Dutton, who has covered NASCAR since 1993, is also a songwriter who often performs near tracks while on assignment. He's also been known to drop-in on a fan's tailgate event...maybe one TMC has attended?
He currently authors a weekly syndicated page, “NASCAR This Week,” circulated by King Features Syndicate. On the side, the veteran writer enjoys writing songs and performing them.
In 2007, Dutton’s first non-sports book, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. It was the culmination of a three-year period in which he compiled interviews and gathered notes during his spare time. He tracked down singer-songwriters whom he admired and just happened to be performing near NASCAR tracks. On NASCAR off weeks, he frequently traveled to music hotbeds like Nashville and Austin.
And he taught himself to play guitar.
“I’m completely self-taught, probably to a fault,” said Dutton. “I didn’t look at a video. I didn’t read a book. I certainly didn’t take lessons. I just bought a guitar at a pawn shop and started playing around with it. In music books, they have those little grids with chord names. I figured the dots on the grids were where you put your fingers. “In retrospect, that was one of the few things I got right.”
Only one of his songs, “Martinsville,” is about NASCAR. It was loosely derived from the experience of several friends who attended a stock car race for the first time and told Dutton of their adventures. (I wish he'd write one about Schaefer experiences in Charlotte!)
Capitalizing on the fact fans know him for his race coverage, Dutton has been scheduling concerts that tie in with his NASCAR travels. He opened for Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison in Charlotte last fall. He played before a Kannapolis Intimidators minor-league baseball game two nights before the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte. In addition to Grandpa Eddie’s in Richmond, Dutton has performed recently near the tracks in Charlotte, Dover and Pocono. Later this month, he will play and serve as emcee at Pawlessfest, a music festival in Gainesville, Texas.
“I knew I could play my songs,” he said. “What I’ve tried to learn is how to entertain people with them. I talk about my songs and tell stories between them, but not so much that it upsets the messages I’m trying to convey.”
So if you are near Richmond this Thursday, drop into Uncle Eddie's, catch some tunes, drink some beer, talk some bench racing, get an autograph, and buy Monte and Kyle a round for me. I'll pay you back...I promise.