Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's with deep sadness and a heavy heart I post of the tragic death of one of the true gentlemen of the Australian music industry.

Les Scott passed away after falling ill at his Sydney home on Sunday February 11 2007.

Les was one of the most under-rated musicians in the country music scene and he was sought after by his peers as a guitarist, bass player, back-up vocalist, music producer, sound manager and anything else his serene nature could come up with to help the people he worked, played and lived amongst.

Les was an integral part of country music bands such as Mary Heard's Midwest Obsession and the Murray Hillbillies, among many others. He was also forever willing to fill in and help new and struggling artists find their feet.

Edit: When I realised this was being linked over at the Tamworth Rage Page tribute, I thought I should add some more of my insights into Les the person. Trouble is, Les was such a private person (and unbelievably modest) it's almost impossible to for me to add anything beyond mere speculation and a gut-feeling for his persona. I'm proud to say my private feelings and insights to Les (the person) have all been mirrored by Mary Heard, Leslie Avril, Jason-Lee and Greg Williams on the Rage Page tribute.

These were some of the people who knew and worked closely with him and they have all remarked at the generous warmth and unquestioning friendship Les projected to all who knew him. He was also able to convey a sense of confidence and well-being without opening too many doors on his deepest and most private thoughts.

To have known and admired Les as a true gentleman and an above-average musician is good enough for me.

He will be sadly missed.

"Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you."

- Bob Dylan

UPDATE Tuesday February 13

Les Scott Memorial Jam

An open invitation to all who knew and loved him to come along and share memories in story and song.

Cooks River Motor Boat Club from 3pm Sunday 25th February

At this stage funeral arrangements are unknown. We will let you know when information becomes available.

Please pass this information on to anyone who may be interested.

Update Thursday 14th - 6.00pm

The funeral arrangements (thanks to Helen Shields):

Dear All,

The details for Les' Funeral are:

Monday 19th February,10.15am

Macquarie Gardens

Cnr Delhi Rd and Plassey Roads

North Ryde

(the entrance is opposite the Channel 10 Studios - see map - it's slightly left of the centre circle)

Please check the Sydney Morning Herald for details.

A small photographic tribute to Les playing with the Murray Hillbillies and various guests

(Photo courtesy Mary Heard)

(Photo courtesy Brian Robson)

There's also a wonderful and daily-expanding Les Scott Tribute over at the Tamworth Rage Page

The Funeral Service:

A large crowd of family, friends and fellow musicians gathered at the Macquarie Gardens for Les' funeral service on Monday morning. Appropriately, there were many familiar faces from the local and national country music scene. His workmates also gathered in strength to pay their respects. The below images are from a wonderful memorial programme of the service made up by David and Jack with help from Marie. We thank them for their thoughtfulness in providing this memento of our beloved Les. Unfortunately there were just not enough for every attendee (such was the crowd) so, hopefully, my sloppy scanning and small images (Blogger's fault!) will go some way in showing how the service was presented. If anyone would like full-scale scans at higher resolutions, please send an email address to

Most of the mourning party then moved across to the Ryde RSL Club where a few beverages of choice helped to lighten what was an intensely sad morning. Stories and yarns were flowing hard and fast and it was surprising to find just how little we knew about the unassuming character who played in so many bands and who was party to many a fine jam and witness to some shenanigans which will be better relayed by one of Les' oldest friends from Port Moresby and Townsville, Neville. I do hope Neville follows up with his promised composition of favourite Les times in his very young days when guitars had just begun to play an important part of Les' life. More later.

PS: The above is a very telling picture of the man most of us didn't know.

The Memorial Jam:

An overcast Sydney Sunday afternoon certainly didn't deter a couple of hundred of Les' family, friends and fellow musicians from turning out for what became more than just a memorial jam at the Cook's River Motor Boat Club. First, mention must be made of the organisers of the afternoon, Gary Brown, Mary Heard, Mary-Anne Burton, Dave Hibberd and Dave's fiancee. There may have been many others but the above appeared to be the up-front crew. And let's not forget the sound man and the staff of the CRMBC. It was an almost perfect memorial/wake to a beloved musician mate - relaxed, friendly, sincere and more. Thank you all!

Unfortunately, I missed the first set by Mary Heard, Mary -Anne Burton and Gary Brown, whose grief must have been doubled by the fact that Sunday should have been the debut of their new group, Quite Contrary, which would have included Les as guitarist and musical mentor. I believe it may have also been the launch of their first CD which Les appeared on and also produced (along with Gary Brown), although the CD may have been rushed along so that Les' many friends could go away with a CD on which his musical and vocal talents were clearly evident.

There had also been a couple of oral tributes to Les from some old pals from his Port Moresby and Townsville days. My disappointment was soon relieved when Rob Luckey and his Lucky Bastards stepped on the gas with some stirring honky tonk songs. Contentment turned to delight when the marvellous Ms Leslie Avril joined the band on stage for a couple of numbers, including a heartfelt I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You duet with Rob. It was feared Leslie wouldn't be able to be at the jam after she returned to Melbourne late last week after spending several days in Sydney following Les' funeral. But, like the true trouper she really and emphatically is, she flew back into Sydney on the weekend in time to share the stage and friendships triggered by the loss of her soulmate, Les.

The crowd included a who's who of Sydney's country music scene and it would be silly for me to think I could remember everyone who either appeared on stage or on the floor enjoying the jam but, apart from those mentioned above, some who made the stage were a new band on the block, Size Does Matter(?), Bryen Willems' band and crew, including Nicki Gillis. Buddy from the Cartwrights, Phil Coulson, Kitty Adams, Big Bob and Murray Hill. There were cameo appearances from many others along the way, all with a story to tell of Les and his passion for music. Some of Les' fellow musicians made up the backing bands for the afternoon and included Jeff Mercer, Phil Coulson, Phil Cole on guitars; Bronny Stephens and "Smithy" on bass; Nick Summers on steel, Doug Bligh and Phil Skelton on drums and many, many more whose contributions were fully appreciated, even if this ol' brain can't remember their names two days later!!

I do remember watching in surprise as a former partner of Les sang a country song - most of us didn't know about that side of Les' life, such was the modesty of the man and his desire to keep separate his completely disparate lifestyles. For instance, it seems the majority of Les' workmates in the public service had no idea he was such a loved and talented musician. They knew he headed off to Tamworth every year but didn't realise his total commitment to and involvement in his many bands and projects. And many of us music bods always thought Les made a living as a full-time muso - go figure!!

The highlight of the day came almost at the end of the evening when Mary Heard, Mary Anne Burton and Gary Brown took to the stage and started a most mournful rendition of the Stanley Brothers' Angel of Death. If the song itself wasn't enough to bring a tear to the eyes of everyone in the room, the surprise inclusion of Les singing a taped verse certainly did - a most eerie feeling indeed! It was, on reflection, a fitting way to start Les' memory on its long and lonesome journey with everybody feeling his strong spiritual presence but knowing this was the final spiritual act. The last song I heard was, appropriately, A Closer Walk With Thee from Bryen Willems and his band (which was another band Les played an integral part in).

I think I can say on behalf of all the non-musician friends of Les Scott his musical mates put on a memorial jam that will linger forever in all our minds. All who took part should be proud they put together such a fitting salute to a good mate as his spirit ventured into another life. Congratulations to you all!

This was an event which maybe should have been videoed - or at least taped such was the extent of the turnout of musicians which may not happen in Sydney again. Unfortunately it wasn't and this contributor also forgot to take spare batteries for his camera and has not ONE photograph for the archives. I believe both Wendy Broome and Brian Robson (Edit: Fourteen of Brian's pics are now viewable here. Brian apologises for there being so few. His camera decided to have a hissy-fit and threw most of his shots out of focus) took a heap of photos so I guess they'll all appear over at the Tamworth Rage Page Les Scott Tribute sooner or later. (Helen, if you're listening, I'd love to publish that photo you took at the end of the night if you could email it over. R.).

In conclusion, a witty comment from Mary Anne Burton at the end of the evening (a quote spread, I believe, by the inimitable Helen Shields) ". . . the the irony of the whole shebang was all of us trying to be happy and celebrate Les' life by singing a whole lot of sad country songs!"

Too true. But perfect for the occasion.

Keep on pickin' Les.

Limpin' Jimmy & the Swingin' Kitten's Gig Guide and Newsletter can be accessed via the music link on the right of this page.

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