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Singer Billy Scott seen as the emissary of beach music

Rhythm-and-blues and beach music singer Billy Scott was remembered by family and friends on Tuesday for his love of performing and compassion for others.

Scott, whose hits included the songs “I Got the Fever” and “California,” died Saturday at his home in Charlotte after a brief fight with liver and pancreatic cancer. He was 70.

Longtime Charlotte music fans might remember Scott’s performances at the old Cellar and Aztec clubs. He also made appearances at beach-music halls and other venues in Myrtle Beach and across the Carolinas.

He continued performing and recording music until recently, including singing at his birthday celebration last month. The set included a new song he’d recorded, “I’m Back Doing My Thing Again,” said daughter Sonia D’Antignac, who lives near Augusta, Ga.

Born Peter Robert Pendleton in Huntington, W. Va., he began singing as a child then started performing with groups when he was stationed with the Army in Georgia.

He took on the stage name “Billy Scott” in 1965, and would make it his legal name two decades later. In the beginning, he and then-wife Barbara were part of The Scottsmen and later, with various incarnations of The Prophets.

After leaving Georgia, where he was largely known as an R&B singer, Scott became popular on the Carolinas beach music scene.

One of his early hits was 1968’s “I Got the Fever,” which hit gold. In a 2009 interview with the Observer, Scott said that decades later, he never grew tired of singing the song.

Longtime friend Kaye Smith-Orman said she first met Scott at a Myrtle Beach club in 1968. It was the first time she’d seen him and his band perform, and she called them “spectacular.”

Smith-Orman and others recalled Scott’s high energy during performances, including joking with the crowd and constantly displaying a big smile.

“He was running from the time he hit the stage until the time he got off of it,” said friend George Ennis, adding that Scott would not stop performing until everyone was on their feet.

But beyond being a singer himself, many like Chris Beachley of the Wax Museum in Charlotte said Scott was an ambassador for beach music.

He was chairman of the Beach Music Association International and also helped in the creation of the N.C. Music Hall of Fame.

Created Carolinas awards

In 2009, he told the Observer he was most proud of working with Curtiss Carpenter to establish the Carolina Beach Music Awards Show in the mid-1990s. The awards program continues to this day, with the 2012 CAMMY winners honored on Nov. 11.

“It was very successful, and I think it did help the industry,” Scott said in 2009. “It’s still going strong. We now have more musicians, singers, bands, recording studios and song writers. It sparked more interest.”

Harry Turner, president of the Beach Music Association, said that in one of their last conversations, Scott spoke of his desire to ensure the legacy of beach music continued.

“Keeping the music ... was his main concern,” Turner said. “It wasn’t just about him, it was about beach music and his love for it.”

Scott had faced health problems, including throat cancer, in the past. His latest diagnosis came last month after stomach pains that progressively got worse.

After a stay at CMC-Pineville, he spent the last two weeks at home under hospice care, Smith-Orman said.

Survivors include Scott’s wife, Gail; his daughter Sonia; four grandchildren and eight-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 27 in Charlotte, though details were still being ironed out on Tuesday.

Friends also have planned a number of performances and fundraisers, with information available at http://www.theprophets.com

Brad Dickerson of The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed.

Bethea: 704-358-6013 On Twitter: @AprilBethea
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