Composer. He is considered one of the "Big Three" in American ragtime music along with Scott Joplin and Frances Lamb. Known as the "Little Professor", he was second only to his contemporary and friend Scott Joplin. He took piano lessons and had his own piano by the age of sixteen. He became a skilled pianist with a natural talent and blessed with perfect pitch. Born James Sylvester Scott, the second child of former slaves, his family moved to Carthage, Missouri in 1901. While he was still in high school, his employer Charles L. Dumars, owner of Dumars Music Company, published with some success his first piece "A Summer Breeze - March and Two Step", in 1903, which followed with a couple more songs. At that point Scott relocated to St. Louis where he met his idol Scott Joplin and began to compose his own ragtime songs. After finding a publisher, he composed such works like the "Frog Legs Rag" in 1906, "Kansas City Rag" in 1907, "Grace and Beauty" in 1909, and "Hilarity Rag" in 1910. His last published piece was "Broadway Rag" in 1922. His compositions usually exhibited more technical skills than other composers' pieces. After the popularity of ragtime music gave way to jazz by 1914, he became a music director with a cinema chain located in the jazz district of Kansas City. He held this position until the dawn of the talkie movies in the 1930s, which made the need for playing a piano during the silent movie feature obsolete. He formed an eight-piece band that performed at dances and other venues well into the 1930s. He gave piano lessons and continued to write music throughout his life although could no longer secure a publisher. He married but the couple had no children. As a widower suffering from chronic congested heart failure, he died at the age of 52 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. In 1966 his piece "Calliope Rag" was posthumously published. Years after his death, ragtime enthusiasts found his unmarked grave, erecting a headstone in 1980.
Bio by: Linda Davis
"THE GRACE AND BEAUTY OF HIS MUSIC WILL LIVE ALWAYS"
DEDICATED BY THE JAMES SCOTT MEMORIAL SOCIETY 1980
Nora Johnson Scott
unknown–1930 (m. 1906)