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Remembering Lil' Scotty: Bluesman, Buttonman

"If blues music is rooted in adversity, bluesman Clarence 'Little Scotty' Scott had plenty to draw on," Graydon Megan wrote for the Tribune last week.

"From surviving a scarring house fire as a youngster to making a return to full-throated blues singing after a tracheostomy several years ago, Mr. Scott never lost his good humor, his concern for social causes or, most especially, his commitment to the blues.

"'He was the only blues singer I know of who was able to sing powerful, funky, gutbucket blues while having a trach tube - which he plugged up with a Sharpie pen,' said his friend Steve Balkin, a Roosevelt University professor and historian of the Maxwell Street market where Mr. Scott often sang. 'He had a real sense of street grit about him.'

"Mr. Scott, 66, died Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Mercy Hospital in Chicago of complications that followed a heart attack he suffered in January, according to stepson Qurme Allen."

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Balkin sent this out in late January when Scott's condition became critical:

Tuesday night Clarence 'Lil Scotty' Scott collapsed and was brought to UIC Hospital in intensive care. He has been having chronic health problems for a long time.

Queenie Portia, his wife, said, "It looks bad. He had stopped breathing and his heart stopped. The doctors were able to bring back a heart beat. We need a miracle for him to pull through."

Professor Steve Balkin at Roosevelt University said, "Lil Scotty is a miracle. He recovered from brain surgery a while back and had a trach tube in his neck. He not only learned to talk again but he still sings really great Blues; I think he is the greatest Blues singer in Chicago. He has soul coming from his voice, his moves, and all his pores."

Balkin says further, "By his example, he teaches us to be strong, humble, and with good humor. He is extremely poor and always carries around a cart full of progressive cause buttons and attends most all the marches and protests in Chicago. He is a civil rights pioneer and was firebomb by the Klu Klux Klan in South Carolina. He is part of Occupy Chicago. He is a fixture of the streets, clubs, and fabric of Chicago - one of the last of Chicago's great street characters. He loves to be with the people but also is proud to have sung recently for Mayor Emanuel."

Lori 'Lowreen' Lewis, leader of the Maxwell Street Market Blues Band, says, "Little Scotty comes out to the New Maxwell Street Market jam most weeks health permitting, on the street when the weather is good and at Polk Street Pub. He's always pushing his cart full of buttons supporting Obama and against gun violence. No matter how he is feeling, when he steps up on stage, he gives it his all, singing like he's got not a care nor a pain in the world. Trach be damned, he's got a Sharpie pen to block the hole and let his voice sing out! And the crowds love him. With lyrics like "Take off that wig that I bought you, let me play with your bald head," and his show-stopping delivery, how can you not love Lil Scotty? Our thoughts for recovery are with him."

But recovery was not to be. His funeral was held on Valentine's Day.

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"There are times when a person's death affects everyone," Arlene Jones wrote for the Austin Weekly News. "Such is the case with the recent transition of Clarence 'Little Scotty' Scott. He was an entrepreneur many knew by his trade name: Buttonman. But he was more than just a person who sold buttons to earn a living. He was also a community activist who was one of the first to appear at protests.

"Just this past October, he had called and told me he was going downtown every day to stand with the people who were involved in the Occupy Chicago movement. Little Scotty was the kind of person we could always count on to appear whenever there were issues of concern involved.

"I had seen Little Scotty over the years standing outside of events selling the buttons he made. When he learned that I had published my first novel, he made me buttons to wear promoting my book. But the buttons he made were just a means to an end because what Little Scotty did best was sing the Blues. I never thought I wasn't much of a Blues fan until I heard Little Scotty sing. He was a showman extraordinaire."

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Little Scotty Sings The Blues.

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Previously: Give Him Flowers While He Lives

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Forever loved and missed.

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Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on February 21, 2012


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