Chicagoan blues singer Jackie Scott talks about Eddie Shaw, Koko Taylor, Hubert Sumlin and Windy City

"The blues is a way of expressing life that keeps your feet firmly planted knowing that what you present is something that we’ve all experienced….it lets us know that we’re not alone." 

Jackie Scott: The Lady Sings The Blues

Jackie Scott is a native of Virginia and received her early training singing in the baptist church. Music played an important part in the worship experience and after singing gospel for 20 years, she felt a call to the blues. Her first introduction to live blues took place at a Buddy Guy concert followed by seeing BB King live. After seeing such phenomenal performances she was convinced singing the blues was what she wanted to do. Her quest to learn more about the blues lead her to the steamy windows of the windy city, Chicago. 

After visiting Chicago to attend a wedding, she heard Chicago blues live in its element and was determined to capture the sound that swept her off her feet. That decision lead to many future trips to Chicago, honing her craft as a vocalist and entertainer. Her travels to different parts of the country have enabled her to meet new friends and engulf some of the rich blues heritage that every region has to offer. Touring trips to Mississippi, Lousiana, California, Memphis and North Carolina opened many doors and afforded her the opportunity to do what she does best...sing the blues. Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown, Alberta Hunter and Big Mama Thornton are some of the many influences that have allowed Jackie to carve out a unique style of her won. Coming from varied backgrounds and influences makes for a hot combination of blues and r&b packed with soul when you encounter and fall under the power of Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers. Jackie has spent the last few years honing her craft as a vocalist and her quest lead her to the steamy windows of Chicago's blues scene. It was in Chicago that Jackie received her baptism into the blues. 

Musicians and performers, great and small, all freely shared in their wealth of skill, time and talent to help her grow as a blues entertainer. Nellie Travis, Chicago blues woman and westside bluesman and Howlin' Wolf sidekick, Eddie Shaw, played a major part in mentoring her into the blues Chicago style. 

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?   

I learned how determined and driven I can really be when I’m passionate about something. The blues has become such an important part of who I am that most of my time that’s spent away from family, job and friends is entrenched in the blues. The blues is a way of expressing life that keeps your feet firmly planted knowing that what you present is something that we’ve all experienced….it lets us know that we’re not alone.    

How do you describe Jackie Scott sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?  

I think my sound could be described as blues with a tinge of gospel.  I musically discovered blues because of my love of traditional gospel.  Being true to your “inner voice” will lead you to your passion and I think it lead me to blues. My music philosophy is a simple one….entertain the music that entertains you...surely if you love it and it loves you back the audience will know it.

"People are always trying to eulogies and bury the blues and yet it lives on. Blues is life in song and follows the first law of nature...survival."

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

Discovering that someone enjoyed what I do was a very interesting period for me. I started singing because I loved it…before I realized it, it was loving me back. The best moment in my career was completing my first cd project. One of my favorite quotes is a biblical one…your gifts will make room for you. The worst moment was realizing that those gifts can also make enemies.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following? 

People are always trying to eulogies and bury the blues and yet it lives on. Blues is life in song and follows the first law of nature...survival. It may never be mainstream, it may never break sales records or reach #1 on Billboard but it will always be here because it expresses our thoughts, our feelings and our experiences in song.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had? 

I was at a local jam on a Tuesday night. For a few minutes none of us were there…we were somewhere on a big stage and for those 5 or 10 minutes everyone locked in and bought their A game…it was a beautiful thing. Memorable gig...oh I would have to say being asked my Koko Taylor’s daughter to perform at the Koko Taylor Tribute Show at the Petrillo Band Shell during the Chicago Blues Festival and receiving a standing ovation is one. Having a successful Eddie Shaw & The 757 Allstars cd release and party in my hometown….knowing that the entire community of musicians and music lovers participated and supported the project meant a lot to me. Performing at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago would have to be another one…so many great entertainers have graced that stage and to know that I had the opportunity to do the same was very fulfilling.

"I think I really miss the creativity in the presentation of blues. Many great players and singers out there but a lot of them don’t seem like they’re having any fun." Photo: Jackie and Eddie Shaw

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

A friend took me into downtown Chicago for the very first time to hear Chicago blues. It was my birthday weekend and he, as a gift, told the band leader on stage that night that it was my birthday and he invited me up to sing. His name is Lindsay Alexander and it was in The Kingston Mines.  Lindsay still performs and I see him from time to time when I go to Chicago. He told me how good he thought I was and invited me to come back anytime. That came at a time when I needed to hear that.  I was new and needed the encouragement so to get a kind of node of approval meant a lot and set the stage for me to come back to Chicago to learn more about the blues.

 

What is the best advice ever given you? 

Best advice was to be true to yourself and have confidence in what you do realizing that nobody can be a better you.

Are there any memories from Koko Taylor, James Cotton and Eddie Shaw which you’d like to share with us?

I had the pleasure of meeting both Koko Taylor at the Women of Royalty Show held at the House of Blues in Chicago. I’ll never forget it…it was a few days before Ruth Brown, who happens to be from my hometown, died. She was very gracious to take a few minutes to talk to me and encourage me in the blues.

I met James Cotton at the Chicago Blues Festival after he’d just finishing playing. It was a very casually meeting but just being in the presence of such an awesome bluesman was very exciting.

Eddie Shaw?? I interviewed him in California and we’ve been friends every since.  When he shared with me the relationship between himself and Howlin’ Wolf I was very impressed. The level of respect between those two was nothing short of amazing.  That’s a special memory for me...first meeting Eddie and getting to know the man behind the music.

"My music philosophy is a simple one….entertain the music that entertains you...surely if you love it and it loves you back the audience will know it."

From the musical point of view what are the differences between Chicago and the other local scenes in US?

The city of Chicago embraces the blues and has built it cultural and musical history around it. Local music scenes around the country have to vie with the audiences and fans of other genres for their piece of the live entertainment pie.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

I think I really miss the creativity in the presentation of blues. Many great players and singers out there but a lot of them don’t seem like they’re having any fun. 

What are your hopes and fears for the future of blues?

My hope is that I’ve presented something that my kids, grand kids and great grands can be proud of and that they will find the joy that I’ve found in blues. I have no fear for the future of blues..the blues is here to stay and will continue to touch the souls of those that embrace it.

Which memory from Magic Slim, Hubert Sumlin, and Taj Mahal makes you smile?

I had the opportunity to perform with Magic Slim at a club in Williamsburg, Va. called Randalls where he was playing.  I thanked him for sharing his stage with me and he gave me this big grin.  Magic Slim, as you know, wasn’t slim at all…he was a big and tall in statue.  I said you know you’re kinda of intimidating but I think you’re nothing but a big pussy cat.  He replied  “Well if I had my choice of what kinda of cat to be that would be it.” I laugh about that every time I think about it. 

We did a gig in North Carolina with Hubert Sumlin and I had the opportunity to actually sit and have breakfast with him. I had a ball listening to my guitar player, Mark Hopkins and  Hubert talk about guitars and amps.. it was wonderful. He was so kind, sort of like your favorite uncle. I could have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to meet someone who helped to shape a lot of the music we hear today give me a big nod after performing!!

We opened a show at the Norva here in Norfolk for Taj Mahal. I met him prior to the show and he called me Jackie the church lady. I had a hat pulled down on my head and a long kinda churchy looking dress. Of course I  changed clothes into something a bit more festive.  After the show we all gathered in the green room and just as we began to talk someone came along and wanted to chat with him… as to be expected.  While they were talking I went and changed by into the hat and long churchy dress.  When he saw me again he said, Damn ! The church lady’s back !!

"People…the music is in the minds and hearts of people and is the common denominator that binds." Photo: Jackie and Hubert Sumlin

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the blues circuits?

I laugh all the time so that’s kinda hard for me to pinpoint..I enjoy life and love people and we can be pretty funny !! I was touched to see some of the musicians from my hometown play at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago. They worked hard and gave of their time, talent and money to be there and it was really fulfilling for me to see them perform in the city that I received my “blues baptism”.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Gospel and R&B music?

People…the music is in the minds and hearts of people and is the common denominator that binds.

When we talk about Blues usually refer past moments. Do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

As the song goes…people got money, still got problems..go to the physiatrist try to solve them..anyway you look at it..it’s still call the blues so the answer to your question…yes..real blues does and will always exist.   

What's been your experience as a blueswoman in a “man man (blues) world” as James Brown said?

It has been very fulfilling and I’m still in the discovery mode. I can’t get enough of it and can’t ever learn too much. I think being a female in the blues lends it’s self countless possibilities and opportunities. It’s  funny because year ago the most successful people touring the country performing blues were women. That’s not the case now but I think we still bring something to the table that men can’t and that’s blues from a woman’s point of view. Bluesmen have written a lot of songs about us girls and we seem to be a constant source of inspiration for them. It is a man’s world and the song is true…but it won’t be nothin’ without a woman or a girl..now that’s power !!

"The blues is here to stay and will continue to touch the souls of those that embrace it."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I would go to Chicago…wouldn’t even have to think about it.    They’re so many bluesmen and women I’d like to see perform in person.  Thank God for youtube and such but I know that nothing can replace a live performance. It would be stellar !! 

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