Sometimes I realize I write about stuff most people don’t care about. I wish I could write everyday about things that millions care about, but I don’t know what that would be. So, I just write about things that I care about…things that turn my head or make me think. When I press the “publish” button on WordPress I have no idea if one single person will read or care about one single word. I guess that’s okay because I love to write and I keep humming the words of Ricky Nelson…”ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” (Garden Party- 1972)
The thing last week that “turned my head” was the obit for Little Jimmy Scott. He was different. He had a terrible disease called Kallmann’s Syndrome. It is a rare genetic condition and Jimmy was born with it in 1925. The disease stunted his growth and prevented him from reaching puberty. He stopped growing at age 11 and was barely 4’11” tall. He learned to sing sitting with his mother at the piano. She was killed in a car crash when he was 13 and Little Jimmy was orphaned.
His voice stayed high-pitched his entire life. That voice became an amazing sound that sold hit records. The only problem was the record label either didn’t list his name or listed him as a female singer. The hit records were back in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s…at the end of the swinging big band era. His first hit record was “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” recorded with the great Lionel Hampton Band. Jimmy Scott was 24 years old. There was no mention of a singer’s name on the hit record. A few years later he recorded “Embraceable You” (before Nat King Cole) with the wonderful Charlie Parker on the ‘Birdland’ Album. The singer listed on the tune was “Chubby Newsome.”
These horrible insults and slights drove Jimmy Scott away from the music business. However, many singers were listening to his records and learning his exquisite phrasing and emotions from his unique voice. Frankie Valli was inspired by him. Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson and Billy Holiday learned from his records.
Another strange twist in the life of Jimmy Scott happened in the early ‘60s. He started growing. At age 37 he grew eight inches to five feet seven inches tall. His arms grew in length even more. His voice never changed. And Ray Charles discovered him. And Jimmy fell in love.
Ray Charles brought him into the studio in 1963 and made an album with Little Jimmy Scott entitled, “Falling in Love is Wonderful.” Those critics who have heard the album rate it as “one of the greatest Jazz albums of all time.”
It looked like Little Jimmy Scott’s life had finally found that magic door to success. The album was released on the weekend of Jimmy’s marriage. While he was on his honeymoon two days later, the album was jerked off the shelves of every retail record store. Little Jimmy had signed some type of contract with a jerk decades before and this guy claimed and won a court order to stop Jimmy’s album from any sales.
The album finally became available in limited quantity FORTY YEARS later. Amazon is selling it now, shipped from England, for $29.95. I haven’t purchased it yet.
However, it did allow a come-back for Jimmy Scott for a few years…between 2000 and 2009. Not many of us had a chance to see or hear him these past dozen years, but a few YouTube performances are around.
We all have to feel a heart-tug for the adversity and cruel injustices that sickness and greedy businessmen brought on this man his entire life. He was resilient and always smiling. His idiosyncratic singing and phrasing may not turn you on, but you can’t stop watching and listening.
Jimmy Scott died last week. He was 88.
Here is a video of him performing in Japan in the year 2000. He was 75. See what you think: