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. . .'”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More about LJS

It seems to me that two of the heroes of Little Jimmy Scott's comeback have been given scant attention in the enormous coverage in the aftermath of his death. One was Ruth Brown who helped get him booked into the Hollywood Cinegrill in 11/91, a performance to which nearly tout music Hollywood turned out during his several days run there, including Ms. Brown, Phil Spector (surrounded by a veritable Wall of bodyguards), Nancy Wilson (who sang with Jimmy opening night), and Bonnie Raitt. Everywhere you looked there was someone famous. It was a career-changing event of the first magnitude. The other major figure of assistance was journalist Jimmy McDonough who penned a gigantic article about Jimmy Scott published in the Village Voice in late 1988 when the common wisdom was that Scott was long-deceased. Both Betty Carter and Gerald Wilson laid that postmortem on me when I went looking for him a few years earlier. How McDonough managed such a high profile placement for the (then) recherche article I can no longer recall. Maybe just because it was so damned well-wrought. I got dozens of copies of the piece and sent it everywhere. Didn't want to take a chance on anyone who was anyone missing out on it. Yesssss, Jimmy's latterly much discussed appearance at the 3/91 funeral of songwriter Doc Pomus was not without its impact. But those double dominoes of Brown and McDonough also played an enormous part. I was with Jimmy opening night at the Cinegrill and YOU or no one else has EVER seen anyone as spiffed out as he was that evening. Talk about your tux w/o a wrinkle and blindingly shiny patent leather shoes!! ("Hey," he told me as we moved down the hallway arm-in-arm to the showroom on opening night, "that's how we were brought up in show business.") With Jimmy shouting out as we strode along, 'IT'S SHOW TIME!" Betcha Bonnie Raitt still remembers that, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MMulling over a MMovie

Just finished watching---not for the first time---Marilyn Monroe's first pre-Fox feature outing, Ladies of the Chorus. All research groups on the net credit Marilyn with doing her own singing in the movie. Back in the before time (vide Star Trek) when this film was made (1948) nearly everybody could sing     . . .even your grandmother. But Marilyn, to my ears, just sounds a little too good in "Ladies." The entire film was shot in a little over a week. I just don't think the "suits" would have allowed an untested singer to be sent into a Columbia pre-recording session. Budgetarily speaking, everything would've had to have been one take. Granted, though, it does sound a lot like her speaking voice. . .singing. That's what ghost singers are paid to do. Eventually, at Fox, she had all the qualities of a good jazz-oriented vocalist: swing, pitch, taste and an amiable and identifiable "sound." Her vocal coach there was jazz piano great, Gerald Wiggins. With The Wig as a vocal coach, how bad could she have eventually become? Somewhere on the net there's a photo of that now-deceased musician seated on a couch with a mammoth, personally inscribed photo of MM behind him. Wonder where that is now? I'd like to touch it. If only for the double DNA whammy!

Friday, June 13, 2014


Yesterday in Las Vegas

In addition to his vocal artistry, Jimmy was so very well-read and knowledgeable about all manner of subjects. We were fairly close pals circa 1990-2000. He might have been slight of stature, but I'm sure his brain was disproportionately outsized with a LOT of folds.

I DID actually make it to a book signing for Jimmy's 2002 memoir, Faith in Time, here in L.A. even though I had heard about being mentioned in it only a day or two beforehand. When I read his inscription (see above) while still in the store I got a realll bad case of chicken skin and maybe even let fly with a teardrop or two.

I wrote about him on this blog on several occasions. Here's a link to one of the posts.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Cultural Criminalism of the First Water(s)

Just discovered that Ethel Waters, the multi-talented artist who played a major role in the evolution of modern jazz singing, has NO star on the H'wood Walk of Fame. Incomprehensible! Around 2010 there was a campaign to raise the (somewhat) MERE $25,000 cost of a star, but it stalled in 2012. However, the web site for the movement remains on the net: 

But, again, no signs of latter day action. Diana Ross---make that "Beyonce"--- probably pays that much just to get her nails done. 

Sad Sad SAD to think of all the living and dead low beat trash who receive this honor and yet. . .. Oh, don't get me started.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Melodye Condos : The Pluperfect Personification of Sui Generis

Where else can you get Roger Kellaway "doing" Floyd Cramer, Pat Williams on calliope, and Stevie Wonder's steel drums player?