Interview Date: August 24, 2011 @7pm EDT
Special Guest: Jimmy Scott (a.k.a. “Little” Jimmy Scott) the Jazz Legend who sang in the early days for Roost, King and Savoy Records. He is famous for among other things, singing the most beautiful ballads in the most hauntingly high unwavering alto voice and for his unique relaxed behind the beat delivery. He is known in jazz circles as having both a tragic and inspirational life and career. Marvin Gaye once said “his entire career he has long to sing ballads… with the depth of Jimmy Scott” Frankie Valli called him “A towering influence on a whole generation on young singers” and Lou Reed said that “he is the greatest jazz singer in the world.” Jimmy Scott who is known by some as “Little” Jimmy Scott has work with some of the most iconic people in the music industry people like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Billy Holiday, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker just to name a few.
Jimmy Scott, Herman Lubinsky and Savoy Records
There are days when I turn on the TV or check the news that I get a sudden gut-wrenching feeling of anger mixed with defeat. Hearing the banks and Wall Street unapologetically exploiting and stealing from the masses I get miffed. Yes, there are days when I am reminded that we are living in cynical and unfair times when people in control take the whole pie and complain that you took a crumb. In the music business, this has been going on since the beginning of time.
For example, have you ever heard stories about the days when black musical artists were exploited by record tycoons? No? Well let me introduce you to Herman Lubinsky and Little Jimmy Scott. Lubinsky is a truly historically interesting man in the music world, albeit somewhat in infamy. In 1924, Lubinsky was the first person to open a radio station in New Jersey. In 1942, he and Ozzie Cadena (father of punk rock musician Dez Cadena) formed Savoy Records on Market Street in Newark. Savoy Records was successful from its very inception; I mean this literally. On its very first recording session ever committed to tape, they recorded “Rhythm and Bugs b/w Tricks” by the Savoy Dictators. It became a number one hit. Not too bad, even for a guy who happens to own his own radio station. He then went on to record some of the most important Jazz, Gospel and R&B music ever to be recorded. Period.
With his record label, Lubinsky was instrumental in putting out some of the first (if not the first) Bebop records ever. Savoy recorded such up and coming artists at the time with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, J.J. Johnson, Erroll Garner, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Leo Parker and Fats Navarro. Ever heard of them? No? Do some homework! When Rock and Roll first hit, he shifted his attention more on Gospel music. Recording some of the finest Gospel musical groups of the 1950’s. People like Rev. James Cleveland, the Kings of Harmony and the Deep Tones just to name a few. If that weren’t enough, he recorded some R&B heavyweights like Brownie McGee, Dusty Fletcher, Paul Williams, Hal Singer, Wild Bill Moore, and Little Jimmy Scott.
I first heard of Herman Lubinsky from reading about one of my favorite Jazz singers, Little Jimmy Scott. Jimmy Scott, if you’ve never heard of him, is a cult hero in the Jazz world. A man who, for better or worse, will be forever linked to Lubinsky.
Jimmy Scott was born to a large family, third child of ten, in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925. He was born with a rare genetic condition called Kallmann’s syndrome. One of the symptoms was that his growth was stunted–the “little” in Little Jimmy Scott. Another symptom was that it prevented him from ever reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, but hauntingly beautiful contralto range voice. Scott also developed a unique style, working his voice like a fine tool, rather than simply relying on it’s integral originality.
Jimmy Scott is a passionately loved and sought after singer, who, aside from bad luck, and other misfortunes, was prevented from a brilliant and successful career for having ever signed a contract with Lubinsky. Hard turns seemed to follow throughout Scott’s life. Tragically, when Scott was thirteen, his mother was killed by a drunk driver, leaving Scott an orphan. Scott’s luck didn’t improve much throughout the early years of his career. The first unlucky break happened when he recorded “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” with the Lionel Hampton Band in the late 40’s. The piece became a top ten R&B hit that should have left him a household name, but as things would go, his name was left off the album entirely, crediting Lionel Hampton vocalist. The next unlucky break happened when he recorded “Embraceable You” with Charlie Parker on the album “One Night in Birdland.” When it was released Scott’s singing credit went to a female vocalist named Chubby Newsome, again robbing him of the credit he deserved.
All of this was bad, but more was to come. Little Jimmy Scott’s career was nearly ended shortly after he was introduced to Lubinsky. To say that Lubinsky was an exploitive producer would be an understatement. Even among thieves in the industry, Lubinsky was considered to be a cheapskate who was well known for having his artist sign very restrictive contracts, keeping most of the money for himself, debilitating the artists freedom, and poorly promoting albums. He really knew how to work the law and exploit the performers. In Little Jimmy Scott’s case, he signed a contract that restricted him from recording for anyone except Lubinsky for the entirety of his life. This contract destroyed Jimmy Scott’s career because it also meant that Scott was unable to make a living in music. Scott, however, was unaware about his fate with the dreadful contract until he left to record one of his most monumental records of his career with Ray Charles’s new record label, Tangerine Records. Charles was eager to launch his label and build the career of one of his favorite singers. The album “Falling In Love Is Wonderful” came out in 1963 and is considered by most, to be Scott’s best work. Yet the album was only available for sale only for a few days before it was pulled from the shelves due to a lawsuit from Lubinsky. As the story goes, all the profits from the album went to the unethical business tycoon. It should also be noted that this album is one of the most sought after Jazz albums of all times, not only because of its scarcity, but also because the album is considered by many to be a masterpiece. There were a few other failed attempts at releasing albums outside of Savoy ie. “the Source”–one of my favorite jazz albums* where Scott found out that his contract with Lubinsky was still legally binding. For Lubinsky, who had many black artists tied into him with extremely restrictive contracts, it was just another day at the office.
Lubinsky eventually died on March 16, 1974 in Newark, NJ and released Jimmy from his contract. Lubinsky’s imprint on music is undeniable and truly extraordinary for many reasons. I only wish, that he could have been a more honorable guy. He could have provided the world with more beautiful music from a truly unique voice and style in Scott.
As for Jimmy Scott, it wasn’t until 1984, at age 59, when he began singing again. It was in 1991 when singing at the funeral for close friend and songwriter, Doc Pomus, he was rediscovered by Seymour Stein, president of Sire records. Stein signed a five album contract with Scott the very next day. Unfettered by restrictions, Scott’s career took shape of what is more true to form, playing with people like Lou Reed, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen. You might have also seen him on The Cosby Show and/or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
I was lucky enough to meet this legend and talk to him, his wife, and his band members at a free Jazz concert in Detroit. He and his band were simply amazing.
On one last final note, in the 1990’s a cure was found for Kallmann’s Syndrome. Scott has refused the treatment fearing it would rob him of his talent.
Please read my Corrections to the Article below
*The album has one of the most haunting jazz tracks of all time called “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” It really will put shivers down your back (I put a snip-it of the song in the podcast)
2 Doc Pomus – another musical giant that most people don’t know by name. He was famous for writing some of the most iconic songs in history. Songs like: “A Teenager in Love”, Save the Last Dace for me”, “This Magic Moment”, “Suspicion”, “Surrender”, and “Viva Las Vegas”. He was indicted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame(1992), Song Writers Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_Pomus
3 Article reference by ‘Faith in Time: The life of Jimmy Scott’ by David Ritz
Corrections to the Article:
Below you will notice that I commented on a website called “Jazz Lives”; it’s one of the top Jazz websites in the world. Michael Steinman (owner of Jazz Lives) was kind enough to put an article about my website within their site (Click HERE to read). The traffic I have been getting from this is nothing short of incredible to say the least. Not so much in numbers (as of yet) but quality of people that were kind enough to grace this site. What I mean by this is I had my “ass” served to me by some of the top Jazz aficionados in the world. One of them, Dan Morgenstern holds that record for winning the most Grammy Awards in album notes (article about him HERE) and the other Bob Porter is nothing short of a legend in his field (check him out HERE and his great website called Jazz ETC HERE). Listen, I really don’t mind admitting mistakes when I make them. What I can say is that I will do my best not to make such errors and welcome anyone to comment and correct my writing. So here are the corrections so far in the article:
Ozzie Cadena never had a piece of Savoy. The Savoy Dictators sides were not produced by Savoy. They were actually recorded in 1939-there is some question as to whether the band ever got paid. “Rhythm and Bugs” was not a big seller at all if it sold 2,000 copies I’d be surprised. Lubinsky had no distribution at the time.
Savoy only recorded Dizzy & Coltrane as sidemen. Like Dusty Fletcher, any material from sessions led by these guys would have been part of a master purchase. Savoy did a lot of that.
“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” was a #6 R&B hit for Hampton. No pop chart action at all. The performance was issued on 78/45 not on LP at the time-it was later on. Jimmy was one of two singers in the Lionel Hampton band (Betty Carter was the other). Vocalist credit on 78 labels was not automatic at the time.
Jimmy never recorded with Parker. He was taped by someone during a jam session and that one track was issued many, many years after the fact. It might have made a great recording session if the two were together. Remember that Jimmy was brought to Savoy by Fred Mendelsohn. When Fred left for King Records in 1956, that is when the relationship with Savoy began to turn sour. Fred recorded Jimmy for Savoy again in 1975.
Good luck with it.
I thought this might be a good time to let you know about some fantastic Jazz sites that I have stumbled across. Well let me rephrase that I came across them because they are some of the top rated Jazz blogs on the web today.
The first is an amazing blog for all you hardcore Jazz fans that like to dig a little deeper. It’s quite aptly named “Jazz Lives” (by Michael Steinman) and is really in depth in its coverage of Jazz greats. Check it out at: http://jazzlives.wordpress.com
Second blog is by an wonderful photographer by the name of Juan-Carlos Hernandez, who is universally understood as being one of the top Jazz photographers in the world. Check out this incredible website and be amazed at this man’s talent and eye for capturing the moment. http://juancarloshernandezjazzphotographer.blogspot.com/
The third is the biggest in the heap and is a daily blog called JazzWax (by Marc Myres). It’s popular for a good reason; it’s fantastic! This is a site that covers it all and leaves no stone unturned. Check it out:
Lastly I wanted to remind everyone that Damned’s 35th Anniversary tour of 2011 is still on and is heading down-under and to Japan. (Lucky Punks)
The Damned 35th Anniversary Tour 2011
Featuring “Damned Damned Damned” and “The Black Album”
November 17 – Newcastle, O2 Academy
November 18 – Leeds, O2 Academy
November 17 – Manchester, O2 Academy
November 20 – Edinburgh, Picture House
January 19 – Brisbane, Hi-Fi
January 20 – Melbourne, Billboard
January 21 – Sydney, The Metro
January 22 – Perth, The Capitol
January 25 – Auckland, The Powerstation
January 27 – Osaka, Namba Hatch
January 28 – Tokyo, Shibuya-Ax
January 21 – Nagoya, Club Quattro