R. T. Scott bought his first white cowboy hat while recording his new CD, Talk of the Town.
Scott, who usually wears a black hat, bought the white one to go with a new black-and-white coat. He admits he’s associated with “biker, whiskey drinking, hell raising and the black hat goes better with that.”
The white hat also could signify that Scott, 52, is off cocaine, crystal meth and other hard drugs. “I don’t indulge anymore.”
Scott, who grew up in Senatobia, saw what it was like to be on top when he and his band recorded two albums for Polygram.
He also saw what it was like being on the bottom — sitting at a table for days without sleep while blitzed on crystal meth in a cheap motel and being locked up in jail after being busted for drugs.
Fans remember Scott as a larger-than-life Southern rock/outlaw country performer in the 1980s and ’90s. “I bought some zebra-striped boots with 19-inch shafts and I tucked my pants in those and wore black and wore the big black hat.
“I’d run around like a madman on stage. Of course, a lot of it was drug induced.”
Scott grew up singing at home with his mother, father and two brothers. He got a Beatles' wig after he saw the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but he was more into the Rolling Stones. “I like the bad guy image. I just think I like that bad guy ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ stuff. ‘Time is on My Side.’ All that early stuff. Plus, to me, they had so much country influences.”
When he was 16, he got hooked on the Texas sound after hearing Jerry Jeff Walker eight-track tapes in a truck while hitchhiking to New Orleans. “That sold me. When I came back I put a country band together. The Bullets.”
Bikers were attracted to Scott’s music. When he was 19, Scott was invited to play a party at a biker club, where the members were “steadily pushing crystal meth in your nose. I was scared to death, to be honest.”
But, he said, “I was like, ‘I love this.’”
He put the R. T . Scott Band together in 1985 and “just soared.” They won the Marlboro Country Roundup, got $5,000 and opened up for Hank Williams Jr. at the Mid-South Coliseum. They began opening for other name acts around the country.
Drugs, which were always around, “kicked in hard” in 1991. Scott told his band members he had to take some time off. “I just went home and continued to get darker and darker.”
He worked plumbing and construction jobs, but he couldn’t get away from the drugs. “Behind every corner you’d turn, somebody would be smoking a foil or doing a bowl.”
In 2004, Scott was pulled over by undercover drug enforcement agents who found a half-ounce of crystal meth on him.
He remembered his first day at the Mississippi Penitentiary at Parchman. “I was making up my rack and here come these guys. And I go, ‘Well, OK. Here we go.’ And dude goes, ‘Are you R. T. Scott?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ It was the Aryan Brotherhood. He said, ‘Man, I saw your band back in the day. I love your band, dude.’ And he called all his brothers over. Man, they took care of me the whole two years I was in there.” Scott never joined the gang, he said.
Scott had his ups and downs with jail and drugs after he got out of Parchman, but he turned his life around while working on a construction job in 2007 in Bryan College Station, Texas. “A lot of it had to do with my mother and my kids; thinking about that. And I knew it (drugs) was gonna kill me.”
He also fell in love with the Texas music played by Charlie Robinson and others. “It’s like God had this sack of seeds of these songwriters. And when he got over Texas, a big hole busted in it.”
Scott returned to Memphis two years ago to do an R. T. Scott Band reunion show. That lead to more shows and the new CD.
He writes about jail and drugs on the new CD, which he describes as a “honky tonk album.”
“He’s writing more from the heart,” said Dan Ward, who produced the CD. Scott has “more of a personal insight available to him these days other than just the old party animal.”
Scott sings about cocaine and crystal meth in “Nothing at All.” The song includes the lines, “When I reached my 20s, cocaine was the thing. And I kept it on hand like a gold wedding ring. And I stared at my life through an old crystal ball. It was that or nothing at all.”
Michael Donahue: 529-2797
R. T. Scott’s CD release party, with Creed and Chris Scott
9 p.m. Saturday at Neil’s at 1835 Madison Ave. His brother, Chris Scott, opens. R. T. Scott will be backed by the old Southern Creed band. Cover charge: $10. Call: 278-6345.