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In person interview conducted February 1976 in New York City

80% luck and 20% talent; the complexities of the Soul business

Leroy Hutson is a multi-talented dude; artist, writer, producer, musician. But he figures talent alone just ain't enough…that you also need the gods smilin' kindly on you.

THERE IS no question that one of the most sorely-neglected and underrated talents on the music scene today is a gentleman whose abilities stretch to production, composing, arranging and musicianship — all on top of a distinctive vocal style. His name is Leroy Hutson and the time is well overdue for recognition from the general public.

No one is more aware than the modest gentleman himself and, consequently, he's adopted a new attitude to his music, revealed in his latest album, "Feel The Spirit" which has spawned the hit single of the same name, currently doing very well on r&b charts in the States and showing signs of sparking interest in the man in Europe.

"To be honest, my previous albums were more myself. But I've found that it's necessary for a change in order that I can get across to the public on a larger scale. This album certainly gives the band more prominence — and it was intentional. I found that it was necessary for me to get away from the serious side of music and it's meant changing values for me.

"Economically, these days, it's necessary to make those changes to get over. I've been spending a lot of time trying to do that and, since I don't feel that I'm limited into any one particular aspect of music, I felt it was time for me to make changes and give people what they wanted to hear at the present time.

"I'm hopeful that if this album is successful, it will open people up to what I can do and maybe they'll go back to my previous albums — particularly the last one, because that really was me — an extension of myself."

Leroy feels that one of the reasons that the "Hutson" album — which included the masterpiece "Can't Stay Away" and the very popular instrumental cut, "Cool Out" — didn't make it "was that the company effort just wasn't there. If that isn't there, it doesn't matter how good the product is."

Leroy feels that it's inevitable that "good songs will get lost because there are so many variables in this industry. It's really 80% luck and 20% talent and add to that the timing of a record's release and whatever else is around at the time. I must say that I feel that Curtom is doing as much as they can, it's just that there are so many different factors involved in making it.

"It can come down to the general mood in the country at the time, or the period of the year that you put product out. It has to fit into whatever else is going down. And that's why the new album is a departure for me and I'm anxious to see the reaction. But I should add that I'll never e able to get away totally from that other side because that's the essence of what I'm all about and I fad that the message does have to be heard.

"I feel once people get to my music I'll be able to present them with messages that are palatable. Right now, the disco craze is due to the general disillusionment on the part of people — they need something to take their minds away from all the problems. So I'm going with what's happening and trying to convey more of a jubilant feeling in my music — hence "Feel The Spirit" — which looks like it's doing well for me."

Leroy's background spans less than a decade in the music industry but his credits are more than impressive. It was whilst studying at Washington's Howard University that this Newark, New Jersey-born gentleman began working with room-mate Donny Hathaway — the immediate result of which was the classic "The Ghetto" and "Tryin' Times" and "Gone Away", two songs which Roberta Flack recorded at the outset of her career.

Next stage of Leroy's musical development took him to Chicago to take the place of Curtis Mayfield when he decided to leave The Impressions for a solo career and after two and a half years spent mostly on the road with the group, Leroy decided to step forward and persue a solo career himself. First results were an album "Love Oh Love", which gave birth to his first hit single in "So In Love With You."

Subsequent album releases were "Leroy Hutson, The Man" and his '75 release simply entitled "Hutson". On all his own albums, Leroy's abilities as a writer and producer are to the fore and his production credits outside of his own work include two albums on The Voices Of East Harlem and The Natural Four's biggest hit "Can This Be Real?" and much of their debut Curtom album.

In fact, Leroy's latest production commitment involved The Natural Four again and a Hutson-produced set is due from Curtom any day now. "I have to say that continuing as a producer is my ultimate goal. Realistically, I don't consider myself a singer — I know my own limitations and I really want to be the future emphasis on my work as a producer. If the public can accept that and lets me know that they dig what I'm doing in that capacity, I'll be quite happy to stay strictly into doing it.

"You see, I'm basically a homebody and I guess I'm pretty introverted so it does nothing for me to be in the public eye. In fact, I used to get sick before shows — though I've overcome that with continued work and more confidence!

"It's a positive thinking process and you have to realise where your talents are within yourself. Since I feel that longevity is really important — and I plan to be around for some time — I'm aware that I can't always do what I want myself — you have to please your public. So if they could accept me simply as a producer, I'd be more than happy to stay at home and work with talented artists, maybe doing one vocal album on myself a year and some more good listening, orchestrated albums on the lines of 'Cool Out' — into a jazz kind of thing."

Leroy feels that he's never really concentrated his efforts into the vocal aspect of his work up until now. "I always feel like I could have spent more time on my vocals and that's something I will be doing more in the future — I know what I'm capable of and I don't feel that I've been doing my best."

And being on the road as a solo artist is something that's relatively new to Mr. Hutson. Originally starting out with some thirteen members in his group last year, Leroy has trimmed the number down to nine. "What I've done is utilise those members of the band who can play and sing rather like in the Earth, Wind & Fire situation. Economically that's the only way to work it right now. But, I'll be honest: I'd carry an orchestra with me if that were possible!"

Right now, Leroy is "being very deliberate and methodical with my career. I'm trying to get my own organisation together around me so that I can take full charge of what's happening with my career. For example, we recently got a mobile home which sleeps eight people to go out on the road with and you can imagine that that saves a lot of money in accommodation and transport expenses.

"But I really feel that generally, things are coming together. Whereas maybe a year ago I couldn't have dealt with a hit record, I can now. I'm ready for whatever may come and I'm looking forward to being out there.''

With a hit record in the offing, Leroy Hutson should have no problem in gaining access to the public who, up until now. have been unaware of this gentleman.

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create Records as a leading reissue label.
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