©2018 Todd Baptista (photo above- Ilanga, Teddy Scott, Ray Gipson, Christian Scott, Timothy Scott)
Teddy Scott, baritone and founding member of the G-Clefs who scored national hits during the early rock’n’roll era with “Ka-Ding Dong” and “I Understand” died at his home in Arlington, Massachusetts on Saturday morning, October 27, 2018 at the age of 82. The singer was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March and had been receiving hospice care.
One of seven children, Bryce Theodore Scott was born to Karl Anthony and Christine Rose Scott on February 29, 1936 in Harwich, Massachusetts and relocated with his family to the Boston suburb of Roxbury in 1944. As a teenager, Scott began playing drums and had the opportunity to sit in with Dizzy Gillespie before the G-Clefs were formed. Teddy, his younger brothers, and neighborhood friend Ray Gipson began singing in St. Richard’s Catholic Church Choir and soon brought their love of music home to their neighborhood.
Initially inspired by country and western and spirituals, the three oldest Scott brothers- Teddy, Tim “Payme” and Christian – Ray Gipson, and Robert “Joe” Jordan, formed the original quintet as the Bob-O-Links in 1953. Gipson suggested a name change to the Five Clefs which was modified to G-Clefs after Mrs. Scott heard the group rehearing the Crows’ hit, “Gee”.
In 1955, New York producer Jack Gold signed them to a management contract and arranged a deal with Pilgrim Records. Their debut, the rocking Gipson-led “Ka-Ding Dong” reached #24 on the pop chart in the summer of 1956. Teddy Scott sang lead on the frantic follow-up, “‘Cause You’re Mine”, which featured two screwdrivers banging on a brake drum for percussion, that fall. Gold brought the G-Clefs with him to Paris Records for the ballad “Symbol Of Love” in 1957.
Reorganized in 1961 with the youngest of the Scott Brothers, Arnold (now Ilanga) replacing Jordan, the G-Clefs scored an international hit with their unique blend of the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” melody with the Four Tunes hit “I Understand (Just How You Feel)” on Gold’s Terrace label (#9 pop). The follow-up, “A Girl Has To Know”, charted in 1962 (#81 pop). Teddy delivered the group’s trademark recitations on both of the Terrace hits. The group’s final studio recordings, issued in 1999 on the “Then and Now” CD, included a superb original, “The Note”, again featuring Teddy delivering a recitation.
From 1962-1968, Teddy co-owned G-Clef and Spotlite Records, recording and producing artists including Don Gardner, the Alteers, Chessmen and others. Although a majority of the G-Clefs recordings were pop-oriented, their stage show was primarily soul and rhythm and blues. “Our producer never wanted to change our sound,” Teddy explained. “He would not let us do a rhythm and blues or soul record. ‘I Can’t Stand It’ (1966) is my favorite G-Clefs record because that makes us sound more rhythm and blues than anything else we did.” In 1968-70, the G-Clefs toured Great Britain and Japan on the strength of their stage show alone.
In later years, the G-Clefs performed primarily in southern New England, although they also made appearances in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1993, they were honored by the Massachusetts House of Representatives in recognition of “outstanding contribution to the entertainment community and the city of Boston…and for serving as role models for 35 years to African-American children and young people of all ethnic origins.” The lineup remained unchanged until their retirement from live performing in 2012. Gipson died in 2015; Tim Scott in 2017.
Teddy Scott was active in his community as a Girl Scout leader and enthusiastically served as a chaperone for his daughters’ field trips and supported all of their extracurricular activities and served as the neighborhood “lunch dad”. Affectionately known as the “Pied Piper”, Teddy was loved by the youth of his town for his tireless and enthusiastic support, love, and dedication to children of all ages. He was a founding member of the Band of Angels, a community social and philanthropic organization. Survivors include his wife, June, four daughters, Teddi Scott Pearson, Lonni, Courtney, and Rani Scott; a son, David Tavares; five grandchildren, Aysun Thomas, Perri Felder, David, Ashley and Lucas Tavares; three great-grandchildren, his brothers, Ilanga and Christian Scott, his lifelong loving friends, the Band Of Angels, and his fans. He was also the father of the late Whitney Scott and brother of the late Timothy “Payme” Scott, Ernest Scott, Reginald Rose, and Karen Scott-Mallory.
Ilanga and Christian Scott, Teddy’s surviving siblings and fellow G-Clefs stated “We are saddened that our loving brother Teddy is no longer with us. We will miss his love, his smile, his humor, and his style, but his presence will still be with us every day. He may want to be with you, any day or any time; just feel him there with you and share your smile.”
“The G-Clefs never changed much except in maturity,” Teddy reflected in later years. “We don’t have the bitterness and the regrets that some other groups have, and we never had the higher attitude. We were just ordinary people. I think that came from our parents. As kids, we were always struggling, but our four-room apartment was a community. Our parents influenced the whole neighborhood. They always encouraged us, too. I think people responded to the G-Clefs because we had some kind of charisma that’s pushed out from the stage that is not there on records. But to come see an act, it brings back the old records and people remember that from years ago. They enjoyed seeing us as an act. ‘Gee, they still sing that and they still sound like that?’ That carries over. We’re the G-Clefs. But we’re just ordinary people.”
A wake will be held on Thursday, November 1, from 4 to 8 PM at the Keefe Funeral Home, 5 Chestnut Street, Arlington, MA, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, November 2 at 10 AM at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 51 Medford Street, Arlington, Massachusetts. Cards or support and condolences may be sent to the Scott Family, P. O. Box 191243 Roxbury, Massachusetts 02119.
Photo at left below- Christian Scott, Tim Scott, author Todd Baptista, Ilanga, Teddy Scott and (front) Ray Gipson, 2007. Black and white photo, mid-1990s, left to right- Ray Gipson, Teddy Scott, Tim “Payme” Scott, Christian Scott and Ilanga.