Longtime Music Booster Johnny Schott Dies

Jan 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm
click to enlarge Johnny Schott (right) with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals
Johnny Schott (right) with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals

Last night, Fox 19's website reported that veteran local musician, talent booker and event promoter Johnny Schott passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday morning in his home in Tennessee.—-

Schott played with many groups in the Cincinnati area dating back to the ’60s. He started singing with The Radicals and The Black Watch, which led to major label offers, though they never panned out (due in no small part to Schott's lack of interest in touring nonstop and living that lifestyle). In the early ’70s, he began a solo gig in Mount Adams that led to him doing some booking in the club (New Dilly's), his entry into event promotion. (He booked the first show by Pure Prairie League at New Dilly's.)

Though he continued to perform (he met his wife Rachel when looking for a violinist for his acoustic group Mama's Boys), Schott began hosting popular open mic nights (where he became something of a mentor for up-and-coming musicians) and event promotion ultimately became his main gig. Johnny Schott Talent & Events, Inc. boasted of being the booker/promoter of the most free shows in the area, putting together musical lineups for a variety of local festivals and music series, like Mainstrasse's Oktoberfest, Maifest and the Acoustic Lunch series at Garfield Place.

Just a couple of years ago, Brian O'Donnell interviewed Schott about his life in music for WVXU's Around Cincinnati radio show. Click here to listen to Part 1 and here for Part 2.

I have known Johnny Schott since the very start of CityBeat back in the mid-’90s. Schott would touch base when he had events to promote and I interviewed him a couple of time for various stories, including one on open mics around town when Schott was still doing a weekly night at Habit's in Oakley. But Schott was not the typical "publicist" and I always took his call. Besides being a great guy to talk to (wise and passionate about music in general) and a friendly, welcoming presence, Johnny would occasionally drop off "gifts" — boxes of old local recordings on tape, vinyl and CD that he thought I'd enjoy having in my local music library.

Just after Christmas, I received another small package in the mail from Schott. In it was a disc with many photos he had taken from the various events he'd promoted in 2011 — free concerts by Ambrosia, Grand Funk Railroad, Mitch Ryder, Tommy James and Rare Earth, plus snaps from Glier's Goettafest, for which he booked the music. There was also a folder titled "Little House on the Mountain," which features over 100 shots from his home in Harrogate, Tenn., where he'd moved with his wife. The lovely photos of daffodils, hummingbirds, his dogs and his family and friends, all shot in his new home's idyllic setting, suggest Schott was in a very happy place at the time of his passing.

Here's one of those photos that seems appropriate to post at this moment:

Sunset in Tennessee (Photo: Johnny Schott)

Also in the package was a CD featuring some tunes by the band Dime a Dance, a cover/dance act he formed in 1988 with George Haggis after Haggis had left popular local group The Modulators. As Schott explained in a detailed "one sheet," the recording was done live at Longworth's in ’88. Schott wrote that he found the old reel-to-reel he recorded the show on, converted it to cassette and then to CD.

Schott wasn't asking for publicity for the project or asking if CityBeat needed any new photographers. Schott was merely saying "Hope you had a great year" and providing his own unique "Christmas letter" to friends and acquaintances (the packages apparently were sent to several people), sharing his life's work, of which he was so obviously proud.

The cover letter — which I now have pinned to a wall by my desk — says, "Every year as the seasons change, we try to remember those who have treated us well. I hope you'll enjoy these tokens of my esteem along with my very best wishes for your finest new year ever." He then personally signed it, "Happy New Year, Mike!" followed by a squiggled capitol "J."

Johnny never got to have an entire happy new year in 2012, but his memory will continue to brighten many people's years for decades to come.