Once labeled by Rolling Stone magazine as "the best-kept secret of Seventies soul," LeRoy Hutson quietly established a lasting legacy as one of the great soul men of his day.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Hutson's decision to attend Howard University as a young man turned out to be one of the most critical of his life. Though he originally planned to be a dentist, he was drawn to music via his relationships with an amazing group of fellow HU students, including his close friend, Donny Hathaway, as well as such others as Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock and Debbie Allen. Hutson developed as not only a great tenor singer, but also a fine songwriter, keyboardist and arranger. While at Howard, Hutson and Hathaway co-wrote "The Ghetto," which later became a major hit for Hathaway and one of the most influential songs of the 70s.
A major career break after college came when Hathaway recommended Hutson to replace Curtis Mayfield in the legendary Impressions group when Mayfield went solo. Hutson was excited, but not nervous. "I used to listen to the Impressions with awe like everyone else during that period. Their harmonies were just so unique. I was always fascinated with great harmonies, and the idea that I would be taking Curtis' place was overwhelming. It wasn't like I was fearful or anything, but I looked at it as a wonderful opportunity."
Hutson remained with the Impressions for just a couple years before releasing his own solo debut on Mayfield's Curtom Records. Love Oh Love was the first of eight albums over a ten year span and began the title cut began a string of quality hits such as "All Because of You" and "Feel the Spirit" that developed for Hutson a well-deserved loyal R&B following but little crossover success. He was also a sought-after producer, most notably on the Natural Four's top ten hit "Can This Be Real."
Changes in the music world in the early 80s lessened Hutson's success, and he ceased recording after his lone Elektra Records release, Paradise. He remained quiet over the next decade before issuing a single disc in Ichiban Records. However, his earlier music continued to be heard on the radio via samples by artists ranging from Too Short to Erykah Badu.
More recently, Hutson released a new jazz-influenced album, Sooth You Groove You. He is also putting the finishing touches on 2Nite's the Nite, which is slated for release in late 2009 on his own Triumph Records. He is also planning a European tour in support of the album.
While Hutson may never have achieved the fame he deserved during his musical heyday, time has been extremely kind to Hutson's 70s output. Much of it has been re-released and it sounds great, bringing a new appreciation for both his songwriting and his production, and growing his reputation more than thirty years after his commercial peak.
By Chris Rizik