George Scott

Powerful baritone with the Blind Boys of Alabama
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George Lewis Scott, singer: born Notasulga, Alabama 18 March 1929; married; died Durham, North Carolina 9 March 2005.

George Lewis Scott, singer: born Notasulga, Alabama 18 March 1929; married; died Durham, North Carolina 9 March 2005.

George Scott was a founding member, with Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter, of the celebrated gospel outfit the Blind Boys of Alabama. His expressive and powerful baritone can be heard on literally hundreds of recordings, including a quartet of Grammy-winning albums: Spirit of the Century (2001), Higher Ground (2002), Go Tell It on the Mountain (2003) and There Will Be a Light (2004).

The group came together in 1939 when Scott, Fountain and Carter were students at the Talledega Institute for the Blind in Alabama and began to perform as the Happy Land Singers. Life at the institute was difficult and music offered an appealing escape from its constraints, as Scott, who was blind from birth, later remembered:

Back then, you'd see a blind person and they'd be begging on the street with a cup. I did not want to do that, and school was more

like a prison, kinda rough. They taught us to cane chairs, make brooms and mops, but we couldn't see making no money doing that. So we left there, out on our own.

They began to tour the rural South and at one point found themselves on the same bill as another blind group, the Jackson Harmonies from Mississippi. The concert was promoted as an old-style singing contest between the two and the sobriquets the two groups received, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Blind Boys of Mississippi, stuck.

The group became known for its high-energy jubilee gospel style and recorded successfully for a number of labels. Although the Boys' line-up continually evolved, Fountain, Carter and Scott remained at its core throughout, in a partnership that endured over six decades.

The late Eighties saw the Blind Boys finally reaching out to mainstream audiences. They appeared in the award-winning musical The Gospel at Colonus and worked alongside non-gospel musicians such as John Hammond and Bonnie Raitt. The acclaim that greeted Spirit of the Century led to further collaborations with such disparate talents as Ben Harper, Tom Petty, Robert Randolph, and the Buena Vista Social Club star Ibrahim Ferrer.

Ill-health forced Scott to retire from touring last year, but he can be heard singing lead on their most recent project, Atom Bomb (2005), an album that features guest appearances by the Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo, the blues musician Charlie Musselwhite and the rapper the Gift of the Gab.

Paul Wadey