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Scott, Raymond, 1908-1994



  • Existence: September 10, 1908 - February 8, 1994


Raymond Scott was born Harry Warnow on September 10, 1908, to Russian emigrants in Brooklyn, New York. His father, an amateur violinist, exposed Harry and his older brother Mark to music at an early age. Harry was soon considered a child prodigy at the piano, but also had an intense love for science and engineering. When he was of college age, he planned to study engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic. His brother Mark, who had become a violinist and well-paid conductor, convinced Harry to attend the Institute of Musical Arts (now known as Julliard) by offering to pay his tuition and buy him a new Steinway grand piano. Harry agreed and upon graduation in 1931 was hired as staff pianist at the CBS Radio House Band. He then changed his name to Raymond Scott. During the mid to late 1930s Raymond Scott founded and led the six-piece “Raymond Scott Quintette.” He misleadingly named it a quintet because he liked the sound of the word. This group was comprised of sax, clarinet, trumpet, drums, bass and piano. They earned great popularity playing on radio, records, and the concert stage screen. Despite their popularity, the Quintette's music was often criticized by jazz musicians who claimed that the music was not truly jazz because of its novelty nature and lack of improvisation. Examples of their successful recordings include Dinner Music for a Hungry Pack of Cannibals and Powerhouse. These compositions as well as others were later used in cartoons by Warner Bros. Animation. More recently, Scott’s compositions have been used in cartoon projects such as Batfink, Ren and Stimpy, The Simpsons, Duckman and Animaniacs.

From 1939-41 Scott toured with a full size band. The band toured regularly and played residencies including the Blackhawk, in Chicago in 1940. Scott stopped appearing with the band in 1942 to become music director at CBS where he introduced the first integrated orchestra to work as a house band that specialized in jazz. Its members included Charlie Shavers, Ben Webster, Cliff Leeman, Johnny Guarneri, Cozy Cole, Emmett Berry, George Johnson, and Jerry Jerome.

Scott eventually left CBS and moved to NBC studios to lead the Lucky Strike Hit Parade Orchestra. His first jingle, Be Happy, Go Lucky, was composed for Lucky Strike, the sponsors of Hit Parade. This jingle was the start of a highly successful career in commercials. Other genres of composition included film, TV and the stage. His stage compositions notably include the 1946 Mary Martin Broadway musical, The Lute Song. Many of his other compositions featured Dorothy Collins. Collins was Scott’s second wife following a divorce from Pearl Zimney in 1950.

Throughout his life, Raymond Scott kept alive his interests in science and engineering. These interests manifested themselves in the lab and home studio where he was engineer, inventor and pioneer of electronic music. In 1948, Scott invented the Karloff. This was a machine that could imitate various sounds for commercial use. By 1949, Scott had constructed a synthesizer which could simulate other instruments. The Clavivox, designed to simulate the Theremin, was a portamento keyboard invention allowing one to move from one key to the next without a break. Another significant invention was the Electronium, which Scott claimed could compose music itself. This caught the attention of many, including Motown Records.

Raymond Scott and his third wife, Mitzi, moved to the west coast in 1972 where Scott led the electronic music division of Motown Records until 1977. After his retirement, Scott remained active as a composer of experimental music and an electronic instrument maker. He suffered a series of debilitating strokes beginning in 1987, and eventually passed away on February 8, 1994.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Raymond Scott Collection

Identifier: MS-0010
Scope and Contents The Raymond Scott Collection was donated to the University of Missouri-Kansas City by Mitzi Scott, Raymond Scott’s widow, in 1993.Housed in LaBudde Special Collections, the original manuscript collection, which encompasses much of Scott’s career until 1980, is organized into 11 series: manuscript music scores; published music; correspondence; news clippings; journals, diaries and scrapbooks; production notes; personal; engineering and inventions; miscellaneous; oversized...
Dates: 1932 - 2009