Garrett McCutchan is a multi-instrumentalist and world traveler. His material is contained in a binder of yellowed, coffee-stained pages. And it's the music in the background at one of Baton Rouge's hidden lunch spots.
It’s lunch time at Yvette Marie’s, a café nestled inside of the Circa 1857 antique shop on the edge of the Garden District in Baton Rouge. Some patrons enjoy their sandwiches at mismatched tables, while others browse paintings and old furniture.
And for a few hours, Garrett McCutchan sits in his quirky little corner, surrounded by stringed instruments and old photos, singing stories of unrequited love, Laundromat thieves and bachelor debauchery.
At 72 years old, McCutchan dons a Garfield t-shirt, a patched denim vest and a bright fuchsia scarf. And of course his signature hat. It’s made of straw and riddled with feathers. His memory is flush with stories. He tells tales from as far back as the 1940s, when his first violin teacher used to reward him with five shiny pennies after a good lesson.
Those pennies paid off. McCutchan’s long fingernails pluck effortlessly at the strings of a banjo, viola, six and twelve string guitar during his lunchtime concerts, which he began to play daily eight years ago.
One of the biggest hits among customers is “Cabaret Cat,” a fun fiddle diddle telling the story of a scrappy feline. McCutchan played the song for the first time in North Carolina some years ago, outside of an Italian restaurant. He says his fiddle case filled up with dollars that night.
When McCutchan began playing at the store, he was teaching Italian at LSU. Now he advocates and sells essential oils for a living, but Yvette Marie’s provides an opportunity for a few tips, a free lunch and an audience.
“The guys in charge here, we were talking, but I had to go back to school for something. I said, ‘Good catching up I’ll be back in a few days probably.’ And he gave me the funniest look and he said, ‘Garrett, you can start coming every day if you want to'," McCutchan said.
Now McCutchan does play Yvette Marie’s almost every day. You might even say he’s another one of the antiques.