Sunday, March 21, 2010

Great Scott

Music is my safe place, and things connected to music –– liner notes, artist biographies, genre histories –– usually share in that safety.  Even when an artist's life shows wounds, the music somehow offsets them. But last week my safe place was violated when unintentionally I wandered into a dark and cruel knowledge.  Here is what happened.

I had been thinking about Jack Scott. At the country end of rock and roll (rockabilly) in the late 50's, there were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and others.  One of those others was Jack Scott, born Giovanni Dominico Scafone, Jr. in 1936 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  He had a deep voice, spare arrangements, and he wrote most of his hits.  "What In The World's Come Over You" (1960) was his signature hit, but my favorites are "My True Love" (1958) and especially "Goodbye Baby" (1959).

Everybody knows about Elvis, fewer know about Jack Scott.  Seeking to remedy this neglect, I thought to title this post Great Scott. Innocently enough, I began researching information on that timeworn phrase, "Great Scott."  There are debates about its origin but a good argument can be made that it dates to a real person, the famous and much decorated General Winfield Scott (1786-1866).  (For more on this, click on Great Scott.)

General Scott was a war hero and 1852 Presidential candidate, also commanding general of the United States Army for twenty years until outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  In 1838, and apparently with misgivings, he followed orders and implemented the forcible relocation of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina to what is now Oklahoma.  To study this Trail of Tears is to be drawn into a repellent and morally vacant corner of history.

Now I had known about The Trail of Tears, but at an abstract and temporal distance.  The fact is, some 15,000 to 17,000 Cherokee were removed from their ancestral homelands (figures vary, and extend to 20,000).  Four thousand died along the way and the details behind the numbers are appalling.  General Scott had been following the directions of President Martin Van Buren, who in turn had been carrying on the policies of President Andrew Jackson.  While those policies were not new then, they had gained impetus following the 1828 discovery of gold in Georgia, largely on Indian land.  (Useful websites on the removal of the Cherokee are: Wikipedia, About North Georgia, U.S. National Parks Service, and PBS (Judgment Day: Indian Removal).  (Do click on Story for a magisterial personal narrative by John Burnett.  Burnett's document is from, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill educational website.)

General Winfield Scott (1835),
by George Catlin
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The raw details of The Trail of Tears left me feeling unclean. While innocently noodling with History, I wandered into one of its darker corners.  It took time to return to this post and when I did I considered skipping or muting these dark parts.  Even what is touched on here is but a trace of the foulness of this Indian removal policy.

Some source material notes that General Winfield Scott was an imposing man, 6'5" and 230 pounds in the early part of his career, 300 pounds at the end.  He liked pomp and ceremony and was known as "Old Fuss and Feathers."

Jack Scott seems also to have been a solid presence, although more rough-hewn.  Of the two, it is Jack who is my Great Scott.


Anne said...

When we visited Andrew Jackson's home outside of Nashville last year, they actually showed part of the PBS documentary on the "dark" side of that President regarding the Trail of Tears. We were pleased that the Park Service was being very transparent about this morally corrupt chapter in our history. Not something I had ever heard from my paternal Grandfather who insisted proudly that Jackson was a relative. Anne

GeorgeS said...

I'm looking for a picture of Jack's mid-60s LP "Great Scott". It had a white cover and included Wiggle On Out, There's Trouble Brewing. It was a bootleg.I've had it in the past and didn't keep it.
Now I want to make a Youtube post showing it along with Linda Scott's "Great Scott" cover.
I also have a blogspot Music Journal.

Kit said...

Thanks for your comment, George. I can't find "The Great Scott" album cover. I got as far as the album itself, on Jade Records: Jade J 33 202 (lp), which shows up in discographies and websites (you probably know that), but am unable to find a picture of the cover. Also, I visited your Music Journal and enjoyed the Clyde McPhatter post a lot, especially the music links.

Comments are appreciated: