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Interviews

Meet Little Jimmy Scott

By Published: February 20, 2008
AAJ: You recorded with Savoy until around 1960?

JS: The last recording with Savoy was in '76. You're right, though. This was around the time that Lubinsky was getting ill. Fred asked me to do one more recording for him while he had the opportunity. That's when we did the record, All Over Again, in Chicago.

AAJ: Didn't Lubinsky keep you from recording?

JS: Lubinsky was slicker than all of them. He had me under contract for a while. But at the time he interfered with my career, I had no contract. No one knew it. He bluffed everyone. The Tangerine label, of course, was Ray Charles.' Ray had gotten the label to invest in a few of his friends, including Louis Jordan, Percy Mayfield and Betty Carter. And so he recorded my record too, Falling In Love Is Wonderful. We got Gerald Wilson and Marty Paich for it. At the time, it was just the beginning of his success. Naturally, he didn't want to tangle with Lubinsky. So Ray was bluffed out of releasing the album.

AAJ: So he must have lost money on the album.

JS: No, there was under-the-table money. People have told me that they paid $300 to $400 for one album. Warner wanted to release the album, as have other companies. But I guess it's being kept as a collector's item so that they can make more money. Of course, that doesn't help me.

AAJ: Do you have a copy of the album yourself?

JS: I do, yes. In fact, a guy in Germany just made a CD out of the album, and he brought me a copy of it. It would be considered a counterfeit CD, but it's not being sold. Only a couple thousand copies were released, but that couple thousand didn't go anywhere. Much of the public had heard about the record, but no one could buy it. It was a beautiful record, though, with some great material. Lately, I've been planing to re-record some of that material. It can't be released to the market, so what can I do?

AAJ: Didn't Lubinsky try to stop your Atlantic album in '69?

JS: He was friends with the people at Atlantic. You can bet they paid some money to Lubinsky. He would block everything. I wasn't the only performer he used.

AAJ: Who else did he hurt?

JS: Little Esther. She came into the business as a rock-n-roll singer, but they tried to turn her into a ballad singer. There again, he owned her.

AAJ: When were you free of Lubinsky?

JS: In '78 or '79. But he was off my back when I did the last album for his company because Fred Mendelsohn wanted me to record once more for them. Even after Lubinsky died, Fred wanted me to do some things. He did all he could to make things as pleasant as possible for me. But what could he do? He was just an employee of the company. I respect him for at least trying.

AAJ: You recorded again in the seventies?

JS: Right. I lived in Cleveland, but traveled occasionally on weekends. Around 1986, I became more persistent about my work, and then the public still didn't know much about me until the nineties. I recorded an album called Does She Love Me More, but it hasn't been distributed yet. Some of the kids in the band or myself wrote the compositions for the album. A friend of mine, Arthur Lee, wrote three or four songs for the album too. Of course, I produced that record myself, and I do have vinyl copies of it. I would love to have someone distribute it because it has some good music on it. I made the album to expose the group: Jimmy Scott and the Jazz Expressions.

AAJ: How did it feel to finally get a Grammy nomination in 1992?

JS: It was really amazing and beautiful. I have to thank Tommy LiPuma for that. There aren't many producers as great as he is. He turned Natalie Cole's career completely around with Unforgettable. He's brilliant.

AAJ: Did he go to the Grammy ceremony with you?

JS: Yes he did. And he went with me for the Monk Foundation's singing competition in Washington D.C. I was a judge with Jon Hendricks, Abbey Lincoln and Shirley Horne.

AAJ: You've become a cult figure among actors like Joe Pesci.

JS: Joe's my boy. I enjoyed being around him because he's so sincere and creative. No one really know how well Joe could sing.

AAJ: And you sang Under The Sycamore Tree on Twin Peaks too.

JS: Yes, I had the opportunity to meet David Lynch. He came to hear my performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles once. The Roosevelt has a history too because that's where they held the first Academy Awards as well as the first Jazz At The Philharmonic.

AAJ: And Bill Cosby helped you by giving you residuals from his show.

JS: Yes. He played Evening In Paradise, written by Robert Banks. I still get royalties from it even today. This was the first time I received royalties or consideration of any kind. Bill Cosby was always great to meet when he lived in Philly before his career took off. He has done so many things to help people with their careers. He gave Shirley Scott a big job when he did a revival of You Bet You Life. The man is just wonderful.

AAJ: It's good to hear that you're getting the recognition you deserve.

JS: It'll work out in the end. You gotta believe.

Photo Credit:

Skip Bolen


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