As I've stated many times, I have been blessed with the best customers for my business that I could ask for. Many have become good friends...and I look forward to seeing my regular patrons every year; plus, it's always a gas to meet the new customers every year. And with all these folks, it's not hard for me to pick out the most interesting and entertaining patron of them all...!
Hutch was 78 years old when he contacted me back in the fall of 2003, and I knew from our very first phone conversation that I was dealing with a character who was going to keep me humored during our entire relationship! He was wanting to book me for the Magnoliafest that October and he first explained that he had never camped before...his style was five-star hotels. Plus, he hadn't been to a festival since Woodstock back in 1969! But...his much younger girlfriend was an experienced camper and he wanted to impress and treat her to a camping experience and a festival experience all at the same time...
During that first phone call he went on to tell me that during his full-time work career he worked for the largest entertainment agency in the country...I believe it was the William Morris agency, but my memory might be a little shaky on that. He still worked in the booking business...he still had a part-time swing band agency and he still kept in contact with all his old buddies in the business.
And could he tell a story! It was during this first conversation that he told me that in '69 he was at Woodstock when Jerry Garcia came up to him and said: "Hey man, they stole your booze..." (Hutch had a box backstage of his favorite high-quality booze...whatever that was)Jerry added: "But don't worry, man...try this!" It was the first time that Hutch tasted marijuana...and he liked it! He also told me that he was in Italy one time with Trini Lopez and his band when he got a call from a fellow booking agent who told him to get his butt to Germany quick...there's a band here that's tearing it up. Turned out to be the Beatles...>g< Other stories that followed later had names such as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey rolling off his tongue.
So---how could I not be amused after that first phone conversation? In the next couple of weeks Hutch called more than several times and most of those calls were received by Lynn, and she was having a riot getting to know the man as well. (and the more she got to know him the more she wished that she could join me on that Magfest trip!) He was a bit apprehensive of sleeping in a tent, but was more than anxious to impress Kathy. Plus, this first camping experience of his also brought me another couple as a customer, who came to the festival just to witness Hutch....John is the director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida, and he and his wife are fine folks as well.
So my excitement of meeting the man was justified almost immediately after he showed up at the festival! He was very impressed with his setup, both with the quality of equipment and the location. (and I of course camped him near my own campsite, as I knew that this was going to be fun) He sidled up to me saying: "check this out..." In his hand he had a vial with some very high-quality pot in it...his plan was to enjoy the smoke and the booze he brought along and the music and basically the whole scene and he was ready to start the party!
At the Suwannee Music Park you can rent electric carts to get around, so Hutch's first project was to go off to rent one. The rest of the group was getting settled in, so off he went. We were just standing around visiting when he returned and he looked proud as peacock sitting on his cart, smiling as big as he could. Then, all of a sudden, the cart took off, full-tilt, right through the campsite! The tents were set up in a half circle and somehow he managed to avoid them on his left and the gazebos on his right. We all were stunned when this happened, speechless even. At the end of this flying through the campsite he ended up smashing directly into the front of Kathy's little red sports car, which was parked on the outside of camp! Everyone's first thought was that he had had a heart attack and that triggered the event, but when he turned around and looked at all of us with a shit-eating grin, there was a moment of pure relief, followed by uncontrollable laughter when we all realized that Hutch was just fine! He had tried to put the brake on, but instead had hit the accelerator and had panicked....but at least had enough sense of what was going on to be able to avoid hitting any of the tents. But he had to stop somewhere, and Kathy's bright red sports car was where he picked...>g< She was so relieved that she didn't even get mad...and Hutch showed a rare burst of humility after the incident!
For the rest of the festival he pretty much sat on his cart next to the road, watching the parade of festivarians stream by....and he could hear the Main Stage music from his spot. He did take the time to erect about a 12 foot tower made of tinker-toy-type material...he didn't have a good explanation as to why he wanted to do this, but I guess it was some kind of artistic statement he wanted to build. He wasn't allowed to drive the cart anymore and he was not offended by this at all...he would sit there with his little cigarette-looking one hitter, taking puffs of pot every now and then; he was very contented! He wasn't very impressed with most of the music and he kept asking me who the best act was going to be and I of course had an easy answer...Sam Bush. So during Sammy's set he made his way down to the stage with the rest of the group. When we all returned to camp after Sam's set I was very relieved but not really very surprised that Hutch was estatic about Sammy! (and I was able to send him a copy of Sam's show about a year later...)
Hutch and I kept in touch, but I never saw him again. He had a heart attack two years later and died, at the age of 80. John contacted me, telling me that they were going to have a memorial concert for Hutch at the Van Wezel...it happened on the Wednesday before the Magfest in 2005, so I was able to attend. John had booked Sam and Donna the Buffalo for this concert...Hutch was not impressed with Donna, but he sure was with Sammy, so it was a fine tribute to the man. I made it down to the concert and was able to catch Sam's set and then hang out with him and John and his wife and Kathy a bit after, before I had to go back to Magfest. We all had a few giggles remembering Hutch's first and only camping trip and I only wish that I had known him longer so that I could hear many more of his stories.
As I mentioned, the man was quite the character!