Born Giovanni Domenico Scafone, Jr., 24 January 1936, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Jack Scott had 19 chart singles in a 41-month period (June 1958 - November 1961), a remarkable track record by any standard. Equally at ease with rockers and ballads, Scott has always remained faithful to his original style and has been hailed as "the greatest Canadian rock and roll singer of all time." The oldest of seven children, Scott was born in 1936 to a New York-born mother and an Italian father, who taught him to play guitar at the age of eight. In 1946 the Scafone family crossed the Canadian / US border from Windsor, Ontario, to Hazel Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, just across the river. Jack was obsessed with music from an early age. Hank Williams was his idol. In 1954 Jack and his brother Jerry formed The Southern Drifters, a typical high school band that, untypically for Detroit, played country music. At the suggestion of a local deejay, Jack changed his name from Giovanni Scafone to the easier to pronounce Jack Scott. When Elvis came along, Jack realized he might have some potential with this new rock n roll sound. In early 1957, after playing the Dance Ranch in nearby Troy, the band recorded two demos at a Detroit studio, "Baby She's Gone" and "You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar", both Jack's own compositions. The cuts were heard by a local record store owner, Carl Thom, who contacted ABC-Paramount Records on Jack's behalf. ABC didn't even bother to recut the demos, signed Scott to a contract and released the two songs in April 1957. The single did well in several parts of the country and ABC was encouraged enough to invite Scott back for a second session, which resulted in the single "Two Timin' Woman"/"I Need Your Love". Though "Two Timin' Woman" is now considered a classic rocker, it didn't sell too well at the time and Jack was soon dropped from the label. On the two ABC singles Jack is backed by his trio, Stan Getz and his Tom Cats, consisting of Stan Getz, bass, Dave Rohiller on lead guitar and cousin Dominic Scafone on drums.
By early 1958 Scott had written (and recorded demos of) two new songs, a rocker called "Greaseball" and a slow ballad, "My True Love". Joe Carlton, a former A&R man at RCA, had recently started his own Carlton label and bought the masters together with an option on Scott's contract for $ 4800. He wasn't happy with the title "Greaseball" though, thinking it might offend Latinos. Jack recut the song under the new title "Leroy" and initially that was the side that took off, peaking at # 11 on the Billboard charts. Then some deejay in Cincinnati started playing "My True Love" and the reaction was phenomenal. One station led to another and pretty soon "My True Love" was at # 3 and even reached # 5 on the R&B charts in the summer of 1958. An important factor in its success were the backup vocals by the Chantones (from Windsor, Ontario, Jack's original hometown), whose harmonies - with a heavy accent on the bass singer, Roy Lesperance- would continue to augment his records for the next three years.
Unfortunately, after this success Scott became enmeshed in the less pleasant side of the independent record business. Promoters, publishers, managers, attorneys and more all wanted to secure themselves a piece of the action that Jack was generating. Scott just wanted to make music, but he was a pawn in a chess game that he had little control over.
The follow-up to his hit was another coupling of a brooding ballad ("With Your Love") with a rocker ("Geraldine"). Both sides entered the charts, but the ballad won out at # 28. The third Carlton single was his best (IMHO). The deceptively simple but oh so infectious "Goodbye Baby" (a # 8 hit) was paired with the exciting gospel-styled "Save My Soul" (# 73), one of the few sides on which Scott abandoned his usual laid-back style. Jack's chart success continued with the next three singles (all released in 1959), but only "The Way I Walk" ("the ultimate in greaser bravado", in the words of Deke Dickerson) went Top 40 (# 35). Scott was unable to promote his records after being drafted in January 1959, but he served less than five months due to a medical discharge on the grounds of a chronic ulcer.
Machinations behind his back carried him from Carlton to the Top Rank label, where his recordings were produced by Sonny Lester and arranged by Bill Sanford. The first Top Rank single, "What In the World's Come Over You", breathed new life into Jack's career and put him back into the Top 10 at # 5 (also # 7 R&B). The up-tempo B-side, "Baby Baby", wasn't bad either. Then came the biggest hit of his career, in the spring of 1960 : the country song "Burning Bridges" (# 3 pop), the only one of his hits that Jack didn't write himself. There was still no country chart action, but Jack was perplexed to see the song go to # 5 on the R&B charts.
Top Rank released three LP's in 1960-61, including two concept albums ("I Remember Hank Williams" and a gospel LP called "The Spirit Moves Me".) Meanwhile, Joe Carlton tried to cash in on Jack's success by putting out an album of his old ABC-Paramount singles and some leftover Carlton tracks, as well as some singles on the Carlton subsidiary Guaranteed. There followed some smaller hits on Top Rank in 1960-61, but then the label went out of business and Jack's contract, along with all the Top Rank masters, was sold to Capitol. Again, Scott had very little to say in the matter. Nine Capitol singles (and one LP) were released between April 1961 and April 1963, but only the first three 45s scraped the bottom of the charts and Scott had no more hits after November 1961. The Capitol recordings aren't bad, but somewhat formulaic and devoid of originality.
In 1963 Berry Gordy approached Jack about recording for Motown, but Scott felt uncomfortable with the Motown sound and he signed with Chet Atkins at RCA instead. Between November 1963 and January 1966, he released five singles on RCA's reactivated Groove subsidiary, three 45s on the parent label and a very obscure album called "Here's Jack Scott", which according to some sources was released in 1964 and according to others not until 1979. Atkins wasn't quite sure which market he was aiming at with Scott's releases. Some cuts like "Flakey John" and "Wiggle On Out" were an attempt to recapture the feel of "The Way I Walk" and "Leroy", but quite a few were countrified numbers and that's an entirely different segment of the market. While Scott loved country music, he didn't see himself as a country artist. Probably the best of the Groove/RCA recordings is the Christmas single "There's Trouble Brewin'"/"Jingle Bell Slide" (1963), with an exuberant sax solo by Boots Randolph. Compared to the Capitol sides, the recordings for RCA (usually with first class backing from the Nashville A-Team) were a definite improve- ment and if the Bear Family box-set is too much for you, the CD "Jack Scott on Groove" is warmly recommended.
After RCA there were one-off singles for ABC-Paramount (1966), Jubilee (1967) and GRT (1970). In 1973-74 he recorded for Dot and finally had his first (and only) entry on the country charts in July 1974 with "You're Just Getting Better", albeit only reaching # 92. Dot was Jack's last major label, but he continued to record and tour. From 1975 onwards he made several successful trips to Europe. Recently he recorded his first new studio album in almost 50 years, which will be released on the Finnish Bluelight label in April or May.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/JackScott1.html
Discography / sessionography :
Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Steve Kolanjian, Deke Dickerson.
Dik, February 2014
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