Interview with Tulsa blues-rocker Scott Ellison - hints of Rock and Soul wrapped into a contemporary shell

"I just hope and pray the blues and the blues business doesn't die. I know my identity would be lost."

Scott Ellison: Preaching The Blues

A talented singer-songwriter, guitarist, and blues-rocker, Scott Ellison was born in Tulsa, OK. By the '70s, Tulsa had become an unexpected hotbed of blues-based rock bands as proven by both Eric Clapton and Freddie King's backing bands hailing from the area. It was the perfect match for Ellison with his heavy guitar shredding blues style. It was around that same time that Ellison began playing with legends in the business, such as country singer Jesseca James (Conway Twitty's daughter) in 1977 and renowned bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown in 1981. Ellison relocated to Los Angeles, CA by the mid-'80s, however, keeping his music career going by playing with The Box Tops. The Shirelles, Marvalettes, JJ Jackson, The Drifters, The Coasters, Gary "US" Bonds and Peaches & Herb. By the '90s he had formed his own blues band and opened for the likes of Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Leon Russell, Bobby Bland and Buddy Guy. It was also around this time that Ellison began issuing his first solo albums, including the titles “Chains of Love” (1993) and “Live at Joey’s” (1995).

Shortly after returning back home to Tulsa in the mid-nineties, Ellison issued his third release, “Steamin’” (1997) followed by “One Step From the Blues” (2000), which featured several other Tulsa musicians backing him. In 2001 Ellison issued his first release for the Burnside label, “Cold Hard Cash”, which was produced and co-written by longtime Robert Cray producer Dennis Walker. The album proved to be highly successful, and was followed with “Bad Case of the Blues” (2003). The later 2000’s brought 2008’s ”Ice Storm” produced by Earwig Records. Another album that not only received great reviews, but it contained Scott’s first #1 Blues Hit: "Cadillac Woman”. Scott's biggest thrill as a performer was opening up for BB King, at the Performing Arts Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2009. His album, "Walkin Through The Fire", was produced on his own label JSE Records Inc. Scott was also pleased to see himself listed in the film credits for the world wide release of the movie "Feast of Love" starring Morgan Freeman in September 2007. Scott's 2015 album released by Red Parlor Records called "Elevator Man", produced by Walt Richmond (Eric Clapton's keyboard player). Scott was inducted into The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in May 2013. On July 2017 Scott's newest album "Good Morning Midnight" released on Red Parlor and distributed by Sony Red.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The blues and rock counterculture has influenced everything I believe in! Music is medicine for your soul and it not only effected me in a positive way, I get to see in my musical journeys the my music brings to other people! What a blessing! The best!

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

The night I opened for BB King at the performing arts center in Tulsa OK January 26-2008! He called me out on stage 2 times! I still get goosebumps when I think of that night!

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

What I learned about myself from the blues is that when I play my guitar and sing, this is my identity as a man! I feel like a preacher at church on Sunday morning. I'm preaching the blues.

How do you describe Scott Ellison sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

It's the only music that feeds my soul.

"Go back to analog recording and make it against the law to record on pro tools or any other digital equipment!"

What were the reasons that you started the Folk/Blues/ Rock searches and experiments?

I would describe my music as traditional mixed with Soul R&B and Rock with a little bit of Gospel.

Why did you think that the Tulsa, OK music legacy continues to generate such a devoted following?

The Tulsa Musical Legacy continues to generate a devoted following because of the late JJ Cale and all his great music, Leon Russell, The Gap Band, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn, and all the other blues greats from this town, young and old.

How do you describe GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT sound and songbook?

I would describe Good Morning Midnight as a blue buffet because I did everything I do in songwriting and playing that I set out to do! To show the whole spectrum of my art! It's my stamp on the blues!

Are there any memories from GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

If I had to pick one it would be Big City! When Walt Richmond played the final mix in the studio- hearing his piano and my fill licks weaving around together it was a very cool moment because at that moment magic happened on that playback! Every musician waits for that moment and those special ones are rare so you got grasp the moment and hold on to it forever!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Meeting and opening up for BB King January 26, 2008, and having him call me out on stage during his show. The best advice given to me was by BB King, and that was "I really love your music, and you're a fine young man, and just keep being Scott Ellison, and do your thing."

Are there any memories from "Gatemouth" Brown, Joe Cocker, and Buddy Guy which you’d like to share with us?

Gatemouth Brown ordered fish sticks and jelly at a truck stop in West Texas when I was touring with him in 1980, I'm lucky I made it out of there alive. They couldn't accommodate his dinner wishes. Joe Cocker was the funniest Englishman I've ever met, he said "Nice show mate, you make it look easy." I was really moved. Buddy Guy/ I played his club "Legends" in Chicago about once a year and if he's in town we'll just sit at the bar and talk about the blues. I learned a lot just from talking with him.

"The blues and rock counterculture has influenced everything I believe in! Music is medicine for your soul and it not only effected me in a positive way, I get to see in my musical journeys the my music brings to other people! What a blessing! The best!"

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I'm old school and like the way recording was done when I was first breaking in as an artist, everybody plays live together at the same time, not like today where there is pitch correction and all the toy town stuff where it makes it to where anybody can make a record with a computer and call it art which I don't like. I just hope and pray the blues and the blues business doesn't die. I know my identity would be lost.

What has made you laugh from Roy Orbison and Leon Russell? What touched (emotionally) you from Bobby Bland?

After opening for Roy Orbison years ago, hearing his show and meeting him after he was nothing like I thought he would be! He had a great sense of humor! I said Roy, your the greatest singer in the world and he paused and then said- Your are right son! Then he started laughing and gave me a big hug! I was cracking up! After opening for Leon Russell he came to me and said I see your playing those roadhouse blues licks which leads me to believe you didn't listen to much white music and I replied your are correct sir and he cracked up! It was a special moment because Leon is from my hometown and I grew up idolizing him! Bobby Bland was a sweetheart to me! He invited me on his bus after I opened for him and after he completed his show! He liked the fact I was using a trio and had such a big sound! He said son, keep doing what your doing! If it ain't broke, he doesn't need to be fixed! Great advice from a master!

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

I would say the loss of my wife in 2010 and my father in 2014! Having to take on a lot more responsibility has made me stronger and has added more mojo to making me a better musician!

"I think it's a close relationship all the way, it started in the Delta and now we have the blues of today and it's a beautiful thing. Everybody is different which makes it so unique."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Go back to analog recording and make it against the law to record on pro tools or any other digital equipment! Haha, all you have to do is listen to Spoonful by Howlin Wolf and that speaks for itself. People try to get that sound and they can't and never will.

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

I love meeting new people in every town or city we play in. People are all the same everywhere when it comes to having fun listening and drinking to the blues. There's a lot of characters out there that crack me up, I love them all.

What is the relationship between the blues culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications? 

I think it's a close relationship all the way, it started in the Delta and now we have the blues of today and it's a beautiful thing. Everybody is different which makes it so unique.

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

If I was in a time machine I would love to go back and meet Robert Johnson and all the early artists that I admire, that would be about as cool as it gets.

Scott Ellison - Official website

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