"Windy City" bluesman Keith Scott talks about Jimmy Dawkins, Nolan Struck, Shirley King, Hip Linkchain & Dawkins' jam with Al Di Meola

"Music was stronger in the old days more feeling"

Keith Scott: Better Blues World

Keith Scott is one of Chicago's most vibrant musicians. For the past 20 plus years he's built his reputation as a sizzling blues guitarist, dynamic performer, noteworthy songwriter and bandleader. Keith has toured the U.S. and Europe both with his band and blues great Jimmy Dawkins.  Singer, guitarist and songwriter Keith Scott has been a part of the Chicago blues scene since 1981. In addition to working with Johnny Littlejohn, Hubert Sumlin, Eddie Taylor and Hip Linkchain, Scott traveled the world as part of a distinguished lineup of the Jimmy Dawkins Blues Band in the 1980s and 90s.

Keith Scott's latest album "Better World out There" released in 2018. A fantastic album of electric/acoustic blues from the depths of Chicago to the hills of Tennessee. Keith says: "We began recording this project at Nathan and Adam Arling's studio in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Some jams were just simple acoustic takes, and then Adam added the bass and I put on electric guitar and harmonica. The tracks were flown to Los Angeles where Nathan Arling and Josephine Forsman filled out the drums and percussion. We also had an additional session with everyone jamming, followed by an awesome Cuban feast at Chicago's hidden gem, 90 Miles Cuban cafe. The next step was to have our friend and guitarist in The Electric Blues Junkies, Tony McQuaid mix everything. Hope you like it!  We say its blues from the depths of Chicago and the hills of Tennessee." 

Interview by Michael Limnios

Keith, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, when I was in college.

What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?   

Feb 4th and 5th 1983 Rathskellar Gainseville, Fl, “Sweet Sixteen” by BB King, “Watermelon Man” by Herbie,  “What I Say!” by Ray Charles.

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

Blues music is the essence of our culture It is derived from the roots of everything we participate in our lives, from relationships with our families, friends and significant others, the music is an understanding of our survival in this world and is tied into the rhythms of daily life, that is why people respond to blues even if they haven't heard the music before! Blues inspires me to bring a different listening experience and a break from ordinary pop music. I love to travel and perform for people that are not familiar with the art form.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

My creative inspiration comes from listening to different styles of music and incorporating these sounds into my performances. Whether it's folk, rock, jazz or classical. This helps me with my songbook and diversity. I like to think the variety if instruments can be reflected in the sound of the guitar.                      

What has made you laugh from "Better World Out There" studio sessions? What touched (emotionally) you?

Some of the moments that have made me laugh were the drummer’s girlfriend Josephine Forseman, jumping in on the tracks with percussion and also when she took over on drums from Nate and played a great swing beat! Also, some of the lyrics I made up on the spot made me laugh because I had no idea, I was going to say those things!!                

Are there any memories from the famous Maxwell Street which you’d like to share with us?

When I first moved to Chicago in the early 80's I remember Andrew “BB” Odom singing in a parking lot for about 10 people. Also, lots of tires and Hubcaps laying around and great pork chops cooking! I later joined his band He had about a $1000 suit on and I think he was paid $25 for the gig! Maxwell Street is all condos now!                                         

What are your hopes and fears for the future of the Blues? What would you like to change in the Blues world?

My hopes are that people take the music seriously before it becomes a lost art form, I really don't think it is ever going to be accepted as pop culture but if people study the roots and present it well the music will live on! I actually am more encouraged now then when we first chatted a few years back! The 70's rock bands have made more than enough royalties so it's time to open up your ears!!

What are some of the lessons you have learned from the music circuits? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Some of the best advice I received was from Guitar Hero Sammy Fender! He told me 2 things if you keep playing you will eventually become a star and he said you do not work a job , you play music and fish which I continue to do!!Some of the things I learned on the circuit are you should appreciate that you are getting paid to play your instrument and be responsible such as being on time and acting professional on stage!!                   

What is the impact of Blues music to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

Blues music has a great impact on society, if people would stop arguing about things that have really no importance in the long run such as money, status in society and ethnicity and just enjoy the sounds of music or any artistic endeavors we would be a lot better off, I think roots music can bring cultures together.                                              

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

When I was growing up, I would have liked to have time traveled to early 60's England and hung out with the Rolling Stones and The Who! But now I would have loved to been in early post war Chicago with Muddy Waters, Howlin wolf and Bo Didley when they were in their prime!!!

Are there any memories from B.B. Odom, Muddy Waters and Little Milton which you’d like to share with us?

Yes BB Odom one time asked me to bring him $10, I got in my car on the north side of Chicago and drive as fast as I could to the checkerboard lounge on Chicago's south side with the money, buddy guy recently asked me if bb owed me any money and I Said yea $10. I rehearsed in the basement of a fashion store on stony island with Little Milton I must have done pretty good because he asked me to join the band, but I told him I was with BB didn't know how famous Milton was big mistake on my part I pass that store e all the time and get upset. Only met Muddy once and was the reason I left college and moved to Chicago still good friends with his drummer Ray Allison.

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your work with Jimmy Dawkins?

Yeah... he made me carry a huge toolbox.

What do you miss most nowadays from the late Jimmy "Fast Fingers" Dawkins?

Jimmy Dawkins, lifelong friend guitar mentor, and father figure, took me on my first gig, to tobacco road in Miami Oct. 24th 1986, I filled in for Billy Flynn and Rich Kirch, that's when I carried that big toolbox up a huge staircase,  my initiation to the Jimmy Dawkins blues band, from there 5 years of great travel and learning about music and life, Jimmy always had the best bass players and drummers including Tyrone Century, Jim Schutte and Sylvester Boines, even my mom (Ginny Scott) played a gig in bass with us in Milwaukee with Hubert Sumlin, Sylvester and I always had a thing for Chinese buffets, man he could eat ! One of the best shows was at Tramps in New York; the New Yorkers had the most admiration for him. One time Maurice john Vaughn joined us at Manny’s car wash, Jimmy always let me open the show even though I was still trying to sing, he liked a rock approach to the blues, used a huge Marshall which caused hearing damage to my left ear, it still rings to this day.

I think Robert Plant was blown away when he saw us a couple times at blues in Chicago. He just stood there the whole night and went and hung out with Jimmy afterwoods. Jimmy also helped a lot of artists with their careers including Hip Linkchain, Eddy C. Cambell and Luther Allison. One time we stopped to meet Buddy Guy at the checkerboard, I didn't even know they were friends, both born in 36. I guess I would like to thank him for his friendship and support throughout my music life in Chicago. From when I first met him at the delta fish market in 1982 in Chicago to our great conversation last week from my home in Michigan, we were planning to have a get together this month and he sounded great and was happy hanging out with Darrin his grandson who he loved more than anything, my prayers are with his family.

Which memory from the late great Jimmy Dawkins makes you smile?

Everything, his pipe smoking, blues stories about the Wolf.

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

Chicago blues fest with Jimmy Dawkins jammed with Al Di Meola, he can play some blues as well and a cool cat

What are some of the most memorable stories you've had with John LittleJohn?

Met him at Delta fishmarket he told me about Japan

Any comments about your experiences with Hubert Sumlin and Eddie Taylor?

Had to drive Hubert to a gig picked him up at 67th street in Chicago, Eddy Taylor bought me a coffee once.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst? 

Robert Plant coming to gig in Chicago, getting stuck in ditch in North Dakota.

What kind of guy was Hip Linkchain?

Hip was funny chained his truck with a chain to a big tree

How do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in lyrics?

Jimmy Dawkins, Bob Dylan, everywhere, TV, conversations, on the street

Any of blues standards have any real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?

“Everything Gonna Be Alright” by Little Walter and “Going Down” by Don Nix

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?

Feeling, Life, Experience !!!   

What do you learn about yourself from music? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

How you treat people that listen, how to conduct yourself in public.

Do you remember anything funny or interesting from the recording hours?

Yeah recorded with Shirley King at lots of great food and talked about her dad!

With such an illustrious career, what has given you the most satisfaction musically?

Being able to jam with anyone, any style...

Are there any memories from local bars, which you’d like to share with us?

Jammed with a guy named Nolan Struck, he fell off the stage.

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

Met most of them wish I met the Wolf and Freddie King.

Who are your favorite blues artists, both old and new? What was the last record you bought?

Mississippi John Hurt and Johnny Winter

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? How do you see the future of blues music? Give one wish for the BLUES

It's feeling relates to life! Just keep on supporting it is all !!

In which songs can someone hear the best of your guitar work?

“Down with Troubles”

What would you had given & what would you ask Jimi Hendrix & Johnny Winter?

Hey Jimi how come you are so crazy good on guitar, ... Johnny where’s your brother Edgar?

Are there any memories of all GREAT BLUESMEN you meet which you’d like to share with us?   

Always gentlemen and wanting to share the music, all of them !

Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend and learned the secrets about the blues music? 

Jimmy Dawkins!!!

Is there any similarity between the blues today and the “OLD DAYS” of blues in Chicago?

Music was stronger in the old days more feeling.

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

The blues of the past are the best it will never be duplicated, it's an honest simplicity that only a few know about these days and I'm not sounding old saying it I think.

Which is the most interesting period in Chicago blues scene and why?

Early to mid 60s all the sound came together, Magic Sam, Otis Rush..

What do you think of MODERN CHICAGO BLUES & how close are to the CHICAGO BLUES of Muddy & Wolf?

Not that close anymore, much more slide in the past and great harmonica.

How do you describe your sound and what characterize your music philosophy?

Stompin blues !!

Is it easier to write and play the blues as you get older?

It is easier to write more seasoned outlook on life but same problems as always money, relationships, and politics. The playing is easier cut out more mistakes you can never be so great except if you’re Howlin Wolf and Albert King and Hubert Sumlin.

What is your opinion about blues.gr? Do you have a message for the Greek fans?

Very cool, would love to get more involved with it.

Keith Scott's official website


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