Featured Interview – Howard Scott

howard scott photo 1On September 16, 1970, Jimi Hendrix was down to his last time to be seen onstage in this world. His time was appointed and he was headed for the next one, not about to be tardy. For the cosmic sendoff, he joined Eric Burdon & War onstage at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London. War’s original guitarist, Howard Scott, describes it thusly:

“During our London period we jammed with Jimi Hendrix in his last live performance. Of course he knew Burdon from Eric’s days with The Animals. He came out to Ronnie Scott’s to jam with us. He actually came two nights in a row. The first night he apparently was too lit to play. He chose not to.

“But that second night, I saw him walking through the crowd with his Strat. His eyes were cobalt white. He was ready. He was Jimi Hendrix and in charge. I said to myself, ‘It’s time for me to get the funk up outta here!’

“I unplugged trying to get off stage but he said, ‘No, I want you to stay.’

“I said, ‘Okay,’ and plugged back in. We started jammin’ playing through the same amp. We got down to where we were playin’ “Mother Earth” by Memphis Slim. He took a solo, then stepped back and said, ‘Go for it Scott.’ which lifted my confidence and he and I started goin’ head to head. It was amazin’, a great concert. He was smilin’ and feelin’ good.

“After the set, Lee Oskar and I walked back to the hotel in the rain. I don’t believe the raindrops even touched us!

“My people were from Texarkana, Arkansas before joining the great migration and relocating to Southern California. I was born in San Pedro, California. My father played that old Folk/Country Blues guitar. As a youngster, I couldn’t get behind that. I was too young to understand what he was doing and playing. Later, as I started playing, I cut my teeth and played with some of the top Black Blues guys that migrated to Southern, California.

“The trumpet was my first axe in elementary school. I didn’t like it and got kicked out for not playing well enough. At that age, as with my father’s music, I wasn’t ready for a lot of things. I didn’t pick up another instrument until my cousin, guitarist Jack Nelson migrated out west from San Antonio, Texas when I was in the 8th grade. He had a Gibson Les Paul guitar and proceeded to teach my cousin B.B. Dickerson and I to play the bass, because he needed a bass player behind him.

“So B.B. Dickerson and I started playing bass at the same time. At that time, since I was older and more mature than B.B., I took it more seriously. B.B. spent more time playing with the kids in the neighborhood. I spent more time playing bass and learning.”

“During that time, there were many Blues clubs in San Pedro, California. Every club in the city was playin’ Blues. I played in all those joints in San Pedro comin’ up. Johnny Otis used to bring Esther Phillips to San Pedro. Guys from Bobby Bland’s band migrated to Southern California like keyboard player Teddy Reynolds.

“I played with a string of Blues cats at different times including Lowell Fulson, Charles Brown and Little Sonny Warner who sang lead on the Big Jay McNeely hit, “There Is Something On Your Mind”. When they were presented with a gold record, Big Jay and Little Sonny, cut the gold record in half, so they could both have a piece.

“Eventually, I played with a band called The Creators who started at club in L.A. called Jesty’s on Avalon and El Segundo. When we first started playing there, the house band was called The Handicappers and they were all handicapped with various disabilities. The lead singer was a guy named Bobby Lee who had no arms. When the The Creators came in, we took the gig from The Handicappers. Bobby Lee told me he was gonna slap me. I said, ‘Man, how you gonna slap me with no arms?’ He then tried to kick me!

“Jesty’s was the top place to play on the South side and we really honed our craft there and became the hottest band in South Central. The Creator’s were the forerunner of War. It was myself , Lonnie Jordan on, Harold Brown , B.B. Dickerson, Bobby Nicholson and George Brown. Verdine White, before Earth, Wind & Fire, had a band on the North side, the Hollywood side, that was hot over there.

howard scott photo 2“While we were still in high school, The Creators took a road trip to El Paso, Texas. The gig was for a weekend. Well, we played the gig and got to the hotel and everyone started runnin’ up charges. They let us make as many charges as possible. Monday mornin’ when we prepared to go back home, they told us, ‘Well, we locked your instruments up and you can’t leave until you pay off this bill.’

“It took us about 3 weeks to pay that bill off, playin’ every night. To keep the costs down, they put us up in a hotel in Juarez, Mexico. We had to cross the border every night to play. When we finally left, we were damn near broke. We were definitely broke by the time we hit the first fast food joint.

“Before we left El Paso, the Drifters had come to town. Everybody rushed up to me sayin’, ‘The Drifters are here, The Drifters are here.’ I didn’t really want to play with The Drifters, but I did audition with them. By the time The Creators made it back to L.A. , The Drifters had bus tickets waiting on me to go on the road with them. So, I went on the road with The Drifters, Little Milton and Jackie Ross.

“We traveled and traveled. The thing about it was, they were way too old for me, brother. This was about 1964. When I got back home, I told my daddy, that I wasn’t going back out with those guys. Plus they owed me money, so I quit. The Drifters went on to Seattle. I went back to my band.

“The Creators were still ridin’ high. Right about the time we were heading to Chicago, I got drafted. I thought I wanted to be in the 101st Airborne. (I didn’t know Hendrix at the time but that’s the same unit he got in.) But by the time I was to go to my airborne training a guy came up and said they needed 11 guys to go to Germany. Boy, I jumped on that so quick it wasn’t funny. I was in Germany 18 months.

“So, while I was in Germany, The Drifters came to down and guess what? They needed a guitar player. They wanted me so bad they gave me $300 to join ’em, which was way more than they owed me from before. That was good money in those days. Man, I played with those boys and they were so glad to see me. Of course, they wanted me to go on the road with ’em. I told ’em, ‘I can’t go this time cuz Uncle Sam has me.

“So I did my service time and when I got back home to The Creators, B.B. was gone. Lonnie had gotten married and moved to Santa Barbara. Harold was a machinist. So I just started playin’ with some local cats in L.A. just to keep things goin’. So me and Harold got together and said, ‘We’re gonna make this thing happen one more time.’ B.B. wasn’t the bass player, but we got Lonnie back and we brought in Charles Miller who was with Double Shot Records.

howard scott photo 3“We built it up to a 10 piece band and called ourselves The Night Shift. We started backing up the ex L.A. Ram player turned singer Deacon Jones. He had a song out called “Lovin’ A Pro”. He had a girl group named The Mirettes as background singers. The Mirettes later had a hit with a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”.

“Now, Deacon Jones was not a very good singer but he had a lot of the L.A. Rams supporting him and The Night Shift rocked it for him. While we were backing up Deacon, Peter Rosen, our bass player at the time, was working with Jerry Goldstein at a poster company. He convinced Jerry Goldstein, Lee Oskar, Eric Burdon and Steve Gold, to come out and listen to us.

“Eric was looking for a band and when they came, gears started spinin’ and lightbulbs came on. They sent Lee up to sit in with us and he caught our groove and went nuts on it. That’s what we do. We’re a jam band. So they made arrangements for us to come visit them up in the Hollywood Hills on a Sunday. We sat down with that whole team and an agreement was made for us to back Eric.

“Now Deacon Jones was only payin’ us maybe $150 a week. They were offerering us $200 just to rehearse. Now, my loyalty was with Deacon, but I’m glad we went with Eric because he did more for us than Deacon ever could have. So we spent months rehearsing with Eric, gettin’ down all the songs he wanted to do. He cut our 5 piece horn section down to only one, saxophonist Charles Miller and paired him with Lee Oskar’s harmonica. That was the new horn section. That was Eric’s vision and call. It was a smooth move and gave us a very unique sound.

“The first major gig we had was at Devonshire Downs with Credence Clearwater Revival. Credence had a wall of Marshall amps for sound. We had leftover Animals equipment. Stuff that was patched together. We rocked the house nonetheless. That was the beginning of Eric Burdon & War. The name War came from Steve Gold. Since there was a big Peace Movement goin’ on, the band’s name was controversial.

“We then brought my cousin B.B. Dickerson back into the band and continued to rehearse intently. I must say that those Eric Burdon years were some of the best of my life because I learned how to be a front man by watching Eric.

“We went to London and gigged at Hyde Park with John Sebastian opening. That’s the gig that took the country. We went straight Compton on ’em.”

Howard Scott and War, the band from Compton has since fractured into many incarnations. Four of the five living original members no longer play in the band. Of the four Howard Scott, Lee Oskar and Harold Brown continue to play as the Original Lowrider Band. B.B. Dickerson is not currently playing.

Before we let Howard head to the next gig, we asked him about his favorite gear.

“I play straight guitar and I only use one effect and that’s the Cry Baby pedal. I have a 335 Gibson, an Epiphone B.B. King Lucille and a very rare Gibson Studio Model Les Paul. As a matter of fact that guitar was originally owned by Bobby Bland’s longtime guitaririst Wayne Bennett. As far as amps go, when War was at it’s peak, I used Marshall’s, but these days I use a Fender Twin.”

For more info on Howard Scott and The Original Lowrider Band, go to: https://lowriderband.com

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