DENHAM SPRINGS -- Ernest Scott was laying in bed when his phone rang.
After letting it ring a few times, Scott finally answered, and on the other end was long-time friend Mike Shepherd.
Like Scott, Shepherd is a recognizable name when it comes to the Louisiana music industry. Unlike Scott, Shepherd also happens to be president of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, which was the purpose of his phone call on this morning back in May.
The conversation, as Scott recalled, went something like this.
“Ernest, this is Mike. Are you sitting down?”
“No, I’m laying down. Do you need me to get up?”
“No, that’s good, too. I called you to give a bit of news.”
The news: After more than five decades in the local music scene, performing in venues across the state and beyond, Scott was being inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the first Denham Springs native to ever be honored in such a way.
In the words of Scott, he “about fell out of bed.”
“It was a shocking surprise,” Scott said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Neither could his wife, Christie, who walked in on the phone call.
“What’s the matter?” Scott said his wife asked.
“I said, ‘Your husband’s going in the Hall of Fame,’” he recalled. “She got to screaming real quick.”
Scott was officially inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge on Saturday, June 8 — one day before his 70th birthday and a week before Father’s Day, making it one of the most memorable weeks of his life.
For Scott, it offered validation for a music career spanning more than 50 years, one that started as a child with family jam sessions in Denham Springs before hitting stages as an adult across the globe.
Scott was presented the honor by Shepherd, and watching him accept it were his family, friends, fellow musicians, and fans.
During his speech, Scott thanked those who nominated him, his family in attendance, and his mother, a tough woman who stressed discipline and always encouraged him to “never give up.”
“I fought a strong fight for 54 years, but I never kept my eyes off the prize,” Scott said. “I didn’t know when it was coming, but I knew sooner or later it would come. And it came. I received it myself because I earned it. I have been through some stuff.
“A lot of people receive an award like this, but it’s the family that accepts it. I’m just thankful that I lived to see it and accept it myself.”
With as soulful a voice as they come, Scott has shared the stage with blues and soul stars such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor and Johnny Adams. He’s been affectionately called “Otis Redding reincarnated” — though he had another name in the early stages of his career.
“They used to call me the ‘Get Down Man’ back in the day,” Scott said with a hearty chuckle. “I can make you get down.”
Scott got his professional start when he joined his older brother’s band, Lil’ Joe and the Gardenias. His oldest brother played the bass, the second oldest the guitar, his older cousin the drums, and Scott, 13 years old at the time, was the singer.
Together, the family band played in clubs across Hammond, Ponchatoula, Springfield, Mandeville, Abita Springs, and other towns in the St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.
After that, Scott sang with several other groups before eventually joining the band Coffee Featuring Ernest Scott, which would later release the 11-track album “Soul Snatcher.”
In November 2017, Scott fulfilled a life-long dream when he recorded his debut solo album “Bridging the Gap,” a collaboration of more than 40 artists that covers blues, swamp pop, soul, and old country in 12 songs.
Currently, Scott performs with The Funk Children at local restaurants, bars, and festivals across the state. Some of his bigger shows recently included the Sicilian Festival in Independence and the Oyster Festival in Amite, which produced a live 12-track CD of his performance.
Whenever Scott performs, he makes it a point to mingle with fans during breaks. He cracks jokes with people and thanks them for coming to his shows, keeping to something he said he was inspired to do by the late swamp pop legend G.G. Shinn.
“G.G. always had that smile and you’d never see him frown,” Scott said. “He was always smiling, and he was a big inspiration to me. That’s the way I wanted to be.”
Though Scott’s name is the only one that appears on his Hall of Fame plaque, he stressed that it isn’t his award alone. In fact, he says it’s for all of his hometown, Denham Springs.
One of 17 children, Scott grew up around what is now Denham Springs Junior High. As a child, he and his brothers would run through the woods, crawl under a fence, and sneak to a nearby farm, where they’d steal watermelons.
That is, until momma found out.
“The worst whooping I ever got in my life,” he said before adding, “well, one of the worst.”
As a child, Scott lived with his big family on property that had 14 shotgun houses located near “a big saw mill” where everyone worked during the day.
At night, they laid down their tools and replaced them with instruments.
On weekends, Scott recalled his father or one of uncles lighting a tire fire in the middle of the street before the other older men pulled out their guitars. One uncle would even roll out a piano to the porch, and they’d spend hours jamming away while sipping on beer they received in exchange for recycled bottle caps.
“They’d be out there banging the whole night,” Scott recalled.
After moving around a bit, Scott has resettled in Denham Springs, living with his wife in a home just off Hatchell Lane. Back where his life began, Scott wants to share his accomplishments with his hometown.
“That plaque that I got for being inducted is not just for me — it’s for Denham Springs, my hometown,” he said. “I’m the first person from Denham Springs to be inducted, and I want people here to know that that plaque is not just for me, it’s for us.
“All of us.”