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Meet Little Jimmy Scott

By Published: February 20, 2008
AAJ: Did you sing with her?

JS: On occasion, after I joined the troop that worked with her. She was like a mother to so many of us. So many kids had the chance to learn what it is to be a part of show business from her. She traveled through the South doing tent shows with us.

AAJ: You had developed symptoms of Kallman's Syndrome around that time?

JS: Oh no, that is from birth. It is hereditary in my family.

AAJ: You had refused treatment for it?

JS: Well, yes, because my mother had taken me to the doctors to see if anything could help the hormonal development. We came to find out that the doctors were working on it, but they hadn't gotten it to a point where it would have been helpful. They were more or less experimenting on folks, and she wouldn't allow us to be experimented on. That's why I refused to be bothered by the treatments. It's a hormonal deficiency in the system. The syndrome came from my mother's side of the family. Her brother had Kallman's Syndrome too. I had other uncles who had it too. I have another brother, who's still living, who was afflicted with Kallman's Syndrome.

AAJ: Didn't the syndrome turn out to be a benefit for you?

JS: As far as the singing goes? Yes. I had the high voice to deal with, but it's all in a person's mind. You know that you have to live. So you go ahead and make a life for yourself, regardless.

AAJ: You joined Lionel Hampton after leaving Estelle.

JS: That's right. Exactly. I had worked many a time with the fellows in his band around here. Whenever they found out I was in a town where they were playing, they would bring Hamp. They'd say, "Come on, man. We have to go hear Jimmy." In '49, Hamp asked me to join the band. I became known across the States with Hampton's band.

AAJ: Then you recorded Everybody's Somebody's Fool.

JS: Yes. In fact, I recorded my first songs with Hampton: I've Been A Fool, Everybody's Somebody's Fool and I Wish I Knew. Now, How Come You Do Me Like You Do? was recorded after I left Hampton.

AAJ: And the masters to those sessions are lost?

JS: Well, I'll tell you who should have them. The masters would have been in the Savoy set-up. Cherry-of course, that was Don Redman-had come here from Paris, where he lived. While he was here, he did both arrangements.

AAJ: Didn't the producer have to put your name on Hampton's albums?

JS: No one ever knew who the singers were. One thing about Hampton's band was that it always listed "Lionel Hampton and vocalists." That's what you would see on the label. Singers' names weren't put on the labels until later.

AAJ: So singers couldn't become known unless they went out on their own.

JS: Exactly. Or if you were known publicly as the singer who was with the band, through word of mouth, you could get a reputation that way. But if the band did a date, the singer's name would be listed. Other than that, the singer didn't get any name recognition. That was one of the things that caused me to leave the band. In a way, it takes away your identity. But Hampton's point was, OK, if you left the band, he could get somebody else to sing the song. Most bands did that back then. But most people knew I was Hampton's singer, even though my name wasn't on the label. They knew my voice. Right away when people heard the Hampton records, they'd say, "That's Jimmy."

AAJ: Did you join Paul Gayten because of the lack of recognition?

JS: Paul's agent used to send out packages to promote Savannah Churchill, Larry Darnell and myself. So that's how I was able to join Paul.

AAJ: And that's how you met Fred Mendelsohn too.

JS: Yes, and also Teddy Reig, who was on the road a long time with Count Basie's band. Teddy was in charge of Royal Roost Records. Teddy was involved in so many things that he didn't focus on the promotion of the records. He was more into going around to dances and what-not. It wound up that Lubinsky of Savoy got all of those masters from Teddy. Stan Getz and myself really started that label. I had four recordings on that label.

AAJ: How long did you stay with Gayten?

JS: Not too long-a year or two at the most. We were in road shows together, but I was singing in clubs the rest of the time, if not in Cleveland, then in different places across the country.

AAJ: Were you well paid?

JS: Back then, what kept you going was your desire to be a singer. We didn't make the money that's being made today. No way. Today's singers don't know how lucky they are to be making that level of income.

AAJ: And that has changed for you only in the last ten years.

JS: Actually, yes, in terms of making any money. I had no one to help me who knew the business end of things. I didn't have that kind of guidance or cooperation. Some singers had managers who were interested in helping them develop their career. I just happened to get with some people who were interested in money instead of developing the creativity of a career. I had some ideas about my music, but they wanted to drive me toward the rock-n-roll. That wasn't my interest. There's nothing wrong with rock-n-roll, though.

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