Monday, May 16, 2011

Jack Scott

Jack Scott as a balladeer.
With bowling trophy.

Jack Scott- attempting to match Elvis' sneer.

Jack Scott with backing singers the Chantones.
I've always loved the sound of Jack Scott (born Giovanni Dominico Scafone Jr.,  Jan. 24, 1936, in Windsor, Ontario). He had an loose, almost swinging rock'n'roll sound, he had an amazing voice and was an excellent tunesmith, writing nearly all his own best sides.  
  At age ten his family relocated across the border to Hazel Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, and it was hear he formed his first band-- the Southern Drifters, playing country and rockabilly. His first session came in early 1957 at Detroit's Universal Studio, it produced  Greaseball (an early version of Leroy which remained unreleased until the 90's) and four sides that were picked up by the ABC/Paramount label and make up his first two singles--
Baby She's Gone b/w You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar, his debut, followed later in the year by Two Timin' Woman b/w I Need Your Love, both singles are in the moody, Elvis mode. The primitive thumper Baby She's Gone is the best of the four sides with it's  foreboding, nearly ominous throb, and killer guitar solo by Al Allen (which Robert Quine would steal part of and insert into punk anthem Blank Generation twenty years later). It was around this time he hooked up with bass player Stan Getz (not the jazz saxophonist) and his Tom Cats who would be his backing band for the next year or so (and later go on to even greater obscurity as Johnny Powers' band).  
In the spring of '58 Scott, who had made some local waves was signed to Carlton Records and was back in the studio, recording his first real hit My True Love b/w Leroy (both sides making the Billboard charts with the a-side rising to #3), and the follow up-- With Your Love b/w Geraldine, a lesser hit, rising to #28 and kicking off a six single backwards chart run that would take him through the end of '58 with  Goodbye Baby b/w Save My Soul (#8), The Way I Walk b/w  Midgie (#38), I Never Felt Like This b/w Bella (#78) and There Comes A Time b/w Baby Marie (#71). Carlton also issued his first LP,
ten of its twelve titles being originals, including all his 45's, it was even issued in true stereo, vocals and guitars on one side, bass and drums on the other, it's a great record to practice guitar playing to because you can put the balance all the way to once side and play along with the rhythm section. The stereo pressing have the word Stereo written vertically down the left side of the jacket in press on felt block letters. It's probably the first stereo rock'n'roll LP ever released.
 Jack Scott was drafted in 1959 and he'd spend most of the year in the U.S. Army, Carlton releasing lesser sides and a second LP to keep his name alive. Later that year upon his discharge he left Carlton and signed with another small company- Top Rank. By this late date, in order to survive rockers, following in Elvis' footsteps (whose first post-Army single was the re-write of Mario Lanza's version of O Sole Mia-- It's Now Or Never), had to become ballad singers (Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty,The Everly Brothers) or watch their careers wither (Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins). 
Scott who always excelled at ballads had no problem adjusting and topped the charts with the ballado-profundo What In The World's Come Over You (#5 Pop), although the flip side was a rocker Baby Baby. He followed it with another weeper-- Burning Bridges which became his biggest ever hit, rising to #3. Carlton responded in the other direction by digging out the rocker Go Wild Little Sadie from his sophomore LP and issuing it on the Guaranteed imprint around the same time, it was a close to frantic as Scott ever sounded.
Jack Scott had a nice career going for him, but he was never able to turn it into major stardom. He left Top Rank shortly after Burning Bridges and spent the 60's label hopping, cutting sides, some truly excellent, for Capitol (Strange Desire, one of my favorites, a throw back to his Carlton discs, and the unissued Good Deal Lucille stand out), RCAs Groove subsidiary (including the excellent rockin Christmas two sider-- Jingle Bell Slide b/w There's Trouble Brewing, and the killer-- Wiggle On Out), Dot and progressively lesser labels. Despite, or probably because he never really changed his sound,  he never made the transition to country stardom that revived the careers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty.
By the 70's "The Canadian Elvis" would be reduced to playing Teddy Boy revivals in the U.K. (he shared a live album in '77 with Charlie Feathers, Buddy Knox, and Warren Smith) and the occasional oldies show. His last chart showing was a revival of Burning Bridges done as a duet with Carrol "Baby Doll" Baker, a minor Canadian country hit in 1992. He eventually retired from live performing  unable to find a suitable band (and the economics of touring makes hiring real musicians unfeasible).  In recent years a bootleg emerged claiming to be a Jack Scott  live recording circa 1961, it's actually from the mid-80's, but shows him still at the height of his powers, sounding pretty much like his old discs, as these versions of The Way I Walk and Goodbye Baby prove, time did not decay his easy going swagger.
 If rockabilly, at it's best, was mostly about a guy with a hard on telling himself (and the world) how cool he is,  then Jack Scott was it's prophet. 


Retro Hound said...

I've got some of his 45s from my dad. I posted one with a picture sleeve at

Bob said...

Jack has been regularly, though infrequently, playing the Detroit area since the mid 90's. He has also gone to Europe with some Detroit guys from the HiQ's & Big Barn Combo backing him for several years now. Until fairly recently, he had the great Ann Arbor blues singer/guitarist Steve Nardella playing lead. Steve finally got fed up with Jack, who is notoriously difficult. I just had a conversation about Jack with some of these guys a few weeks ago that was pretty interesting. The standard bio on Jack basically cites his "stage fright" as a reason his career often got derailed. The truth is, Jack has a huge ego and made things tougher on himself at every opportunity. He pissed Dick Clark off so badly that Dick basically blackballed him at a key point in his career. Jack is still good though, he even turns up for small rockabilly acts that pass through metro Detroit. He likes to blow through the door without paying even the five buck cover, an experience I've had a few times while working the door for shows I've done! He'll often jump up and play a few tunes though, it's always good.

Exeter said...

Great post! Thaks for getting this video in front of me.

Ken in NJ said...

I forget who said it, but someone once said Jack Scott sang as if he had a six pack of beer in one hand and a switchblade in the other.

Andy S. said...

Typically fine post on this distinctive and overlooked artist. Don't recall him ever playing New York in the 33 years I've been here--our loss!

JD King said...

He was only in the army for a year? What was up with that? Aren't you supposed to serve two or three years?

Michael McNamara said...

He transplanted from Windsor Ontario to Detroit suburb Hazel Park (not Hazel Oak - no such place - sounds like maybe a mix up of Hazel Park and Royal Oak.) His back-up singers, The Chantones included: Roy Lesperance-bass; Jim Nantais-baritone; Larry Desjarlais-tenor; and Jack Grenier-lead tenor. They were all Canadian guys based in Windsor.

Warren Cosford said...

In 2002 Jack played The Lincoln Centre in NYC. Later went over to Rodeo and jammed.

He was in the army at Fort Knox, but sent home with a Hernia.

He got Dick Clark pissed at him when he left a Tour because he was homesick.

Anonymous said...

"with your love" skips

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
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