 1980s, J.D. released two solo recordings: A Different Set of Ears and Another Fool’s Cafe.
From the late 1990s until recently, he performed locally as leader and founding member of the band Realbilly Jive, which released three CDs: Realbilly Jive (1999), A Circus Jig (2000), and his final recording, You and the World Outside (2016). The latter album was produced by J.D.’s close friend, Tim O’Brien, a Grammy-award winning recording artist, musician and songwriter, who drew early inspiration from J.D.’s work. Over the years, the Realbillies gave countless live performances on radio and in clubs and theaters in Athens and the surrounding area, entertaining thousands of loyal fans.
In 2003, J.D. teamed up with long-time friends Mimi Hart and Jeff deLaval to record deLaval’s album about space aliens, Sleepyhead—The Visit.
J.D.’s original songs have been recorded by numerous artists, including Tim O’Brien, Robert Earl Keen, K.T. Oslin, Jan Howard, Ginny Hawker, Suzanne Thomas and the bands Hot Rize and Stella.
J.D. was an engaging conversationalist who freely shared his opinions on life, love and classical music with his many friends in the coffee shops of Athens. He excelled as a poet, artist, actor, philosopher, raconteur, bass fisherman, poker player, musical instrument hustler, flea market denizen and snuff dipper. His proficiency at Scrabble earned him the sobriquet “Master of the Tiles.”
Referred to by his father as “Header,” J.D. acquired several other monikers over the years, including “Lost John” (assigned by others), “Cliff Terhune, Bass Master of the Universe,” and the self-anointed “Last of the Iron-Assed Folksingers” and “Mr. Hunchinchinningtonson” (a veiled dig at those who misspelled his surname with an “n” between the “i” and the “s”).
J.D. Hutchison was dearly loved and greatly appreciated during his lifetime. He died peacefully and on his own terms, much as he lived. He will be sorely missed by his family, countless friends and admirers, the Athens community, and all who were blessed to share a stage with him.
J.D.’s team at the Laurels—his nephew Zeke Hutchison and his good friends Eric Gunn and Mimi Hart—are profoundly grateful to the kind nurses and staff at the Laurels, as well as the hospice nurses of OhioHealth.
A service in celebration of J.D.’s life will be held in the spring of 2022, with date and time yet to be determined. His ashes will be committed to the Good Earth by his immediate family in a private ceremony.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Southeast Ohio History Center, 24 W. State Street, Athens OH 45701, to preserve a vast collection of J.D.’s musical, poetic, and artistic creations as the foundation of a regional music archive; or to The Athens Artists Memorial Project www.artistsmemorialproject.org/, which provides music and arts assistance to those in need.
These are tough and tender things. We can only have confidence that the Natural Order of Things prevails--and that a wondrous life well-lived has moved on accordingly. Pain in my heart where better words should be . . . .
—John Dale Hutchison (2018)
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