Ray Hutchinson, lead guitarist of The Beau-Marks, arguably Canada’s first recognized rock ‘n’ roll band, died on Sunday.
Hutchinson, who lived in the Peterborough area, died at Peterborough Regional Health Centre due to COPD complications, according to a release from Bobcaygeon-based Springtime Entertainment and Management. Hutchinson was 81.
The Montreal native originally formed The Del-Tones in 1958 in Montreal with Michel Robitaille (guitarist, bass), Joey Fréchette (piano) and Gilles Tailleur (drums), which led to their first single release recorded in Canada in 1959, Moonlight Party. Hutchison first met Robitaille while both were at Shriners Hospital in Montreal and went on to meet Fréchette and Tailleur at a school for children with physical disabilities.
Due to other bands using the name Del-Tones, the band changed its name to The Beau-Marks — a pun on Boeing’s Bomarc missile, which was purchased by the Canadian government in the late 1950s during the height of the Cold War.
The foursome were known as the first Canadian group to completely write and record their music in Canada, including their smash hit Clap Your Hands. Released in the spring of 1960, the single sold more than half a million copies and landed them their first album on the Quality Records label.
Along with other singles such as Classmate, The Tender Years and Dark is the Night, the band’s fame grew, earning them appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand show and at New York’s Peppermint Lounge and Carnegie Hall, where they shared a billing with Sammy Davis Jr. and Johnny Ray.
Hutchinson was a co-writer of Clap Your Hands, which he called a “fluke” but was the “beginning of (his) career” in show business.
“The (recording) guy said, ‘What else have you got? You got 15 minutes left on your time here,'” Hutchinson told CHEX News in Peterborough in a 2008 story. “I said to Joey, ‘Why don’t you do Clap Your Hands?’ He said, ‘It’s not that good.’ But he did it.”
Hutchinson said Quality Records wanted the sounds of hand-clapping added to their song.
“We took it back and added hand-clapping and it became a success,” said Hutchinson.
The single cracked the top 20 at stations in Canada and was No. 1 in Australia. In the U.S., the single peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 40 on Cashbox, according to Ray McGinnis, creator/author of vancouversignaturesounds.com, a Canadian radio music archive site.
The band released its debut 10-track full-length album in 1960. The Beau-Marks were among the first Canadian bands to also be invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, however, they had to turn it down due to a scheduled conflict, according to Canadianbands.com.
Another two albums followed before the group broke up in 1963.
Hutchinson, who moved to the Peterborough area, went on to launch a 25-year solo career as a lounge singer and also joined Dave Nicholls & The Coins, which toured Ontario and Quebec’s nightclub circuit from Windsor to Montreal. His music career came to an end in 1988 when he was struck by a car in Miami, which left him in a coma for several months and required years to recuperate.
Springtime Entertainment and Management said Hutchinson’s career was “the stuff of dreams.”
“Much can be said about Ray Hutchinson that deservedly places him in Canadian music legend status. Ask anyone who enjoyed his many local performances in the 1970’s, while living at his Stewart Hall farm, about his captivating charm, and extremely great talent known continent-wide.”
—more to come.