Scott, James Sylvester
Scott, James Sylvester
February 12, 1885
August 30, 1938
The ragtime composer James Scott was born in Neosho, Missouri. As a child, he taught himself to play piano. After his family moved to Carthage, Missouri, around the turn of the twentieth century, Scott worked as a shoeshine boy. He also began to play music professionally, often performing on piano and steam calliope at local fairs and amusement parks. From 1902 to 1914 he worked as a window washer and picture framer, as well as a clerk and song plugger at Dumar's Music Store. It was during this time that he also began composing and publishing ragtime songs. Among his earliest successes were "A Summer Breeze" (1903) and "The Fascinator" (1903). In 1906 he visited Scott Joplin (1868–1917) in St. Louis, and though the two never worked together, Joplin did introduce Scott to John Stark, who became Scott's publisher and gave titles to most of Scott's compositions.
In his prime Scott was considered one of the "big three" of ragtime (along with Scott Joplin and the white composer Joseph Lamb). Scott's compositions, with their manic leaps, buoyant rhythms and rich, moody tonalities, helped define the classic ragtime sound. His most important ragtime compositions from this time include "Frog Legs Rag" (1906), "Great Scott Rag" (1909), "The Ragtime Betty" (1909), "Sunburst Rag" (1909), "Grace and Beauty" (1909), and "Hilarity Rag" (1910). Although Scott made no piano rolls, there is evidence to suggest that, in addition to writing many of the classics of ragtime, he was a fine pianist as well.
In 1914 Scott moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he taught, arranged, and worked as piano accompanist at the Paramount, Eblon, and Lincoln Theaters. He continued to compose as well, publishing "Climax Rag" (1914), "Evergreen Rag" (1915), "Prosperity Rag" (1916), "Paramount Rag" (1916), "Peace and Plenty Rag" (1919), and "Modesty Rag" (1920). He also wrote waltzes, including "Suffragette" (1914) and "Springtime of Love" (1919).
In the 1920s and 1930s, Scott led a band in Kansas City, but he never regained his previous success and popularity. During his last years Scott lived in relative anonymity. The rise of jazz eclipsed the popularity of ragtime, and the introduction of sound into movies prevented him from earning a living as an accompanist to silent films. Scott suffered from dropsy and died of kidney failure in 1938. His grave in Kansas City was unmarked until 1981, when a resurgence of interest in his music, and of ragtime in general, led to the establishment of a fund to purchase a headstone for the grave.
DeVeaux, Scott, and William H. Kenney. The Music of James Scott. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
Haase, John Edward, ed. Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1985.
jonathan gill (1996)
"Scott, James Sylvester." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scott-james-sylvester
"Scott, James Sylvester." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Retrieved February 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scott-james-sylvester
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.