James Sylvester Scott (February 12, 1885 – August 30, 1938) was an African-American ragtime composer, regarded as one of the three most important composers of classic ragtime, along with Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb.
He was born in Neosho, Missouri to James Scott Sr. and Molly Thomas Scott, both former slaves. In 1901 his family moved to Carthage, Missouri, where he attended Lincoln High School. In 1902 he began working at the music store of Charles L. Dumars, first at menial labor, but before long demonstrating music at the piano, including his own pieces. Demand for his music convinced Dumars to print the first of Scott's published compositions, "A Summer Breeze", in 1903.
In 1906 he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Scott Joplin introduced him to publisher John Stillwell Stark. The first Scott rag that Stark published, "Frog Legs Rag", became a hit, and Scott became a regular contributor to the Stark catalogue. In 1914 Scott moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he married Nora Johnson, taught music, and accompanied silent movies.
With the arrival of sound movies, his fortunes declined. He lost his theater work, his wife died without child, and his health deteriorated. Though it is said he continued to compose, he published nothing after Stark's retirement in 1922. He died in Kansas City, Kansas and was buried there in the Westlawn Cemetery.
Scott's best-known compositions include "Climax Rag", "Frog Legs Rag", "Grace and Beauty", "Ophelia Rag" and "The Ragtime Oriole".
Scott was a cousin of blues singer Ada Brown.
See list of compositions by James Scott
- ^ a b c d Jasen David A. and Trebor Jay Tichenor (1978) Rags and Ragtime, Dover.
- ^ a b David A. Jasen (2007). Ragtime: An Encyclopedia, Discography, and Sheetography. pp. 227. ISBN 0415978629.
- DeVeaux, Scott and William Howland Kenney (1992) The Music of James Scott, Smithsonian Institution Press.