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Old 01-17-2003, 06:32 PM   #1
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Little Hatch, KC blues mainstay, dies at 80

Gonna miss Little Hatch's House parties at the Grand Emporium...


Little Hatch, KC blues mainstay, dies at 80
The Kansas City Star

The blues are a deeper shade of blue in Kansas City today. Little Hatch has died.

Provine Hatch Jr., known as "Little Hatch" to patrons of Kansas City's blues clubs, died of natural causes Tuesday night at his home in El Dorado Springs, Mo. He was 80. For nearly 50 of those years Hatch was the mainstay of Kansas City's blues scene.

Little Hatch was born in Sledge, Miss., in the delta, where the blues itself was born. He was the first of nine harmonica-playing sons born to a harmonica-playing sharecropper. He grew up in Helena, Ark., also home to blues legends Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Robert Lockwood Jr.

In 1943 Hatch was drafted into the Navy and served in World War II. After the war, on his way home to Helena, he stopped in Kansas City. Perhaps there was something here he liked, or maybe he had nothing better to do, but he stuck around for a couple of weeks, long enough to meet Modie Lee Hill, the woman he would eventually marry.

Hatch and Modie settled down in Kansas City in 1946, and in 1954 he landed a job at Hallmark. That turned out to be the day job that supported his music for the next 32 years. He worked in the mailroom, in maintenance and in security, retiring in 1986.

Little Hatch's musical career took root shortly after he moved to Kansas City. In a 2000 interview with Living Blues magazine, he explained that when he was new in town he hadn't made many friends, so he'd spent time in nightclubs. That's where he met George Jackson, a guitarist from Alligator, Miss.

The two began to play together. Jackson became something of a mentor to Hatch, helping establish him as one of Kansas City's most popular bluesmen.

Chuck Haddix, host of "The Fish Fry" on KCUR-FM (89.3), once told The Star, "Hatch represents the best of Kansas City's blues tradition.

"Even though Hatch came from rural Mississippi and Arkansas, he played an urban blues style," Haddix said. "He was been responsible for keeping Kansas City's blues scene vibrant."

By the time he retired from Hallmark, Little Hatch's career in music seemed also to be ending. Gigs were fewer and further between. Many of the old clubs had closed down.

But down on Main Street, the Grand Emporium was just getting started. And in 1988, Roger Naber, the club's owner and founder, offered to set Hatch up as leader of the house band. The gig lasted 10 years.

"He had a big voice for a little man," Naber said. "That's one of the reasons he had such stage presence. And it's why people came here to hear him."

Dawayne Gilley, a Kansas City music journalist and blues promoter, said the first time he heard Hatch play it "hit me in the gut so hard I couldn't breathe."

Lindsay Shannon, owner of BB's Lawnside Bar-B-Que, where Hatch had a regular gig for several years, said Hatch never lost the power and authority that made him a musical force.

"There's not a blues harmonica player alive that doesn't owe a debt to Little Hatch. His tone was unique. All the other players emulate Hatch."

That sentiment is shared by John Paul Drum, a Kansas City blues band leader and harmonica player.

"Hatch scared the hell out of me," Drum said. "I remember rolling into town in 1989 pretty sure I knew how to play the harp. There was a jam at the Grand Emporium, and Hatch was there. I got up on that stage with him, and it became clear pretty quick that I was in over my head. He gave me the evil eye, and I just kind of shriveled up."

Drum said he and Hatch soon became friends, and Drum came to consider Hatch his mentor.

Bill O'Connor, who hosts an eclectic music show on KKFI-FM (90.1), said Little Hatch had an authentic sound that attracted a significant white audience to the blues.

"The recordings he made over the last few years at the Blue Heaven studios in Salina, Kan., finally got him heard by folks who otherwise might not have known about him," O'Connor said.

For the last several years, Little Hatch shared his life and his home with Debbie Dennis. In a Star Magazine interview two years ago, Dennis described how she happened upon a surprising document while sorting through some of Little Hatch's things. It was a certificate dated 1978 declaring that Provine Hatch Jr. had been ordained by Mount Zion Church of God.

"It's appropriate, isn't it?" she said. "Singin' and playin' blues are a lot like preachin'. You get people together, you take all their cares and pain, and you tell 'em it's OK, you've been there, too. And you take 'em to a better place.

"That's what Hatch does. That's what Little Hatch has been doin' all his life."
"A cigar is a banana for the monkey of the soul."
--Tom Robbins
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Old 01-25-2003, 04:47 PM   #2
Captain Stogie
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Location: South Florida
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I guess I moved to Fla. before I could pick-up on Little Hatch. But I knew ol' roger n. when he still worked at the post office, and did shows on the side at King Henry's Feast dinner theatre on ? 39th & Broadway, I think it was. I got Lonnie Brooks to sign my copy of Bayou Lightning there one fine night. On a visit back to KC a few years ago, I saw Tinsley Ellis' show at the Emporium. Hey Rog, if your listening, hire somebody to clean up that pisser! Phew-ee!
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