Hutchinson Family Songster Introduction - New England Music Scrapbook
Songster Introduction
-  Songs of the Hutchinsons  -

Hutchinson Family Singers Web Site



The repertoire of the Hutchinson Family is a big and complex subject that spans a long period of time. We have a set of song lyrics, for instance, written by Jesse Hutchinson, Jr., around 1835; and his younger brother John was introducing new originals seventy years later. The core of the repertoire includes the songs of the classic Hutchinson Family quartet of the 1840s, the trio of brothers of the 1850s (Judson, John, and Asa), and the Tribes of John and Asa that flourished through the 1860s and 1870s. But then there are songs more closely associated with Brother Joshua, such as "The Good Old Days of Adam and Eve" and "There Must Be Something Wrong." The Home Branch (1845-1846) and the New Branch (1848?-1849) performed material not found on the programs of other acts that sprang from this clan. And then there were later Hutchinson Family groups and soloists.

Attempts to represent the music of the Hutchinsons in stage performances and on recordings have tended to concentrate on original compositions and on scores published "as sung by the Hutchinson Family."* The Hutchinsons, themselves, would have done nothing of the kind. Original numbers comprised only about half their repertoire, if that; and they hardly limited themselves to songs published under their names. Originals such as "Ho! for California" (lyrics by Jesse Hutchinson, Jr.), "Kind Words Can Never Die" (music by Abby Hutchinson Patton), and "The Song of the Shirt" (music by the Hutchinson Family) mixed with great interpretations such as "Kingdom Coming" (Henry Clay Work), "Gentle Annie" (Stephen C. Foster), and "Johnny Sands" (John Sinclair).

John W. Hutchinson - the greatest vocalist in his generation of the family - made his reputation in large part on singing the songs of Henry Russell, especially "The Ship on Fire," and sustained it with the Gerald Massey & James G. Clark piece, "The People's Advent." Asa B. Hutchinson wrote his share of the family's music, such as "The Creed of the Bells" and "Hannah's at the Window Binding Shoes;" but we remember him mostly for "The Battle Cry of Freedom" by George F. Root and "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" by Walter Kittredge.

Hutchinson Family original lyrics were not static things - far from it. Jesse, in particular, kept adding to, updating, and otherwise revising the words to his songs. He seemed unable to leave his lyrics alone. This is most familiar in the case of "The Old Granite State," with Jesse zipping in new verses pretty much whenever he felt like it; and before he died, he had started to do much the same with "Right Over Wrong." We know of substantial changes to other songs, such as "Eight Dollars a Day," "Uncle Sam's Farm," and evidently "The Good Old Days of Yore." The score citations, then, following the lyrics in this songster, represent one source of the musical setting but are not meant to suggest that they represent a definitive or even particularly good and complete record of the lyrics.

The family songsters were published with the running title, "Songs of the Hutchinsons." These songbooks, too, were not static things. Brother Asa added new numbers and replaced some older ones. I doubt I'll be removing any sets of lyrics, myself, from this site; but the plan is to make additions as the opportunity presents itself.

Alan Lewis,  revised November 11, 2002


* This sort of concrete thinking, on the one hand, is not particularly helpful. On the other hand, some people attempting to imitate or re-create Hutchinson Family performances have erred in quite the opposite direction, taking only slightly-educated guesses as to what songs the Hutchinsons "may have sung" or "must have sung." For most periods in the Hutchinsons touring days, concert programs are quite easy to come by. I confess, though, that I once pretty much jumped to the conclusion that the Hutchinson Family sang Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," because "Hard Times" shows up on many of the group's programs during the period from about 1856 to about 1858. Many years later, I discovered that way back in 1848, long before Foster wrote his song, the Hutchinson Family quartet was singing a piece called "Hard Times."
Hutchinson Family





[earliest Hutchinson Family publicity likeness]
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Notes copyright © 2001, 2002 by Alan Lewis.
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