James Honeyman-Scott, December 1981
|Also known as||Jimmy|
4 November 1956|
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
|Died||16 June 1982
|Genres||Rock, new wave|
|Associated acts||The Pretenders|
James Honeyman-Scott (4 November 1956 – 16 June 1982), commonly referred to as "Jimmy", was an English rock guitarist, songwriter and founding member of the band The Pretenders.
With the Pretenders, Honeyman-Scott established a reputation, in the words of Allmusic, as "one of the most original and versatile guitarists of the early-'80s new wave movement." In addition to his role as lead guitarist, Honeyman-Scott co-wrote a number of songs for the band, sang back-up vocals, and played keyboards on a few tracks.
Early years and musical influences
Honeyman-Scott, along with Pretenders bandmates Pete Farndon (bass guitar, vocals) and Martin Chambers (drums, vocals, percussion), came from Hereford, Herefordshire, England, UK. Prior to joining the Pretenders, Honeyman-Scott played in several bands, including a precursor to the Enid with Robert John Godfrey, the Hawks (Kelv Wilson, bass guitar & vocals; Dave Plowman, guitar; Stan Speak, drums), the Hot Band, and the Cheeks. Fellow members in The Cheeks included Chambers and ex-Mott the Hoople keyboardist Verden Allen, Kelv Wilson ( Bass Guitar - Vocals ). When Honeyman-Scott joined the Pretenders, he was growing vegetables and selling guitars in a music store in Widemarsh Street, Hereford, called Buzz Music.
Honeyman-Scott acknowledged a number of influences on his guitar playing (Guitar Player, 1981). Early musical influences included Cream and the Allman Brothers Band. Later, he was influenced by the lead lines and finger vibrato used by Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople. Honeyman-Scott also credited Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello with their "big jangly" Rickenbacker-influenced guitar sound (Guitar Player, 1981). During his tenure with the Pretenders, Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner from Rockpile were influential, as well as Nils Lofgren and Chris Spedding.
During the mid-1970s, Honeyman-Scott met future Pretenders bandmate Pete Farndon while the bassist was playing with Cold River Lady in Hereford (Melody Maker, 1979). In 1978, Farndon recruited Honeyman-Scott for a series of Pretenders rehearsals and recording sessions, and he officially joined the group that summer (New Musical Express, 1980). Chrissie Hynde recalled, "As soon as I heard Jimmy Scott, I knew I was getting close. Jimmy and I turned out to have a genuine musical affinity" (Rhino Entertainment Company, 2006).
Honeyman-Scott's role in shaping the Pretenders' sound primarily involved adding melodic lead lines to existing songs to help tie them together (Guitar Player, 1981). He recalled in the early days, "We did lots of rehearsing - seven days a week, all hours of the day and night. At first a lot of the licks were very heavy - like 'Up the Neck' started off as a reggae song. I said, 'Let's speed it up,' and put in that little guitar run. The melodic parts of the numbers really all started coming together by me putting in these little runs and licks. And then Chrissie started to like pop music, and that's why she started writing things like 'Kid'" (Guitar Player, 1981).
His style evolved during his tenure with the group: "When I joined the Pretenders I could use a lot more melodic stuff, so my style changed quite a bit. Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe had a lot to do with it.... They always seem to have nice little guitar songs that you can sing along to, and that's what I started trying to do" (Guitar Player, 1981).
In terms of style, Honeyman-Scott is perhaps best known for his inventive guitar playing with the group. His playing relied on power chords, arpeggiated or percussive rhythms, "dive bombs" live, and short hooks rather than long solos. Although he preferred short fixed patterns, he did admit he was "a lot more wild" playing live (Guitar Player, 1981).
Hynde and Honeyman-Scott have both acknowledged the influence their contrasting styles had on each other (Guitar Player, 1981; Uncut, 1999). According to Honeyman-Scott, Hynde had a unique style he adjusted to in several ways: "She does quite a bit of rhythm guitar, and I don't know anybody who plays like her. It's real distinct, and I can't count her beat half the time. Instead, I just put a little guitar line over it, like the lick in 'Tattooed Love Boys'" (Guitar Player, 1981). He joked about his other strategy: "I've never told them I can't work out their time at all! They are used to me coming in a bar too late; they think that's the way I play. But it's because I've missed where she comes in! I just bluff it and hope for the best." (Guitar Player, 1981).
Hynde later summarised his influence on her playing by saying that Honeyman-Scott was her "musical right-hand" and that "he really was the Pretenders sound. I don't sound like that. When I met him, I was this not-very melodic punky angry guitar player and singer and Jimmy was the melodic one. He brought out all the melody in me" (Uncut, 1999, p. 62). Chambers later said, "Despite everything the original band accomplished in only two albums, Jimmy and Chrissie were just starting to figure out what they were capable of as a creative team" (Rhino Entertainment Company, 2006).
In May and June 1982, Honeyman-Scott was first in Los Angeles and then in Austin, Texas, for a short visit with his wife Peggy Sue Fender (an actress/model based in Austin, Texas) whom he had married in April 1981. His wife was staying with local guitarist Mark Younger Smith at this time (FamousInterview.com). While in Austin, he became involved in his first co-production effort for an album by Stephen Doster that was never released (Austin Chronicle, 1997). He also discussed plans with Jol Dantzig for doing a side project called "The Boss Weird" that was to include possibly Elliot Easton as well (Dantzig Design Group, 2006).
During the sessions with Stephen Doster in Austin, Honeyman-Scott was called back to London for a band meeting on 14 June with Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers that resulted in the dismissal of Pete Farndon from the Pretenders, due to Farndon's increasing substance dependence. Two days after the dismissal of Pete Farndon, Honeyman-Scott was found dead in a girlfriend's apartment of heart failure caused by cocaine intolerance (Washington, DC City Paper, 1984; Uncut, 1999). He was 25 years old. James Honeyman-Scott is buried in the churchyard at St. Peters Church, Lyde, Herefordshire.
Although Honeyman-Scott died young, he influenced other well-known guitarists such as Johnny Marr, who noted that "most of all, the jingle-jangle came from James Honeyman-Scott of the Pretenders. He was the last important influence on my playing before I went out on my own. The first time I played 'Kid' with the Pretenders, I couldn't believe it. I've used that solo to warm up with every day for years" In addition, Scott is also credited with discovering the Violent Femmes, who opened for Pretenders at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while the band was on tour (IO Productions, Inc., undated).
Another legacy was the effect Honeyman-Scott's death had on the Pretenders' subsequent direction and longevity. Chrissie later said, "One of the things that kept the band alive, ironically, was the death of Jimmy Scott. I felt I couldn't let the music die when he did. We'd worked too hard to get it where it was.... I had to finish what we'd started" (Rhino Entertainment Company, 2006). At the group meeting on 14 June 1982, Honeyman-Scott suggested bringing Robbie McIntosh into the group in some capacity. After Honeyman-Scott's death, McIntosh became the group's lead guitarist for several years.
- Austin Chronicle, Sept 26, 1982, Stephen Doster—Working Class Hero, by Andy Langer, accessed 23 July 2006 at 
- Guitar Player, April 1981, The Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott, by Jas Obrecht accessed 3 July 2006, at 
- Guitar Player, January 1990, Guitar Hero Johnny Marr: The Smiths and Beyond, by Joe Gore, accessed 3 July 2006, at 
- Dantzig Design Group, 2006, "James Honeyman-Scott of the Pretenders." Hamer Unofficial Artist Archives. Accessed 30 July 2006, at 
- IO Productions, Inc., undated, Interview with Victor de Lorenzo, by "Gaignaire" as part of MusiCalifornia radio program. Transcript accessed 8 July 2006 at 
- Melody Maker, 17 February 1979, Say a Prayer for the Pretenders, by Mark Williams.
- New Musical Express, 26 January 1980, Only a Hobo Only a Star, by Paul Morley.
- Rhino Entertainment Company, 2006, This is Pirate Radio, by Ben Edmonds. Pirate Radio Box Set booklet.
- Uncut, June 1999, Rock and Roll Heart (Pretenders Special), by Allan Jones, pp. 46–65.
- Washington DC City Paper, 3 February 1984, Hynde Sight, by Michazil Yockel, accessed 4 July 2006, at 
- Angel Air Records: Verden Allen Interview: Page 7 1999, accessed 6 December 2011 at 
1974 - Fall of Hyperion - Robert John Godfrey
1979 - Place Your Bets - Tommy Morrison
- Prato, Greg, "James Honeyman-Scott: Biography"
- Guitar Player, 1981, Verden Allen Interview, 1999)
- (Guitar Player, 1990)
- (Rhino Entertainment Company, 2006)
- Pretenders Archives
- Pretenders 977 Radio
- James Honeyman-Scott's Grave at findagrave.com