Willie Hatcher appears on:
1. Speckled Red Trio, Document DOCD-5205
2. Sonny Boy Williamson , Document DOCD-5056
3. Willie Hatcher ,Document DLP 578 ( only vocals ,NO mandolin)
4. Mandolin Blues , Testament 1997
From the booklet of the Testament CD :
Willie Hatcher whose "Garbage Man Blues" is one of the most fascinating songs here was born near Clarksdale , Mississippi in 1909 . His family later moved to Arkansas and in 1925 Willie took the trek to St. Louis and worked at the Fisher Body Co. making automobile bodies for Chevrolets . He was then living next door to a mandolin player and was intrigued by the instrument and acquired one for himself . Though the neighbor was not interested in teaching him, Willie was able to pickup the rudiments of playing by carefully watching his neighbor´s playing and eventually became quite proficient. In the 30s he teamed up with washboard player George Smith and the two performed throughout St. Louis . The great Singer /piano player Walter Davis took Willie to Bluebird where he recorded two titles under his own name and accompanied Speckled Red and Sonny Boy Williamson though he was never a full time musician. In 1948 he moved to Chicago but apart from an occasional gig on Maxwell Street he mostly worked outside music. When in 1964 Pete Welding found him , his mandolin was in pawn but judging from the recordings here he soon regained his kills and it is unfortunate that we heard nothing more of this excellent musician.
For further reading : Pete Welding "Back in Action - Willie Hatcher " , Blues Unlimited , October 1964
For those who know of this mandolin player from either his 1938 Bluebird sessions with John Lee Williamson and Speckled Red or the three tracks on "Mandolin Blues" (Testament TCD6004) might find interest in this short piece by Pete Welding from Blues Unlimited 16 (October 1964):
Willie Hatcher was born on October 28, 1909 near Clarksdale, Mississippi. He spent his earliest years there, but his family moved to Arkansas in 1916 when his father was able to purchase some land. Later they moved again; this time to Wilson, Arkansas where Willie lived until 1925, at which time he moved to St. Louis and began working as a labourer. He married young, in 1927, at a time when he was working for a plant owned by the Fisher Body Co., making automobile bodies for Chevrolets. In the early days of his marriage he was living next door to a mandolinist, and it was from this man (Hatcher does not remember his name) that Willie absorbed the fundamentals of mandolin playing. Absorbed is the correct term, for as Willie tells it he received not a particle of instruction from this man, but rather merely observed him as he played his mandolin and noted the position of his fingers for the chords. He went down to a pawnshop at 18th and Franklin one day and bought a mandolin. He proceeded to teach himself the instrument. "I didn't even know how to tune it when I got it", he said. "But I watched where he put his fingers to make chords and I did the same thing and just turned on the strings until I got it sounding right to me".
"Let me tell you now", he stated, "l never had any instruction on the mandolin. I just learned it myself. You could put some music in front of me on a stand, and I just wouldn't be able to play it. Didn't have that kind of learning, and I want to tell you the truth of the matter. But when it came to the playing by ear; well I could do that". He paused, "I could hear somebody play something or hear a record; play it over two or three times, and I could pretty near get it like they played it. That's how I learned."
Within several years Hatcher had teamed up with George Smith, a skiffle washboard player, and the two played all over the St. Louis area in the 'thirties "What we'd do" said Willie, "was to have a different route every night. Monday we'd go North, Tuesday, South, Wednesday, West, Thursday, East. Just wander along going from one tavern to another, playing a few numbers. We'd make out all right. Of course on weekend nights it didn't matter too much where you'd play; there'd be plenty of money floating about then. Most everybody got paid at the end of the week."
Walter Davis was instrumental in getting Willie to record. The pianist-singer brought Hatcher with him to Aurora, Illinois, to record for Bluebird. Hatcher remembers recording "So Unkind" and "Mean To Me" with Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Lee McCoy backing him. Willie moved to Chicago in 1948, but was never too successful as a musician. He worked on Maxwell Street for a while with guitarist, One-Legged Sam, but soon lost interest in performing actively with so little chance of monetary reward. His mandolin has been in pawn for some time now.