Isaac Scott, 56; Seattle Bluesman


Isaac Scott, a blues guitarist and singer well known on the Seattle music scene and in such venues as the San Francisco Jazz Festival, has died at 56.

Scott, who was found in his apartment unconscious on Nov. 11, died Friday of complications of diabetes in Edmonds, Wash. His left foot and right leg were amputated in 1987 because of the disease.

Despite the physical handicaps, Scott kept performing in a wheelchair--a black one to match his customary cowboy hat, pants and shirt.

Credited with helping to build the Seattle blues sound, Scott retained tinges of the down-home blues from his native Arkansas. His music combined blues with elements of gospel and soul.

"I pretty much think I've got my own sound," he said in an interview in 1984. "That's what I've been trying to build for quite some time. I guess I have to put it in the Northwest category."

Scott was considerably influenced by two musicians he greatly admired, Texas blues guitarist Albert Collins and Seattle-born rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. He emulated Collins in plucking his guitar with his thumb instead of a pick and added a bit of Hendrix rock to his own style.

"I've had a lot of rock influences. Jimi Hendrix for one, a big influence," he said in 1984. "But basically I think Jimi had that blues thing deep inside. If you listen to 'Voodoo Chile,' you can tell those blues roots."

Scott, whose father was a railroad man, grew up in Portland, Ore., where he was exposed to both gospel and blues. He taught himself to play piano and guitar and began his career performing with gospel groups.

He toured the West Coast with one, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

But from 1974 on, Scott concentrated on blues and became something of a founding legend for the groups and clubs that flourished along Seattle's First Avenue.

Scott might have achieved greater national fame if he had written his own songs. But as a "cover artist," he recorded several memorable albums, including "The Isaac Scott Band," "Big Time Blues Man" and "High Class Woman."

He also played on such compilation albums as "Live at the San Francisco Jazz Festival" and "Live at the Roadhouse."

Meticulous about his guitars, Scott maintained and repaired his instruments. His former wife, Eloise DePoe, told the Seattle Times she was never surprised to find such scenes as a guitar in the bathtub or a piece of her mahogany dresser missing. In the first case, Scott was stripping the varnish off the guitar, and in the second had used the piece of wood to rebuild the neck of his guitar.

Scott earned several honors in the Northwest. He was inducted into the Washington Blues Society's Hall of Fame in 1991 and earned the society's lifetime achievement award last year.

Scott is survived by three children, Angela and Isaac IV of Seattle and Tina of Wisconsin; two brothers; three sisters; two stepsisters; and one granddaughter.

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