Jun 29, 2021
Benjamin Sherman ‘Scatman’ Crothers (1910-1986) was a truly diverse star of the stage, film, and television. He first started performing in clubs as a singer and drummer in his teens, and wound up performing on Chicago’s speak-easy circuit in the latter part of the ‘Roaring 20’s.’ In 1931, Crothers found himself hosting his own radio show on WFMK in Dayton, Ohio, where he became well known for scatting over instrumental tracks on the air. Billing himself as ‘Scat Man’, he formed his own trio, Scat Man and His Cats, and toured the South extensively. In 1934, he performed at the world famous Cotton Club for the first time, and in 1935 he made his first appearance on film in a short called Symphony In Black featuring Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. He would go on to act in 45 more motion pictures, including The Shining, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Silver Streak, and Lady Sings The Blues.
In 1943, Scatman moved to Hollywood, California, and in 1948 became one of the first African Americans to land a recurring role on a network TV show: Paramount’s Dixie Showboat. Over the next three decades, Scatman appeared in hundreds of TV programs. Crothers was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame, located in front of the famed Egyptian Theater.
In 1975, after thirty years of recording for labels like RCA, Capitol, Decca, and Motown, Crothers met record producer/composer Andrew A. Melzer. Together, they recorded a collection of songs that are finally being released by Panda Digital. Groovin’ with… Scatman captures Crothers in his element alongside studio veterans and jazz legends like Ray Brown, Earl Palmer and Victor Feldman. This colorful and entertaining album includes beautiful pop standards like “You’re Pretty”, a couple of comedic dance numbers, and even a tribute to a character he played on NBC’s Chico and The Man (a ribald “Louie is Your Garbage Man.”)
Podcast 826 is my conversation with Andrew Melzer as we discuss how he met Scatman, the making of the album, and Melzer’s plans to release more hidden treasures from his personal vault. Muscial selections include “Scatman's,” “Louie is Your Garbage Man,” and “Stanley (Does It All)” for The Shining director and part-time drummer Stanley Kubrick.