Just when Tim Scott was starting to make a name for himself in the music world, he changed it.
With the release this year of the debut album by his Los Angeles-based band the Havalinas, the singer-songwriter went back to using his real name of Tim McConnell. He'd started going by Scott--his middle name--in 1979 while a member of the New York rockabilly revivalist band Levi & the Rockats.
"I had to sign my name to something and the other guys all had short names," said the soft-spoken 32-year-old. "But sometimes I got checks in that name and it was a hassle."
As Scott he hadn't really established any kind of consistent musical identity, going from the roots of the Rockats to big-dance-rock with his own 1983 major-label EP "Swear" (the title tune became a big hit for Sheena Easton) and then a 1987 country-rockish album with producer Mitchell Froom. After that, he felt it was time not just for a change of name but a change of perspective on the idea of a music career, which he had pursued actively since playing as a teen in Top 40 cover bands around his native Florida.
"At the time we started the Havalinas I had quit the music business," he said, sitting in Elektra Records' Beverly Hills headquarters. "I got work as a doorman at gay bars and things. Then I was a custom maid where you fill your car with cleaning supplies and clean people's houses, but that was a drag. But you have to do that if you're a musician. . . . I thought I had a job (in music), but it took me eight years to figure out you have to pay your bills at the end of the month."
Meanwhile, he privately pursued music purely for fun. Then in 1989, Rockats bassist Smutty Smiff joined McConnell in Los Angeles and the two started to play together at Smiff's home in the Fairfax district. They hit on a raw folkabilly sound for McConnell's character-rich story-songs, which they then tried out in public at the nearby Molly Malone's pub.
After the addition of Cruzados drummer Chalo (Charlie) Quintana, the group began drawing label attention. Signing to Elektra, which released the debut album "The Havalinas" this year, brought McConnell face to face once again with the system in which an artist is often held responsible to a record company and the public.
So far he's resisted.
"My problem's never been the work ethic," he said. "I like the reward of knowing you're paying your way. The thing in this band is my way of paying my way is keeping the core of what I believe intact. It has nothing to do with the public or record company. . . . But I don't want to bastardize this into a way to make a living. I'd screwed that up four times before. The point of the band is to play and enjoy it."