Saturday, June 21, 2014


In June 2002 I interviewed record producer Joel Dorn (now deceased) for Japan's Record Collectors magazine. Inasmuch as Dorn was responsible for recording Little Jimmy Scott's timeless The Source album, understandably much of our conversation centered on the making of that release. Here's what he told me.

"By the time he got a contract with Sire Records [in 1992 ] as a consequence of [Sire head] Seymour Stein hearing him sing at [songwriter] Doc Pomus’ funeral he was certainly still a genius and brilliant, but physically his voice was past what we tried to get on record in the late 60s and early 70s. But he still brings his wisdom and his pathos and his unique view of time and phrasing to what it is that he does. One of the reasons I fought so hard to record him back then [in 1971 and ‘72] is I wanted to record him while he still had his fast ball. He was at the height of his powers at that point and not being recorded. As a fan, I shared Doc Pomus' anger; why wouldn't Jimmy Scott be recorded by a major label. It was pocket change to record him back then. There's so little documentation. There are only three things that catch Jimmy at the height of his powers: the record with Ray Charles record, “Falling in Love is Wonderful,“ “The Source” and the one after, “Lost and Found, which I think is the best of “The Source” and the best of the [second] album that never came out. [note: the latter was also produced by Dorn]

RC: Why aren't the other tracks like ”The Long and Winding Road” and the other three (?) tracks from the second sessions on “Lost and Found“?

JD: Because, well, the beginning of “The Long and Winding Road” works, the second half of it doesn't. It' simple. “Precious Lord” I didn't think held up to “Motherless Child” in the gospel or spiritual category. He sang the s**t [shit] out of the first half of “The Long and Winding Road,” and the second half he started to stumble.

RC: I heard “Long and Winding Road” on the radio not too long ago.

JD: I used the first half of it in a little syndicated half hour radio documentary when we put out “Lost and “Found.” I sent it out to radio stations. Up to the point where he starts to stumble on it. Whew! Nearly every disc jockey in America that we sent that to called back and said, “Why isn't “Long and Winding Road” on the album?,” they want to know. Wait’ll Jimmy’s collector fans find out that there’s even half a copy of it available on some obscure, limited radio promo recording! [he pauses then gently laughs] They’ll go nuts!

RC: One assumes the same holds true for the un-issued track “I’ll Never Be Free,” from the ‘72 date and “Yesterday” from the “Source” sessions.

JD: The only time that stuff by Jimmy didn't work was generally when I gave him a song when he agreed to do it as a favor to me. By the time I got to the second record I knew not to ask him for certain things. I think “The Source” is an uneven record . . ..

[I start to protest.]

JD: [continuing] I gave him “Exodus.” I thought he did a great job with that. I gave him “Unchained Melody.” I thought he did a great job with that. But I’m not happy with “On Broadway,” I’m not happy with “Our Day Will Come.” Which I thought would be perfect for him. I think he adapted to it only because of his brilliance. He did what he could do with those, but if I had stayed with the “Day by Day” and those things that Jimmy was doing in his club work for years, I think “The Source” would have been a better record. “Day by Day” [on “The Source] is the single greatest recording Jimmy Scott ever made. Not because I produced it, believe me. Other than making sure he had a recording contract and putting him with people I thought he should be with, Ididn't make any contribution to “Day to Day” in terms of his interpretation of it. If you ever wanted to define what it is that Jimmy Scott does that nobody living can even approach it’s in that particular song. That's to me. The Ray Charles record is not an uneven record. It's fluid all the way through.

Dorn wrote the following about the checkered history of this legendary suppressed recording in his liner notes for “Lost and Found.”

'Cut to the summer of 1963. I’m a jazz jockey on a jazz station in Philly [Philadelphia]. An album called “Falling in Love is Wonderful” is the premiere release on Ray Charles’ new label, Tangerine Records. Jimmy had been recording since the late ‘40s, first with Lionel Hampton and then on his own on Roost and Savoy. These records were great, and some were even classics, but they were not the Jimmy Scott I had [once] heard at the Apollo [Theater in New York’s Harlem]. That Jimmy had never been captured on record until the Tangerine album. . . In the seven years I was on the air [as a disc jockey], I can’t remember a more positive response to a record. Just as swift and unfortunately negative for Jimmy’s career was the response of his former label, Savoy. Savoy claimed that Jimmy was still legally under contract to them and the courts agreed. Their demand that Jimmy’s Tangerine album be taken off the market was upheld. The breakthrough he had been waiting for years went up in smoke. Jimmy went into a self-imposed exile. He ended up in Cleveland, running the shipping room of the Sheraton Hotel there.”

Nearly ten years later in 1971 when Dorn recorded Scott, Savoy once again successfully stepped in and suppressed the results of the sessions. And although Dorn's work with Scott is now available---at least that portion of it that Dorn approves of---to this day, “Falling in Love is Wonderful” with its arrangements by Gerald Wilson and Marty Paich and accompaniment by Ray Charles himself, still has not been released. It now fetches high amounts from collectors. This time the stumbling block is said to be the high price Charles wants for licensing the disc. This was told to me NOT by Dorn but by as associate of Charles. Dorn, himself, is now negotiating with Charles for release of the disc in the U.S. marketplace. Meanwhile, Jimmy Scott prevailed over all the legal wrangling and other vicissitudes of race, health, and vocal uniqueness to become, in the greatest comeback story ever told, an international music star, especially in this country. One might even go so far as to call him “Japan’s Own. . .'”

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