The first thing one notices about Bishop Leonard Scott is his unassuming, soft-spoken, humble manner. Bishop Scott is a pastor and a dentist, but there is also something else about him that is significantly noteworthy. He is President and CEO of Tyscot Records, the oldest black-owned gospel label in the nation.
Tyscot Records is home to many celebrated artists including Rance Allen, Deitrick Haddon, Shirley Murdock and Anthony Brown & group therAPy whose self-titled debut album yielded the hit “Testimony" is the the longest running Top Ten Gospel Radio single to date.
The DC Gospel Music Examiner spoke with Bishop Scott about the origins of Tyscot, his plans for his latest signees and what lies ahead for the label.
Tyscot Records was founded by Leonard Scott and L. Craig Tyson (he passed away in 2006 ) when they signed the Christ Church Radio Choir in their first recording "Feel Good" They wanted their church to record an album and were advised by an attorney to incorporate to limit any potential liability that might be incurred. What followed was a pleasant surprise.
“I really didn't realize how the Lord wanted to use the record company. The only reason we formed it was just to protect assets. I had no idea it would grow to what it's grown to. After we put that recording out, other artists came to us asking to use the label, to be on the label so that's how it grew over the years.”
Why do you think Tyscot has been able to sustain itself for so long?
“God. That's the bottom line. He had a purpose for us to go out there. We should have been gone a long time ago. Back in the early 90's we had the #1 recording in the nation, Pastor John P. Kee's “Walk By Faith, Not By Sight” and we were distributed by a company named Spectra and our distributor went bankrupt. They went totally out of business and they owed us a lot of money, I think about $300,000 and it was money we needed to pay manufacturers, songwriters, publishers, artists, everybody. It was a miracle that God brought us out of that and we're still here. It's God. Anybody else it would have wiped them out. When God is for you, who can be against you?”
Recording that first album is certainly a memorable moment for Bishop Scott. He's had several throughout the years. Another that stands out is an encounter at the Gospel Music Workshop of America in Chicago (GMWA) in the '80s . Rev. Bill Sawyer from Cleveland Ohio needed someone to handle his church choir's recording.
“He had a recording, 'Something Old, Something New' and he had this lady that was in her 90s singing this old hymn, 'Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.' It took off like wildfire. Everybody wanted it and that was really our first big-selling record.”
There was also that pivotal moment when Tyscot signed Pastor Kee.
“I had a young man working for us in Detroit and he called me on Saturday morning and said man, 'I think we found one.' They played the demo tape for me over the phone. That turned out to be very good for us.”
That may very well be an understatement. Tyscot has evolved to include some of the top names in the gospel industry and Scott is excited about that.
“Rev. Rance Allen is a legend; he's just doing great things. We signed Deitrick Haddon back some years ago. His dad and I have been friends for years and we were at a convention and he said, 'man you really need to hear my children, they got a pretty good song.' He gave us a demo tape and I brought it back to the company and everybody just fell in love with it. That's how it got started with Deitrick.”
The relationship with Deitrick Haddon has expanded into another area.
“We've done a couple of movies with Deitrick (“Blessed & Cursed,” “A Beautiful Soul”), so it kind of transitioned along with music into movies. We're actually working on a third movie that's in post production. The first two were kind of music-oriented this one is more relationship-oriented. It deals with racial relationships. Its called 'Switching Lanes' and it's due to be released in 2014.”
Tyscot may have hit the mother-lode when they signed Anthony Brown & group therAPy in 2012.
“We're really excited about Anthony Brown & group TherAPy. He just took off like gangbusters. We've been trying to put out a new single on him, but his single 'Testimony' has been riding the charts and just won't stop. It just sticks there.”
So how did Tyscot connect with Anthony Brown & group therAPy and did he ever imagine the group would blow up like they have?
“As quiet as it's kept, any artist that a label signs and has faith in to put out their recording really hope and feel that they have the ability to be the next top artist. Of course John Q. Public makes that decision; the ones who call radio and request and want to hear it. It's kind of a trial and error thing.
We actually came to know Anthony Brown and group therAPy through VaShawn Mitchell. Vashawn started with us years ago with Bishop Larry Trotter. He was his worship leader and wrote many of Bishop Trotter's songs and then he branched off on his own and of course has done phenomenal. He called us and said, 'I've got this artist you all need to hear. I think you need to do something with him.' So that's how we really learned about Anthony Brown.”
Tyscot has been doing a lot of signings lately: Ruth L'Ontra, Marcia Chisolm and Danetra Moore. What led the label to bring in this new crop of artists?
“The lifeblood of the industry is new talent. Right now Anthony Brown & group therAPy are kind of filling that niche for our company. We presently don't have a female artist that is a new artist. That's kind of what we're looking for. The next female artist and hopefully she'll be the one to rise to the top.”
There's a lot happening at Tyscot. Where do you see the company headed?
“Just still doing good gospel music. We sort of have a reputation for finding new talent and bringing them to the forefront, so we'll be working with new artists. I do see us going further into the movie aspects of the industry and of course incorporating music into movies. We believe music is a tremendous tool to reach the masses for the gospel. So that's where I see us going in the Christian entertainment business. Ultimately our goal is to reach souls for Christ.”
You just released a compilation, “God Cares For You.”
“Yes, we actually put Danetra's single (“All I Can Do Is Pray') on that album. She's still working on her album, so we put that out with some of the top songs that we have done and it's doing very well.”
Do you have any release dates for any of your new artists?
“I think Ruth L'Ontra will be coming out in November and everybody else will be 2014. I'm looking to maybe put another one out myself in 2014 because it's been a few years.
Do you view the label as distinct from your ministry?
“I think your life should be a ministry the things that you do just who god has called you to be. I believe its all one to me.”
© 2013 Sarah Hearn All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.
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