DeWitt Scott Interview

DeWitt Scott is an exceptional steel player, and he’s known world-wide for his musical talents. He was born in Amarillo, Texas on April 10th, 1932. DeWitt grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma, and graduated shortly after in 1950. His early influences were Jerry Byrd, “Little” Roy Wiggins, Don Helms, and Speedy West. Later influences of DeWitt’s were Buddy Emmons, Lloyd Green, and Doug Jernigan, Boggs, Merle Lindsey, and the Oklahoma Night Riders.

 

DeWitt played Western Swing and country music in the local night clubs, radio, and TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; as well as playing Grand Ole Opry shows at the Municipal Auditorium also in Oklahoma City. DeWitt moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1951 to play on TV shows and local night clubs, he also backed up Grand Ole Opry groups while playing at Johnny Rion's Hillbilly Park, and The Lindy Ballroom in St. Louis. Many years later DeWitt played the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee as an artist!

 

In 1966 DeWitt started “Scotty's Music” in the basement of his home. Ten years later Scotty's Music was known world-wide, and took over all three floors of the building. In more recent years, Scotty's grew to have customers in every state in the union, and forty-five countries world-wide. In 1973, Scotty noticed a need for more instrumental albums. So he founded the “Mid-Land Records” label. He now has forty-five artists recorded which make Mid-Land Records the largest Steel Guitar label in the world with distribution world-wide.

 

In 1968 Scotty had his first Steel Guitar Show. This show was held at the Parkway Motel and the first performer was Maurice Anderson with about seventy-five people in attendance. In 1971 the name was changed with twelve Steel Guitar players. The convention was held at the Ramada Inn with about five-hundred people, and for the first time distributors were set up around the hall. In 1977 the name was changed again, by this time nine foreign countries were represented. The show went on for three days with sixty-five Steel players and twenty-five distributors. By 1995 the convention was held at the downtown St. Louis Regal Riverfront Hotel.

 

 

 

(CSC) 1. You’ve recently celebrated your 37th annual Steel Guitar Convention this past August. Please share some of the convention’s highlights with us!

 

(DeWitt Scott)

Every player’s performance is a highlight for me. I admire them all. But to answer your question the American Idol contest would be a highlight. And of course, having country music artists, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell and Jack Greene coming to congratulate their steel players that were inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame would certainly be a highlight. And with Dolly singing two of her most popular songs, “I Will Always Love You” and “Coat Of Many Colors” just put the icing on the cake.

 

 

(CSC) 2. You grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma. What first attracted you to playing the Steel Guitar?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I must have been at least 16 years old as I was driving at the time that I heard a tune on the car radio and I thought it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I called the radio station in Oklahoma City and found out that the beautiful sound was a steel guitar. The tune was “Drowsy Waters” and it was played by Jerry Byrd. That did it! My momma bought me my first steel guitar and amplifier from the Montgomery catalog, and I was on my way. Well, almost on my way. I had no idea on how to tune it but soon figured out the E major tuning. But as hard as I would try I could not get the sounds of Jerry Byrd. It wasn’t until I got acquainted with the steel player that was playing with Bob Wills, Herb Remington, that I realized that I did not have Jerry’s tuning. Herb gave it to me and I remember his kindness all of these years.

 

 

(CSC) 3. You’ve been influenced by several legendary steel players such as Jerry Byrd, Don Helms, Speedy West, Buddy Emmons, and Doug Jernigan among others. How have these musicians impacted you personally?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

Before I answer that question I must say that I was influenced musically by Jerry Byrd, Don Helms, Little Roy Wiggins and Billy Robinson. They played the style of steel that I really wanted to learn. Personally, I have met and actually became well acquainted with all of them and as they were all so kind to me and their thoughts and actions were of the highest quality I knew that I could do no wrong by respecting them in the highest manner. Even though I became the best of friends will all of them I never lost track they were the leaders in the steel guitar world and I knew that I must always respect them for that.

 

 

(CSC) 4. You moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1951, what prompted your decision to move there?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I was working in a service station in Yukon and a buddy of mine had a job with an over the road furniture moving van. I told him if he every heard of another driver wanting a helper send him by. One day a moving van pulled up at the service station and I swear it looked like it was a city block long! The driver asked, “Is there a DeWitt working here.” I said, “That’s me.” Within two hours I had locked up that station and was on my way to what ever was in store for me. As the driver was based in St. Louis we always wound up there. His name is Richard Sparks and he had a most beautiful sister named Mary. She sent us a photo of her to a service station in Salt Lake City, Utah and I fell in love with her right then! She became my wife. I might add that I finally got a van of my own and when I would travel the United States I always had a Triple Neck Fender steel guitar and a Fender Twin amp in the wardrobe in my van. If I had a layover in a certain city I would call the taverns and wound up setting in all night.

 

 

(CSC) 5. You initially started “Scotty’s Music” in the basement of your home in 1966; forty-two years later you are running a successful business that’s known world-wide. Where did the idea for this begin?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I taught for a couple of years teaching at Nash Music, a local music store and started teaching both the Steel Guitar and the Spanish guitar. I finally had to quit and go back to work at the moving company. The parents of my students began to call me wanting me to teach their child. Nash Music even called and asked me to take them. I had so many students that I decided to quit the moving business and go out on my own. I remember the first steel guitar I ever sold. It was a Fender 400 pedal steel guitar. I guess you can say that I built Scotty’s Music from the sale of one guitar. The rest is history.

 

 

(CSC) 6. You also maintain other popular businesses such as “Mid-Land Records,” “International Steel Guitar Convention,” “The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame,” and “Top Star Instructions.” What is your key role in each of these?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I am the President of all four.

 

 

(CSC) 7. Your son, Michael Scott runs a very popular internet radio station appropriately called, “Steel Radio.” The station is one of the most listened to radio stations on the internet; do you have any involvement with it?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

The station is owned solely by Michael. I do try to help him all I can… Especially in the earlier years; He is on his own and I do a special show for him once in awhile. And when other people are doing live shows I try to be a part of those and talk a bit about what I think is news that the audience may not know about.

 

 

(CSC) 8. Getting back to the Steel Guitar Convention, you hosted the special awards ceremony that inducted Julian Tharpe, Norm Hamlet, and Don Warden into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame on August 30th, 2008. What are some special thoughts from that day that you’d like to share with us?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I was proud that friends and relatives of Julian were present to honor Julian posthumously. To repeat myself I think it was a great sacrifice on Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell and Jack Greene to take their time and at their own expense to come to St. Louis and honor their steel players. Barbara spent what seemed like 15 minutes or more giving tribute to Norm. It was Norm that taught her to play the steel guitar and you could tell that she has a great respect for him.

 

 

(CSC) 9. Do you have a preference on what brand of steel guitar, and style of playing you enjoy more than the other?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

My preference of non pedal lap steel guitar would be the guitar I am playing now. It is a 6 string Rickenbacker Frypan. I asked on the steel guitar forum if anyone may know the age of it. From the photos it was a toss up of being a 1931 or 1932 model. As I was born in 1932 I claim that me and the guitar are the same age. If I still played a pedal steel it would certainly be a hard decision to make. I played the Sho Bud for 15 or more years. All of the newer guitars are built so perfect and the mechanism is so much improved I probably would be happy with any one of them. GFI or the Excel would be high on my list.

 

 

 

(CSC) 10. Many of the legendary musicians have recently passed in the last few years, what do you cherish about knowing many of them such as Don Helms and others?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I have such fond memories of all the deceased players. Having been around them for so many years I got to know some players better than others. Don Helms, I admired him so much and when I was commissioned to write his instruction book, “Your Cheating Heart” I was really elated. “Little’ Roy Wiggins,” I had the same feeling when I wrote his instruction book, “Memory Time.” Buddy Emmons-I was around Buddy a lot and even though we have become friends it so hard for me not to consider him, “just one of the boys” even though that is what he prefers with all his friends. He is The Worlds Foremost Steel Guitarist and I must never forget that. Jerry Byrd –I could write a book about our experiences spanning from Nashville, St. Louis, Honolulu and all the way to Japan. We always stayed in the same hotel room and the knowledge he gave me will always have an effect on both my musical and personal life. What I am about to tell you now will apply to all the names mentioned above. The were all very wise above their steel playing, and could have easily succeeded in other business ventures, always had a joke to tell you, had a mutual respect for other musicians and at no time did any of them every criticize another player. One of the best responses I heard was when someone asked them about another player was, “He seems to play everything he wants to play.”

 

 

(CSC) 11. With all the job titles you possess, where are you most comfortable?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

I am most comfortable at one title that wasn’t mentioned above. “HUSBAND AND FATHER” The answer would be when I am in my own home with my wife, Mary, and when I have the opportunity to visit with my kids, grandkids and great grandkids.

 

 

(CSC) 12. Looking forward to the future, what would you like to share with the readers of this interview? What do you want to be known for?

 

(DeWitt Scott)

The main thing I would like to point out is, “Changes are bound to come.” I hear from people all the time that the sounds of the steel guitar and the new style of country music in today’s time are not what they would like to hear. I wonder sometimes about the Hawaiian music. It was so popular in the 20’s and 30’s and into the 1940’s. Hawaiian music may have started to decline but I guarantee you that it is much alive today. There are many all Hawaiian shows across the world and many of the venues publish newsletters. What did they think about when the music in the 1940’s was swinging towards the country music, and at that time was called, “hillbilly.” Are the same thoughts that are now going into our heads as we see the style of country music changing? I know most of the players that are playing on these new style country tunes and I know for a fact that they can play the true country style music if there was a need for it. They are professional musicians and have the ability to play what the producer wants on any given record. The many shows across the world, The International Steel Guitar Convention included, still make an effort to keep the older country music alive. However, at least the Convention in St. Louis does encourage the younger players to play what they want to play. With the age of the people that are attending these shows most of them still prefer country music that they remember growing up with and the music they learned to love. The fun that I had along the way is still there. You just have to seek it out. All my ideas would never have worked if I had not acted on them. I asked the great steel player, Curly Chalker, “Who is your favorite steel player?” His answer might be the best of all. His answer was, “ME.” You should take the same advice. When you play your steel guitar, be yourself and play what you really like to play. 

 

 

For more information on DeWitt Scott and "Scotty's Music," please visit their official website here; http://www.scottysmusic.com/