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Remembering Jack Scott—One of Canada’s rock trailblazers

Jack Scott who died just before Christmas at age 83, was one of a handful of Canadian pop artists who made it big in the United States before Canadian content regulations. He was a first-generation rocker who actually had more hits than better-known rock pioneers such as Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. He scored 19 hit singles in just 41 months, a feat achieved by only a handful of other pop acts, including the Beatles. Jack Scott wrote most of his material and his hits included “Oh Little One,” “The Way I Walk,” a song covered by a number of artists, including Robert Gordon, “Leroy,” “What in the World’s Come Over You,” “Goodbye Baby,” “Burning Bridges” and “My True Love.”

Scott was born Giovanni Domenico Scafone Jr. in Windsor, Ont. on Jan. 24, 1936. He was the first of seven children born to Laura Scafone (née Franks) and Giovanni Scafone Sr., who had emigrated from Italy five years earlier and learned to speak English from listening to the radio. Jack developed a love of country music from listening to programs like Louisiana Hayride and The Grand Ole Opry. His dad. bought him a guitar at a pawnshop  and taught him few chords.

The family moved to a Detroit suburb in 1946 and as he entered his teens, Jack started performing at dances with his sister. A local Deejay heard him and suggested Giovanni anglicize his name and he became Jack Scott . He recorded two sides for ABC Paramount but didn’t achieve success until he teamed up with a French Canadian doo-wop/gospel quartet from Windsor—the Chantones as his backing group. Together they created a magic sound.

Scott whose good looks were reminiscent of a Bobby Cannavale, had an image as a weightlifting, Harley-Davidson-loving tough-guy singer, but in reality he was quiet and family oriented. He walked away from Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars because he missed his girlfriend and family.

As Detroit’s first rock star, with appearances on American Bandstand, Mr. Scott was offered a record deal with Motown’s Berry Gordy but felt his sound better suited to RCA and signed with the label’s Chet Atkins in Nashville.

So popular was Jack Scott in the Windsor-Detroit area, that the house band at the Colony Bar in Port Huron used to do most of his repertoire. He toured regularly, right up until recently across North America and was loved in Europe and the UK as so many of the rock pioneers were. This writer met him in the early 1980s at an appearance in Brantford. He was shy and soft spoken but could still wow his audiences.

Jack Scott with the Chantones

Mr. Scott’s songs have been covered by everyone from Glen Campbell and George Jones to Tom Jones and the horror-punk band the Cramps. His doo-wop song ‘Goodbye Baby’ was featured over the closing credits of 1982’s coming-of-age movie Diner. He has been indicted into the Canadian songwriters’ Hall of Fame and is likely to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. His catalogue is readily available on YouTube.

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