MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Billy Scott, whose “beach music” hits included “I Got the Fever” and “California,” died Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., following a short battle with cancer.
He was 70 years old and leaves behind his wife, Gail.
Harry Turner, president of the Beach Music Association International, said Scott’s illness came about suddenly within the last month.
At his 70th birthday on Oct. 5, Scott was in high spirits and good health, Turner said. A few days later, he complained of stomach pains that progressively got worse. He backed out of an appearance at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Oct. 11 because of severe pains.
Scott eventually checked himself into a Charlotte hospital and tests determined he had liver and pancreatic cancer.
Turner saw Scott for the last time Thursday night. Turner said his friend was in high spirits, despite his deteriorating health and weight loss.
Scott was originally from Huntington, W. Va., and was raised on a musical diet of rhythm and blues and soul. In his early career as a member of The Scottsmen and various incarnations of The Prophets, he was labeled an R&B singer.
But when he settled in the Carolinas over 30 years ago, he got tagged as a beach music singer.
“I kind of fell into it, it was there, and all the songs we were doing were R&B and soul and then this beach music term came up in the Carolinas and it just became a part of what we were doing,” Scott said in a 2000 interview.
“But I didn’t particularly like it until I realized this is where we were, and of course everybody would rather be a big fish in a little pond,” Scott said.
Diane DeVaughn Stokes, chairwoman of the Myrtle Beach Cultural Arts Advisory Committee, said Scott was recently working with school booster clubs to bring beach music legends to local schools.
“He believed that the only way to keep beach music thriving was to reintroduce it to the youth,” she said.
Stokes and Scott recently co-hosted the second annual Beach Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Coastal Carolina University.
After the ceremony, Stokes said she got a call from Scott, thanking her for her help.
Scott, Stokes recalled, said he’s a great singer but not a very good public speaker, and his co-host gave him confidence.
“It’s a tremendous loss to the Myrtle Beach community,” Stokes said.