MYRTLE BEACH (Dec. 22, 2000) — Billy Scott, one of the most popular performers of beach music for more than two decades, has a confession: When the genre was first labeled, he didn’t want it.
Scott, from Huntington, W.Va., was raised on rhythm and blues and soul. For years as a member of The Scottsmen and through various incarnations of The Prophets – he was fine with the label of an R&B singer.
But upon settling in the Carolinas about 20 years ago, he was saddled with the beach music tag, and he didn’t like it.
“If you think about the definition of beach music, it’s still R&B and soul, and that’s how I got into it,” Scott said during a recent interview. “I kind of fell into it it was there, and all the songs we were doing were R&B and soul, and then this beach music term came up in the Carolinas, and it just became a part of what we were doing.
“But I didn’t particularly like it until I realized this is where we were, and of course everybody would rather be a big fish in a little pond.”
The label didn’t change the soulful sounds of Scott’s singing, nor did it alter his direction as a musician. But with R&B singers falling by the wayside as popular music changed direction in the ’60s and ’70s, Scott said embracing beach music seemed like the right idea.
“It just happened without our input,” he said of the tag. “We just happened to put out the music, and living in this area, I had to accept it whether I liked it or not.
“I didn’t like it at first, only for the fact that after the British invasion, soul and R&B suffered a lot. A lot of my friends’ careers were cut short, including my own, as far as becoming big, national artists. So, beach music gave us our own little market, like it is today, and it’s growing a lot.”
For Scott, who performs tonight at Cappy’s Bar and Grill in Cherry Grove and Dec. 30 at Pirates Cove Lounge in North Myrtle Beach, the loyalty of beach music fans has been a boon. Fans of other genres tend to be more fickle, he said, and other popular music artists may find themselves left high and dry when trends in culture and music change.
Scott who continues to chart Top 10 hits on the R&B and beach music charts, including his most recent single, “My Kind of Girl” - has found himself free to follow his heart.
“They’ve given us a tremendous amount of loyalty because they continue to come and see you at different venues,” he said. “As far as artists like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears go, the ones who are good music singers will probably maintain a career, but their careers will probably take them someplace else.”
Like many beach music artists, Scott is enjoying a renaissance of new fans younger fans, weaned on their parents’ soul, R&B and beach music records, who are rediscovering the joy of the genre.
The upbeat tempos, the catchy melodies and the skilled harmonies, he said, keep the music enjoyable, but it’s the positive feeling beach music exudes that also lures new fans away from other popular music.
“I hate to say it, but sometimes I don’t think they have a choice,” he said. “They’re tired of the filth and the lack of respect in a lot of the music that’s popular today. They’re going back to what’s clean and what’s fun.
“A lot of hip-hop music today isn’t fun anymore. It’s dark and it’s depressing. I look in their faces, the faces of 20- and 30-year-olds, and I see so much hate, and so much depression. Our music makes everybody happy. It’s good, happy, fun, clean music.”
And for that reason, despite the skepticism by some young people that beach music is “dated,” the genre will continue to thrive, he added.
“Groups like The Temptations, The Four Tops, Jackie Wilson and The Spinners their music is 35 years old, and they’re still playing it on the radio,” he said. “Young people might say it’s dated because they’re not using `a this’ or `a that’ in it when they sing.
“But if it’s so dated, why are they using it in TV, in commercials and in movies?
“After 30 or 40 years, they’re still using that music. Rap and hip-hop artists have their music in movies today, but 20 or 30 years from now, they won’t be using those songs.”