Gloria Scott

Gloria Scott

If there is one artist who knows about perseverance, it's Gloria Scott. More than 35 years after debuting with her first and (so far) only album, she is relishing how young generations of music listeners are discovering her beloved soul music master work, What Am I Gonna Do (1974), for the first time. The years have been kind to the album as audiences continue to learn about an artist whose first round in the spotlight was all too brief.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, Gloria Scott moved to the west coast in her early-teens. Her aunt sang in a group with Sly Stone (then Sylvester Stewart), along with his sister Rose and cousin LaTanya. She first met Stone, three years her senior, during one of the group's rehearsals and then again a couple of years later at a high school dance. After hearing Gloria Scott sing "Gee Whiz" by Carla Thomas, Stone formed a group with Scott as the lead, "Gloria Scott and the Tonettes." The group disbanded after recording a few sides but the young singer continued performing around the San Francisco Bay area as a solo act. Charles Sullivan, the owner of the Fillmore Auditorium, helped Gloria Scott land her next gig -- as a backup singer for the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Less than a year later, Gloria Scott decided to continue pursuing a solo career while occasionally doing background spots. Before long, Barry White took an interest in Scott through the recommendation of her songwriting partner, Sonny Chaney. White signed the young singer to his Soul Unlimited Company and landed a deal with Neil Bogart's Casablanca Records. Released in the winter of 1974, What Am I Gonna Do marked the second release of Bogart's burgeoning record company.

A confluence of events, however, hindered the album's impact. First, Casablanca had yet to establish its identity in the marketplace. Because Scott's deal was with White's company directly -- not Casablanca -- she missed opportunities to build a rapport with executives at the label who might have lent more support. Second, Barry White had suddenly found phenomenal success with his own releases and did not accord Scott's career the same kind of attention. Casablanca released a non-album single,  "Just As Long As We're Together," in early-1975. Though it made the R&B Top 20, a second album never materialized.

Scott's contract with Barry White stipulated a seven-year commitment, yet White only delivered one album for her. Frustrated by the lack of direction, Scott requested a release from her contract during the sixth year. While Barry White scored hit after hit with his own singles and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, Gloria Scott found herself abandoned.

Soul music lovers, however, did not abandon Gloria Scott. Vinyl copies of What Am I Gonna Do have traded hands upwards of $300 over the years and earned the singer a cult following in Europe. The album has been re-released at least three times on CD over the past 15 years and Gloria Scott even re-recorded some of the more popular cuts with the Baltic Soul Orchestra in 2008. The renewed attention towards her music has given Gloria Scott a second act the envy of veteran artists. Hers is the soul that only grows sweeter with time.

Christian John Wikane

Available Music

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