Remembering The Scotts on the road
Published 9:57 am Friday, December 6, 2013
by Frank Roberts
It’s the gospel truth. Winning the Retro Artist Of the Year award was a well-deserved accolade for The Scotts, recognition for the work they love, spreading the gospel through song.
An earlier story in the paper noted that the recognition was presented during an American Music Guild meeting in Fort Mill, S. C. And, check the competition. Other ‘comeback’ artists vying for the title included Lynn Anderson, Terry Gibbs and Barbara Mandrell.
I was particularly interested because, in July of ‘95, photographer Beth Bergman and I spent four days on the road with Southern Gospel’s first black family group.
That tour took us thru mountain towns in Pennsylvania and West Virginia – the family spreading the word musically and via the spoken word as they do at home in the Word Of Faith Church.
They have been doing that for more than half-a-century, at first singing locally then, spreading their ‘angel’ wings across the country, and in the Czech Republic and Finland. In Poland they were the only Southern Gospel group chosen to perform during Christian Cultural Week where their encores were the order of the day. In New Brunswick, Canada, they won an award for Concert of the Year. And, they are favorites with the Pennsylvania Dutch.
“We’ve been off the road for 10 years,” said Terry Scott who, along with twin brother, Jerry, acts as family spokesman. “My dad (Bishop Clinton Scott) died in ‘09. He said we need to go back on the road. That’s our ministry and we need to do what God wants us to do.”
During the hiatus they kept busy singing regionally and spending time in the recording studio. Their new single, “Nobody Can Do It Like the Lord,” has just been released
To paraphrase – nobody can do it like the Scotts’. They began doing it when their mother, Bernice, who died last year, came up with the idea of spreading the gospel, far and wide. With rare exceptions the members of the group have always been family.
Terry, who manages the family and plays drums, said about returning to the road, “We’re going to keep doing it. We cannot stop. I came off the road and I was so miserable. On the road – that’s our calling.”
Next year, working with the New City Talent Agency, they will be headliners. The tour starts in Atlanta and, at every stop, they will be working with inner city soup kitchens. “Major companies in the areas will sponsor us. It’s a 20-city tour.”
The concert usually begins with Jerry telling parishioners to “get your minds on Jesus Christ.”
That is followed by the singing, constant shouts of ‘Hallelujah,’ handclapping, cheering, and shouting.
Sitting on your hands and quietly worshipping are ‘no-no’s’ when the family, and the spirit are moving.
Several of the churches are encore appearances for the Scotts who began their travels with distinctive four-part harmony, switching to a country sound/‘50s rock mix.
National recognition came in ‘93 when Karen Peck, lead singer of one of Southern Gospel’s leading groups, Karen Peck and New River, heard them sing during a Quartet Convention Week in Nashville.
After that, it was onward and upward. They appeared with Bill Gaither. When I traveled with them they opened for J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, who often worked with Elvis. And, they have performed at Opryland.
Once, in South Carolina, ‘fan’ Chubby Checker was introduced to the crowd. What happened next? “He walked up singing, ‘C’mon baby, let’s do the twist.’”
When I was with them, their home was an old, but serviceable Greyhound bus, which covered about 100,000 miles; family members took turns at the wheel. These days, they rely on a newer model, an MCI; their T-shirts and CD sales help keep food on the table; as they travel they do so minus egos and/or arguments. They are as they sing – love-filled.
Terry remembers, “that winding mountain road.” He recalled that at that time I was walking up and down the aisle. “The bus took a sharp turn, and you fell into a closet.”
The beds were small but comfortable. Often, a shower stall was rented. Eating was unpredictable. Sometimes, it was fast food. There are times when we could eat a decent meal, although the hours were challenging – in one case, an 1 a.m. breakfast. Truck stops are relaxing places.
Harold and Don Reid of The Statler Brothers were in the audience when the family performed at James Madison University. “They got talent to spare,” Harold told me. “They sing great and they look good.” Higher praise hath no man.
Their followers often find themselves participating in healing services. Examples: In Fredericksburg, Pa., “a man who’d been unable to lift his hands can now do so,” said Janice Wolf, a Church of Brethren member. “It actually happened.”
Jeanne Coley stayed in her car trying to enjoy the service from there while fighting her asthma. After Jerry called her up she was able to join the others. “The Scotts edify and exalt Jesus Christ,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
And – that is the gospel truth.
During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Western Tidewater and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.