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article imageWalter Scott of The Whispers, one of the great voices of soul Special

By Adrian Peel     Oct 18, 2015 in Music
You may not be instantly familiar with the name, but you certainly know the songs - and this clean-living, unassuming foursome wouldn't have it any other way. Digital Journal spoke to one of their founding members.
In 1998, Will Smith had a massive worldwide hit with "Miami." Nothing out of the ordinary there, of course, but what some of you might not know is that this memorable pop/rap tune heavily sampled "And the Beat Goes on," a Top 20 hit 35 years ago for one of Los Angeles's most soulful groups.
Walter Scott and his twin brother Wallace (also known as "Scotty") formed The Whispers with friends Nicholas Caldwell, Gordy Harmon and the late Marcus Hutson way back in 1964.
The present lineup consists of Walter, Wallace, Nicholas (currently taking a break as he recovers from surgery) and Leaveil Degree, an integral part of the setup since 1973 when he was brought in to replace Harmon.
In November the guys will hit the UK as part of an eagerly anticipated event entitled "The Great Voices of Soul," alongside The S.O.S. Band, Soul II Soul, Gwen Dickey, Loose Ends, Meli’sa Morgan and the queen of rock & soul herself Patti LaBelle.
"Very excited - it's been a while since we've been to Europe," says 72-year-old Walter, speaking to me from his home in L.A., the day before travelling to Las Vegas to perform. "About 15 years, I think...
"We were in Africa the year before last, but it's been a while since we've been to London. I love London because they respect R&B music and we're excited to bring it to them."
"We were contacted by the promoters who wanted to do a series of concerts," he adds, revealing how The Whispers ended up on the bill, "and our manager simply came to us and said they were interested in having us come over and we said 'sure.' That was about eight or nine months ago."
 The Great Voices of Soul
"The Great Voices of Soul"
Vicky Berry
What can audiences at the three concerts (in Manchester, London and Birmingham) expect to hear, song-wise? A mixture of the old and the new? "Yes. We normally like to start at the beginning - it's kind of like a little history lesson.
"We sang tunes at the very beginning that weren't so big for us and we bring it up to now, on up to tunes like 'And the Beat Goes On' and 'Rock Steady.' It's extremely exciting and a lot of fun. Nothing like having people singing your songs, and they know them better than we do!"
Commenting on the fact that there are not many 1960s acts actively touring and recording today with three of their original members, the Grammy-nominated singer, who hopes to release some new Whispers music next year, states, "It's true... We were all brought up together here in the Los Angeles area.
"We've known each other since Junior High and this is our 51st year in the business. If anyone had said to us 50 years ago we'd still be doing this, we'd probably have laughed, but here we are still going strong."
What's the secret to their longevity? A healthy lifestyle? "Absolutely," replies Walter, an inductee - alongside his bandmates - into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Official R&B Music Hall of Fame in 2014. That's the biggest secret, live healthily. No drugs, no alcohol and no egos.
"Our business is full of egos and we've always kind of swung under the radar. It's always been The Whispers, never 'Scotty and Walter featuring The Whispers,' and we never believe the press clippings. We keep it simple and it's worked for us. It's not about you, it's about the music. The music's bigger than you and we're a perfect example of that."
To conclude, we discussed the aforementioned "Miami" by Will Smith. Did this classic dance floor filler, a party anthem I remember from my university days, introduce The Whispers' music to a whole new generation of fans?
"No question about it. In 1979, '80, it was a two million-seller for us and then lo and behold Will Smith comes along... He redid it and we had kids that had never heard of us before at our concerts thinking we were a new group, not knowing that we'd been around for over 25 years!"
Tickets for The Great Voices of Soul can be purchased here.
For more on The Whispers, visit their official website.
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