Real name: James Victor Scott (Little Jimmy Scott)
Born: Jul 17, 1925 in Cleveland, OH
Died: June 12, 2014 in Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Vocal Jazz, Traditional Pop, Standards, R&B
Singer Jimmy Scott (aka Little Jimmy Scott) had an unusual career conditioned by his physical limitations and record company machinations that sometimes prevented him from being heard, but he mounted a major comeback late in life. He was born one of ten children to Arthur and Justine Scott in Cleveland, OH, on July 17, 1925, and he first sang in church. His mother was killed in a car accident when he was 13, leaving him to be raised by foster parents. He suffered from a rare hereditary condition called Kallmann's Syndrome that prevented him from experiencing puberty, such that he stopped growing when he was less than five feet tall and his voice never changed from a boy soprano's. He began singing professionally during the 1940s, touring in tent shows. In 1948, he joined Lionel Hampton's band, and he made his recording debut in with Hampton for Decca Records in January 1950. One of the songs from those sessions, "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," entered the R&B charts in October 1950 and became a Top Ten hit. Scott left Hampton in 1951 and went solo. An appearance with Paul Gayten's band at Rip's Playhouse in New Orleans that year was recorded by Regal Records, but went unissued for 40 years until Specialty Records released it in 1991 as Regal Records Live in New Orleans From 1951 to 1955, Scott recorded singles for Royal Roost, Coral, and Roost Records. Then, in 1955, he moved to Savoy Records, which issued his first LP, Very Truly Yours, that year. In 1957, he switched to King Records for a series of singles, but in 1959 he returned to Savoy, which issued his second LP, The Fabulous Little Jimmy Scott, in 1960. In 1962, he signed to Ray Charles' Tangerine label and recorded his third album, Falling in Love Is Wonderful, but it had to be withdrawn shortly after its release when Savoy claimed he was still under contract there. This debacle led Scott to leave the music business (he eventually took a job as a shipping clerk at the Sheraton Hotel in Cleveland). In 1969, he recorded his fourth album, The Source, for Atlantic Records, and in 1975, he returned to Savoy for his fifth LP, Can't We Begin Again. But neither effort achieved commercial success, and he continued to work outside music.
Scott began performing in clubs again in 1985. In 1990, backed by the Jazz Expressions, he returned to the recording studio for J's Way Records. One of his long-time supporters was songwriter Doc Pomus, and when Pomus died on March 14, 1991, the by-now 65-year-old Scott sang at his funeral. The performance was heard by Seymour Stein, the head of Warner Bros. Records-distributed label Sire Records, who signed Scott to a contract. This led to a major comeback. In June 1991, Scott (billed as James V. Scott) appeared in an episode of director David Lynch's off-beat television series Twin Peaks. (Scott later appeared in the films Scotch and Milk  and Chelsea Walls .) He sang on Lou Reed's Sire album Magic and Loss, released in January 1992. His own new album All the Way (the first on which he was billed simply as Jimmy Scott) was released by Sire/Blue Horizon/Warner Bros. later in 1992 and reached number four on Billboard's jazz album chart, also earning a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. The same year, he sang on the soundtracks for the films Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Glengarry Glen Ross. In 1993, Rhino Records delved into the Atlantic Records archives to assemble Lost and Found, containing some unreleased material from sessions in 1972; the album reached number 14 in the jazz charts. Scott's next album of new material, Dream, was released by Sire/Blue Horizon/Warner Bros. in 1994 and reached number eight in the jazz charts. Heaven, an album of gospel and spiritual songs, appeared in 1996 and reached number 19 in the jazz charts. That concluded Scott's Warner Bros..contract, but he recorded Holding Back the Years, for the Artists Only! label in 1998, and it reached number 14 in the jazz charts. In 2000, he moved to Milestone Records, and Mood Indigo reached number 17 in the jazz charts. Despite passing his 75th birthday, he continued to record frequently, releasing Over the Rainbow in 2001, But Beautiful in 2002, and Moon Glow in 2003. All of Me: Live in Tokyo appeared in 2004. Savoy Jazz issued All or Nothing at All in 2005.
- William Ruhlmann (All Music Guide)
Through historical circumstances and the various labels he's recorded for, jazz balladeer Jimmy Scott (formerly known as "Little Jimmy Scott") has been lumped into the rhythm & blues category since the 1950s. In the '50s, he would perform with blues singers like Ruth Brown and Big Maybelle. But Scott has always insisted he's a jazz balladeer. He should know. Despite his misinformed dealings with unscrupulous record-company executives over the years and the misclassification of his artistry, he's emerged from a lot of difficult circumstances relatively unscathed. His last three albums for Warner Bros. prove it.
Scott's career got a boost when he was a senior citizen. He sang at the funeral of his friend songwriter/blues singer Doc Pomus (Jerome Felder) in March, 1991, and Seymour Stein from Sire Records was in the audience. Stein was so blown away by Scott's rendering of one of Pomus' favorite songs, the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch over Me," that he practically signed Scott on the spot to a five-album deal with Sire/Warner Bros. (Scott later recorded for Warner Bros.) His first album for Sire/Warner Bros., the Tommy LiPuma-produced All the Way, was one of the best-produced and -engineered jazz albums of the 1990s, and certainly one of Scott's absolute best recordings. Other recent releases for Warner Bros. include Dream, produced by Mitchell Froom in 1994, and his 1996 release, Heaven, produced by Cassandra Wilson producer Craig Street.
But there's so much more to Scott than just his interpretations of classic songs from the great American songbook for Warner Bros. Born and raised in Cleveland, where he lost his mother to an auto accident when he was in his early teens, Scott's recording career began in 1948-49 with Lionel Hampton's band, when he recorded three sides for Decca, "I've Been a Fool," "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," and "Please Give Me a Chance." After being encouraged to pursue a career on his own, he began recording for Roost Records, or Royal Roost Records, in 1950. There, he cut more than a dozen singles before jumping to Coral Records in 1952. After recording more than a dozen sides for Coral in 1952, he didn't record again until February of 1955, when he began a long and difficult relationship with Herman Lubinsky's Savoy Records label. His notable sides for Savoy, like "When Did You Leave Heaven?" "Everybody Needs Somebody," and "Imagination," have now been reissued on compact disc. Scott, by then based in Newark, N.J., recorded with Savoy until 1962, when had a chance to record for (longtime admirer) Ray Charles' Tangerine Records. The album that resulted, Falling in Love Is Wonderful, was pressed and released, but Lubinsky got in the way by bluffing Tangerine Records into thinking they had an exclusive recording contract with Scott, which Scott maintains is incorrect. As a result, Falling in Love Is Wonderful was pulled back from distribution, but the copies that did get out there now fetch upwards of $250. Scott's next album deal come about until 1969, when he recorded The Source for Atlantic Records. Scott's other albums include Can't We Begin Again for Savoy in 1975, recorded while Lubinsky was on his death bed, and Doesn't Love Mean More, recorded for his own J's Way Jazz label in 1990.
In 1989, Scott was the first of a handful of inductees into the R&B Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Awards, (along with Ruth Brown and Charles Brown). Using part of the $15,000 he was awarded, he started J's Way Records, thus jump starting his own career with Doesn't Love Mean More, and those of others around him. Musicians Scott has recorded for his own label include saxophonist Harold Ousley and vocalists Connie Speed and Arthur Leeks.
These days, Scott divides his time between homes in Las Vegas and northern New Jersey, while doing club shows on the East and West coasts and the occasional tour of Europe. Scott's newfound fans include Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Kim Bassinger and Alec Baldwin. Scott sang at the wedding of the thespian couple and sang on Reed's Magic and Loss album.
Now in his early 70s, Scott still retains his unique, behind the beat phrasing. Offstage, his eternally optimist spirit has touched the hearts and minds of many fans, friends, admirers and associates. What Scott does so well is put his own stamp on the standards, and while his voice is not what it once was, it's still one of the most captivating voices in the world of jazz. Several film documentaries about his life and times were begun in the late '90s.
- Richard Skelly