Editor's note: Thanks to everyone who responded to our Facebook invitation to comment on J.D. Hutchison's passing. Special thanks to Steve Zarate, who reached out to J.D.'s friends and fellow musicians for contributions. If you have a memory or thought to share, add it in the comments below or send it to news@athensnews.com so we can add it here. Please be sure to include your full name and how you knew J.D. — Corinne Colbert

John Borchard

J.D. certainly had an impact on many, many people — including me — as evidenced by the number of visitors, cards, letters, texts, emails, poems and songs he received during the month or so he was in hospice care. I met him around 1968 and we played music together off and on since then, with our longest collaboration being Realbilly Jive. J.D. turned me on to music that I might not have come across on my own, at least not as early as I did. He had such a wide variety of interests and skills, that it was never boring talking and hanging out with him. Aside from being a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he was a poet, actor, artist, raconteur, poker player, trader of instruments, denizen of flea markets and snuff dipper. He will be missed by many in our community and beyond.

Todd Burge

The first time I heard J.D. play live circa ’90 was at O’Hooley’s. He was hosting the open mic that night. At the end of the evening he got up and sang "Ready On The Firing Line" a cappella, and I thought, there’s nothing better happening anywhere in the world right now. 

Gay Dalzell

J.D. so graciously made the decision to have his last surgery so he and his friends could have a little more time to say goodbye. For this I will always be thankful as it provided the opportunity for me to hear him say, "Everything is as it should be."  Bless him and the legacy he leaves.

Lee Harvey Haight

We did not know each other well, but he was a friend to many. Always open to hearing your own musings, and ready to share his own. His words were not often happy, but they were always good to hear. We were lucky to have him so close for so long.

Kelley Jarvis

During my student days, I interviewed him for a feature in Southeast Ohio magazine.

He immediately captivated my attention with his stories as we sat on the bench outside Blue Eagle. I attended open mike night at O'Hooley's where he performed his songs, the most memorable tune having the following line about "knowing a gal who had a face that kind of looked like a water fowl."

Hutchison disliked the nickname "Lost John," saying that it "sounded like a tag, a name you might give a dog," so the title of the feature was, "Don't Call Him Lost, Call Him John." His picture graced that issue of Southeast Ohio magazine.

There were many letters (pre e-mail days) from the types of folks John would have called "suits," corporate business types who were inspired by his music and his shunning of a materialistic lifestyle.

John was an original and he was one of the most unforgettable characters I've met.

Jorma Kaukonen

Almost 20 years ago I invited J.D. to the Ranch to pick a few songs and talk about writing. The picking overran the writing, but many notes were played. We would never intersect in that way again, but we lived in a small town and our paths would frequently cross, most notably at the Blue Eagle Music Co. or  Casa Nueva. Breakfast at the Casa just wasn’t breakfast without seeing John’s face through a plume of steam over a cup of coffee.

He was a consummate artist who only took marching orders from himself. From the notes he played to the instruments he held, J.D. would create an artistic landscape that was always exciting to traverse.

I always considered him a friend and hoped that he felt the same. Fair winds and following seas, brother…

Randy Light

For me, being away from Athens now for 25 years, when I think of John D. Hutchison I think of a part of the fabric of my upbringing: the bluegrass music, and the personality of a certain Scrabble player in the Blue Eagle music shop. John, Ethan Green and Billy Van Riper would be so intent on playing the Scrabble game that the rest of the world was nonexistent. Lost John was a mentor for me musically, and although he was from Barnesville, he was an integral piece of my Athens hometown. His presence was one of a unique and talented individual and I was blessed to have him as a person that I could truly call my friend.

Scott Minar

I was talking to John in the Blue Eagle one day, begging him to show me a few licks on the mandolin which I was trying to learn for a gig coming up. He got that wonderful, impatient look on his face that he often wore and said, “Oh man, you can figure it out!” Then he picked up an accordion that was lying around in the store and started playing jazz on it like a virtuoso. And I thought to myself, “Uh-huh….”

Tim O’Brien

We find our first mentors right beside us as we’re born and grow: fathers and mothers, older sisters and brothers. We find other mentors out in the greater world as we come of age. J.D. Hutchison was one to me. We were fast friends from our first meeting in ‘74, and he taught me so much by example, and encouraged me as an artist and musician to follow the heart.

J.D. was a true renaissance man who studied the many facets of our world and reflected upon them all as a cartoonist, actor, songwriter and musician. Despite his relative obscurity--he served as a sort of court jester of the college town of Athens, Ohio for much of his life--he influenced a great many people in his 81 years. He made us laugh as we looked deeper.

John was anti-music business and you had to tease song pitches out of him, like when my band Hot Rize grabbed “My Little Darlin’” after he sang it to me a capella just outside a honkytonk men’s room door. His performances, whether as a solo, with his bluegrass brother Robert as The Hutchison Brothers or with the rock band Hillbilly Jive, were exciting, entertaining and vital, each one a unique experience. As good as his onstage performances were, it was in conversation that he really shone. He was always engaged, interested, generous and thoughtful.

On our last meeting, Jan and I had a short but wonderful visit with J.D. — going for fish sandwiches at Miller’s, hearing new and old poems and songs played on his piano in his spartan apartment where he displayed his assortment of barometers and umpteen Scrabble sets. He was wearing a t-shirt that said “Master of the Tiles.” Love was shared as always, and that love remains now and will remain for as long as I live.

Bob Stewart

I remember Frank McDermott letting me take an accordion I was thinking about buying over to J.D. at Casa to see what he thought about it. J.D. set the case down on the floor by his booth, opened the case and immediately started playing a tune. Sherrie turned down the music in the restaurant and J.D. carried on playing like he was in his living room. Well of course, he was. 

KC Waltz

Friend, mentor, bench warmer, artist, bard, and family member, J.D. was all these things to me. He gave of himself to all around him with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He loved young folks and was always encouraging their dreams, musical or otherwise. He was my “Funkle” and I was/am honored to have him in my life. All hail The Last of the Iron-Assed Folksingers!

Steve Zarate

I feel blessed by every moment I had with J.D., first just loving his musicianship and later in fascinating conversations that left me marveling at the wise insights he so casually dispensed. J.D. treated friends like family, and I never saw him act superior to any other person, not once. He would call me Steven, and in parting company he’d make this hand gesture, kind of cockin’ it at me, and his eyes always seemed to twinkle when he smiled farewell. I’ll carry J.D.’s wonderful songs, endearing smile and twinkling eyes in my heart always.

Ron Cass

Once upon a time in the summer of 1984 or so, I found a house that had a closet to rent where I could lay my head at night for $75 a month on South High Street in Athens, Ohio. The house was perched on the steepest hill in town, white paint chipped and landscape in complete disarray. During that summer the house was painted and landscape walls built, a few bushes and flowers planted and the front step repaired. This made the house one of the finest looking buildings on the student-filled block. Not that that has much to do with anything but it gave me chance to explore a town I barely knew.

The main drag was only a block away and was called Court Street. Court Street was filled with an eclectic group of home spun shopping. Though Woolworth's anchored the business district, there were so many shops — a couple movie houses, ice cream, pizza, record shops, a head shop or two or three if you knew where to look, bars, art shops and a music shop called the Blue Eagle.

The Blue Eagle seemed somewhat of a hub, people constantly coming and going in and out through the ancient and inviting doors. Also there was an old sitting bench in front of the huge display windows with a sign above declaring it The Blue Eagle. The bench had many people sitting on it, friendily chatting with one another, who were often playing music of all sorts.

After walking past the store daily for weeks, I finally mustered up enough bravery to stop by the store. It was remarkably cramped. The owner greeted me as if he knew me. We talked about music, the owner asking what I liked and then what I really liked all in one conversation. He wanted to know what turned me on. He looked at his watch, grabbed a mandolin and a stool, and headed out onto the sidewalk and invited me along. Sitting on the bench was this guy who introduced himself as Lost John. He asked me who I was and asked me if I fished. That was all it took — as we chatted I felt I found an old friend. John seemed to know everyone in town and in time I learned that he did seem to know everyone. As we sat, each passing person tossed a greeting his way and he tipped his hat with a smile.

That summer was magical for me and JD was a part that. I spent many days sitting on that bench listening to his stories and discussing that ever elusive fish. Over the years our relationship never grew beyond that, except for the occasional friendly greetings, bench conversations and several breakfasts at Casa where we discussed daily events and conspiracies.

JD Hutchison is one of the reasons I decided to make Athens County my home. I’ll have to sit upon the bench at The Blue Eagle soon before the winter takes hold.

So long, Lost John.

Geoff Goodhue

I’m grateful for every moment we spent together, beginning at John Borchard’s old house on Grosvener St. I was 19 or 20 and remember singing high baritone harmony with J.D. on “That Lost Highway.” It gripped me when he sang the line “I was just a boy, merely 22, neither good nor bad, just a kid like you.”

I grew up in Massachusetts hearing from my dad, Toothie George, about Lost John, Ethan, Mimi, John Borchard, Rolling Bob and this mythical place called Athens, Ohio. Hutchison took me under his wing when I landed there as a percussion student 20 years ago. What he and the Realbillies taught me has proved every bit as valuable as what I learned in music school. I feel forever honored to have had the opportunity to chug along on the drums behind his brilliant songs, from Casa to Stuart’s Opera House to Mountain Stage, and that my style and approach was the right fit for the band.

There’s a recording of a show we played at Casa in 2004 where John announces that “Geoff’s moving to New York City where he’ll be sorely disappointed at every turn but that’s what you do when you’re young and full of testosterone.” I ended up settling in Vermont where I sing and pick with my bluegrass band Beg, Steal or Borrow. Years ago I spun copies of the Hutchison Brothers recordings for all my bandmates for inspiration and will continue to sing his tunes and keep him close with me as I continue my path through life.

To my brother and wonderfully jaded mentor: Keep up your one-of-a-kind work in the great beyond.

Bob Williams

When I was in high school (just after water was invented) one day in The Blue Eagle Lost John patiently and generously showed me how to play the Fm6 chord up the neck on a guitar. My mind and chording never did return to their original state afterwards. My huge musical influences are Sam Bush, Willie Nelson, David Bromberg, and J.D. Hutchison. Thank you!

Paula Lockard

As a singer/musician/songwriter, originally from NYC, I first started coming to Athens, Ohio in the 1970s, when I subbed for Mimi Hart in her band at the time, “Hotcakes” (Jimmy Smailes, Mark Hellenberg, Jeff DeLaval, Steve Kennis, and Mimi). Mimi had already been in my band in NYC (along with Bob Montalto, Bill Mullins, both from Athens, and my ex, the late Peter Ecklund). I remember that, during this period, Hutchison and his Bluegrass Band (the Hutchison Brothers) came to New York and parked their van on the street in the East Village, where Peter and I were living at the time. The van was promptly robbed, as would be the case with any van parked in NYC at that time. Several hours later, items from the van were being sold on the street!!!

So, when I subbed for Mimi in Hotcakes, we spent a lot of time doing Hotcakes gigs in and around Athens, and Hotcakes did some of my gigs with me, up and down the east coast.

So, when I first started coming to Athens to visit, I met JD Hutchison, probably at the Blue Eagle. We took an instant liking to one another, and that was the beginning of many wonderful visits with him.

Once while still living in NYC, JD and Mimi came to visit me, and stayed in my apartment. I remember that on this visit, I actually managed to BEAT JD (the Master of the Tiles) at Scrabble!!!!! In his defense, he was drunk at the time!!! (something he later swore off) I also remember that he discovered a Pool Hall on his last day in NYC, and was able to hustle people for money. I also remember that he was depressed that he had just discovered the place, and that he could have been doing that all along!!!!

After Hotcakes broke up, I continued to visit Athens, and to have long visits with JD, who I thought was one of the most interesting people I’d ever met.

I actually did some gigs here in Athens during some of my visits, and, each time I visited, I always made time to hang out with JD, at various points in his life and mine.

I remember on one such occasion, I had a gig on the Mountain Stage radio show (from West Virginia), and Mimi and Lost John (as I knew him then), accompanied me to the gig. I remember when we came into the building, there was murmuring among the crew and band of Mountain Stage, saying, “Oh my god, That’s LOST JOHN!!!!!” He was notorious even then!!!

On my various visits to Athens, sometimes he’d take me on his junk store visits; other times we’d sit around and converse, which was always nothing less than profound!!

When I decided to move here to Athens, I did so because I love the people and the music scene (and JD Hutchison figured heavily into both of those factors).

Once I had my late stepfather (Ben Hammer, a veteran actor of stage, film, and TV) out to my house with my sister and brother in law, and JD really glommed onto Ben.

I’m sure that JD told him about his missed chance at movie-stardom with Jeff Bridges.

(Briefly: JD was out in Los Angeles on a solo gig somewhere when Bridges happen to meet him doing his gig. They got to know each other, and Bridges thought he would be good acting in his next film. JD blew it by returning home to Athens, when he hadn’t heard anything. He called Bridges from home, and the result was: “You’re too late; we already shot the scenes with someone else!!” - And that’s one of the reasons they call him Lost John!!)

The two, Hutchison and my step-dad, hung out a lot while Ben was here, relieving my sister, brother-in-law and me of having to find something to do with Ben!!!

So I am not exaggerating when I say that JD Hutchison is one of the big reasons I moved here not Athens, and I cannot stand the fact that I can’t hang out with him anymore; have him come and play my piano; or go to see him perform at one of his incredible gigs. This is hard!

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