James Scott (composer)
James Sylvester Scott
James Scott circa 1904
|Birth name||James Sylvester Scott|
|Also known as||The Little Professor|
|Born||February 12, 1885|
|Died||August 30, 1938 (aged 52)|
Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.
|Genres||Ragtime, march, waltz|
|Occupation(s)||Composer, pianist, music teacher, band leader, arranger|
James Sylvester Scott (February 12, 1885 – August 30, 1938) was an African-American ragtime composer and pianist, regarded as one of the three most important composers of classic ragtime, along with Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb.
Life and career
He was born in Neosho, Missouri to James Scott Sr. and Molly Thomas Scott, both former slaves. In 1901 his family moved to Carthage, Missouri, where he attended Lincoln High School. In 1902 he began working at the music store of Charles L. Dumars, first washing windows, then demonstrating music at the piano as a song plugger, including his own pieces. Demand for his music convinced Dumars to print the first of Scott's published compositions, "A Summer Breeze - March and Two Step", in 1903. By 1904, two more compositions by Scott, "Fascinator March" and "On the Pike March" were published and sold well, but not enough to keep Dumars in business and soon the company ceased publishing.
Ragtime Historians Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis account that Scott went to St. Louis, Missouri in search of his idol Scott Joplin in 1905. He located Joplin and asked if he would listen to one of his ragtime compositions. Upon hearing the rag, Joplin introduced him to his own publisher, John Stillwell Stark, and recommended he publish the work. Stark published the rag a year later as "Frog Legs Rag". It quickly became a hit and was second in sales in the Stark catalogue only to that of Joplin's own "Maple Leaf Rag". Scott became a regular contributor to the Stark catalogue until 1922.
In 1914 Scott moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he married Nora Johnson, taught music, and accompanied silent movies as an organist and arranger at the Panama Theater. Those that knew him recall that theater work was a large part of his activity. His cousin Patsy Thomas remembers, "Everybody called him 'Little Professor' He always walked rapidly, looking at the ground - would pass you on the street and never see you - seemed always deep in thought."
In the last years of his life, Scott busied himself with teaching, composing and leading an eight-piece band that played for various beer parks and movie theaters in the area. With the arrival of sound movies, however, his fortunes declined. He lost his theater work, his wife died without child, and his health deteriorated. He moved in with his cousin Ruth Callahan in Kansas City, Kansas, and even though was suffering from chronic dropsy, he continued to compose and play piano. Scott died at Douglas Hospital on August 30, 1938 at age 52 and was laid beside his wife in Westlawn Cemetery.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- "James Scott (1885 - 1938)". Piano Society. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
- Jasen David A. and Trebor Jay Tichenor (1978) Rags and Ragtime, Dover.
- James Haskins (1978). Scott Joplin - The Man Who Made Ragtime. p. 145. ISBN 0-8128-6066-7.
- Berlin (1994) pp. 146.
- Edward Berlin (1994). King of Ragtime - Scott Joplin and His Era. p. 58. ISBN 0-19-508739-9.
- Rudi Blesh & Harriet Janis (1950). They All Played Ragtime. p. 114. ISBN 0-8256-0091-X.
- David A. Jasen (2007). Ragtime: An Encyclopedia, Discography, and Sheetography. p. 227. ISBN 0-415-97862-9.
- Blesh (1950) pp. 115.
- Blesh (1950) pp. 119.
- DeVeaux, Scott and William Howland Kenney (1992) The Music of James Scott, Smithsonian Institution Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Scott.|
- http://www.umkc.edu/orgs/kcjazz/jazzfolk/scotj_00.htm James Scott on the Kansas City Jazz site
- "Perfessor" Bill Edwards plays Scott compositions and provides background on many of his works
- James Scott at Find a Grave
- James Scott: Innovative American Composer