By James Calemine
“Every generation learns to dance/Across that floor they steal their moments.”
One year ago today (May 9) Daniel Hutchens died. I struggle with his death. Some days it feels like he’s been gone longer than a single year. It’s still painful to hear his music, like a throat punch. We were close. I could always call Danny if shit got weird, and he did the same with me. Besides his brilliant songwriting, he was like a brother to me. Danny and I made plans to hang out on April 23, 2021, in Athens, but he wasn’t feeling well. So, I told him I’d be back in three weeks and we’d get together then. “We gotta hang out,” he told me. He died two weeks later.
Danny proved well-read as anyone I knew. We never had a disagreement. In the early and mid-90s it was amazing to watch him and Eric Carter write so many of those classic Bloodkin songs. I met Danny and Eric in 1991, and by early 1992 we all lived together in a small apartment off Grady Avenue in Athens, Georgia, until about the fall of 1996.
I’ve written about Bloodkin’s music and my relationship to the band for 30 years in various capacities, and there will be more but now is not the time. We witnessed some strange and glorious things through the years. I recently discovered hundreds of my photographs, memorabilia, and notebooks that documented all those years. I found a CD with 18 spoken word pieces Danny, Eric and I recorded in Athens, which included a song Danny and I wrote together called “Early Grave”.
Danny died 9 months after Widespread Panic drummer Todd Nance. Turns out, I wrote both of their obituaries. Dark times. I remember Todd telling me for an interview (see Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2) that he stopped going out in Athens after original Panic guitarist Michael Houser died because he couldn’t bear hearing random strangers or fans talk about Mikey like they were brothers.
In some ways I felt that way about Danny. I respected all the fans and I always wanted Bloodkin’s music celebrated (see Insured Beyond The Grave), but it was impossible for me to really listen to anyone–who I knew didn’t know Danny a fraction as well as I did–talk about him like they were old buddies. I understood that folks meant no harm, but I was in serious pain. Only Eric, Danny’s family and his close musician friends understood how devastating Danny’s unexpected death impacted their lives. I’m glad Eric’s still out there playing their songs.
I wanted to write something about him on this sad anniversary. Sometimes I hear his voice, “Only you can tell the story, Jimmy. Tell your stories.” I’d like to thank Danny for all the inspiration, music, words, songs, brotherhood, laughs and memories along the decades. He’s irreplaceable. I miss him, and I’ll keep my promise by continuing to spin the yarn.
“Paying What I Owe” from Bloodkin’s incandescent All Dolled Up blares in the background. Pure time travel. Danny paid in full. You play the music, and he’s in the room with you. Here’s to Daniel Hutchens and his timeless songwriting…
May 9, 2022
(Photo by James Calemine)