Obituary: John Hutchinson, musician

John Hutchinson, who has died at 77, was a jazz guitarist from Scarborough and an early collaborator with David Bowie.
John 'Hutch' Hutchinson pictured in 2019. (Photo: David Bowie Official)John 'Hutch' Hutchinson pictured in 2019. (Photo: David Bowie Official)
John 'Hutch' Hutchinson pictured in 2019. (Photo: David Bowie Official)

John Hutchinson, who has died at 77, was a jazz guitarist from Scarborough and an early collaborator with David Bowie.

A veteran of three of Bowie’s bands, his most notable contribution to the catalogue was in his involvement with the creation of the song Space Oddity. Hutchinson played guitar on the early demonstration tapes of February 1969, singing the part of Ground Control to Bowie’s Major Tom. The official studio version of the song, which appeared on Bowie’s self-titled 1969 album, does not include Hutchinson, but the demo version was added to a 2009 reissue of the disc.

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Born in Northallerton and better known as Hutch, he moved with his family to Scholes Park Avenue, Scarborough, in 1958 and went to Scarborough Technical College, but left to become an engineering apprentice.

His music career began after he learned guitar from a friend. His early bands, The Tennesseans and The Dave Kirby Five, supported Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates at the Bridlington, Harrogate and Scarborough Spa Ballrooms and Hutchinson also played solo acoustic concerts in Hull.

He first found bigger success in Gothenburg, where he joined the top Swedish rock and roll band The Apaches. His penchant for performing Bob Dylan songs earned him the label, Sweden’s Donovan.

Returning to England in 1966, he auditioned by chance for a then unknown Bowie, who invited him to join his band, David Bowie and the Buzz, in a residency at London’s Marquee Club. The band made TV and live appearances across the UK, and following a spell in Canada in 1968, Hutchinson returned to join Bowie and his girlfriend Hermione in an acoustic group called Feathers. Space Oddity followed soon afterwards.

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After losing touch for a period, Bowie called him in 1973 to join his new band, Spiders from Mars, as 12-string guitarist on his Aladdin Sane tours of the US, Japan and Britain, during which he performed with three other Yorkshire musicians, Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey.

When Bowie broke up the band, Hutchinson formed his own outfits in Scarborough and then Newcastle, landing a record deal and airplay on Radio 1 for his debut single.

The second part of his life was spent in the Scottish oil industry, but he continued to perform. In 2006, whilst working in Azerbijan in the Caspian Sea oil region, he played with his own band of Azeri and Russian musicians.

His memoir, Bowie and Hutch was published in 2014 by Lodge Books of Bridlington.

He and his first wife, Denise, had two sons, Christian and Jesse. In 1980, he married Susie Jowett, whom he met in Scarborough. Their daughter, Hayley, is also a musician.

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