Tributes to much-loved St Leonards musician

Chris Hutchinson who died on Thursday
Chris Hutchinson who died on Thursday

The town has lost one of its much-loved and respected musicians.

Chris Hutchinson, whose stage name was ‘Mellow D Man’, died on Thursday (March 16), aged 68.

Mick Brooks and Chris Hutchinson at the Conquest Radio Studio in 2013

Mick Brooks and Chris Hutchinson at the Conquest Radio Studio in 2013

He had been ill for some time, his family said, suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed.

The musician, from St Leonards, was dogged by poor health in his life, at one point suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.

Friends and family of Chris this week paid tribute to him.

His brother, Graham, said: “Chris always battled very hard against any ailment he had. He was a fighter and would not give in.

“He will be remembered for his great contribution and value to the community, not just to Hastings, but much further afield as well. Chris was always championing good causes and was a supporter of animal welfare.”

Chris volunteered for Hospital Radio at the Conquest for a number of years and was also involved with the Silver Tones choir, as well as the Silverhill Players.

Chris was born in 1948 to Mary Thomas, a dental nurse from Hampstead, and was the son of Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as “Hutch”, who was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s.

Graham said: “Chris turned professional singer and entertainer in 1970 and began to beguile audiences in the UK and abroad with an easy, charming style of presentation and his strong yet mellifluous singing style.

“Throughout his substantial career he embraced many musical styles, from pop to jazz, and developed a particular affinity with the Great American Song Book, delighting audiences near and far.

“Recording, radio and TV appearances following, during which he always championed the skill, talent and popular appeal of his father, campaigning for continued recognition and respect for a great artiste.

“When it came to music, Chris preferred talent over technology. His watchword was ‘Keep music live’.

“Chris was a dedicated family man, a loving and loyal husband, who always made time to advise and listen in his roles as brother, father and grandfather. He made many friends, to whom he was equally supportive.”

Graham said Chris was also a ‘great champion’ of the theatre, particularly in the West End. He was heavily involved with the London Palladium and the Mayfair, where he was front of house manager.

Chris’s wife, Charlotte, who was married to him for almost 11 years, said: “On the night Chris died he rang me to say goodnight for the last time before he passed away.

“Chris was a very principled man. He loved Hastings and was so passionate about the town and got so angry when people knocked the town.

“I would like to thank all of the staff at the Conquest Hospital for their love, care and respect for Chris and support given to me.”

Friend Bill Third said: “I got to hear Chris Hutchinson pretty much on arrival here in the early 90s as friends already living in Hastings loved live music and were regulars at Pissarro’s and other music venues where Chris was a much loved and requested performer.

“For quite a number of years it was hard to miss the ‘Mellow D Man’ strap-line on posters for his gigs as you walked through town.

“Chris had an easy mastery of different styles, a wonderful voice an easy slow-release delivery and a tenderness of expression that he used to great effect in interpreting a song. Or swing through the standards to jazz and blues.

“He had many regular gigs around the country over the years of course but his residency at Pizza in The Park in London – around 2004 – springs to mind.

“As does a Pissarro’s Valentine Weekend trip to Paris for couples with Chris providing the romantic music in various settings there.

“Chris appeared in a recently aired BBC programme which looked at the contribution of entertainers like his late father from Grenada, Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson to the cultural life of Britain.

“Chris will be sadly missed by all his friends, family and fans. I trust he will be given an appropriate musical send-off.”

Chris’s funeral is on March 30 at 3.30pm at Hastings Crematorium.

Anyone who wants to make donations can do so to the Royal Society of Musicians.

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