The Eagles sang about standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona in “Take It Easy,” and Glen Campbell crooned about our neighboring city in “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” So has anyone made music that salutes Scottsdale? And who are the singers that have made Scottsdale so melodious?
Here are bits and pieces of our singer and song history:
Founder/namesake Winfield Scott himself had a booming voice and often sang during early ecumenical church services in Scottsdale’s first decades.
Sing-a-longs were a popular form of entertainment in early 1900s Scottsdale, before radio, television and recorded music. Townsfolk usually serenaded newlyweds, like the Fraziers in the late 1890s, with popular tunes during a wedding night shivaree. The Fraziers’ was even reported in The Phoenix Herald newspaper.
From its earliest days after opening in 1923, Scottsdale High School had a glee club and choral groups.
Mariachi music and singing was featured at local festivals and the annual Miracle of the Roses and Los Posadas pageants in Scottsdale, circa the late 1940s through the 1970s.
Reflecting “The West’s Most Western Town” theme, The Western Gentlemen performed at Reata Pass in the 1960s, even cutting a record album.
Arizona’s official state balladeer (and former New Christy Minstrels singer) Dolan Ellis performed at the Tuba City Truck Stop in downtown Scottsdale during the 1960s. He was also a featured performer during the weeklong events celebrating the dedication of Scottsdale’s new Civic Center in October 1968 (and he’s scheduled to perform at the 50th anniversary of the Civic Center this October).
Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s official state historian and former director of Southwest Studies at Scottsdale Community College, was part of a folk singing group, The Gin Mill Three, that performed in Scottsdale clubs in the 1960s. Trimble also wrote and often performs a ballad honoring Winfield Scott.
Scottsdale High School’s team and students/alumni are known as the Beavers. The “Beavers Forever”fight song can be found on YouTube, with lyrics that begin, “Beavers forever fight on and win, Fight on to victory, Take trouble on the chin…”
Eugene Hanson was considered Scottsdale’s “music man.” He served as band/orchestra director at Scottsdale High from 1950 to 1961, when he moved to the same position at Coronado High School, where he stayed until retiring in 1982. He is credited with composing Coronado’s hymn and fight song. According to an article in the November 25, 2007 East Valley Tribune, Hanson led high school bands in the Parada del Sol parade and wrote the song “I Want to Be a Cowboy Out in the West,” performed in the Parada. Coronado High’s auditorium honors his memory.
An article in the March 17, 1960 Scottsdale Progress, headlined “Town Song Composed by Housewife,” explained that Mrs. James (Dana) McDonald had composed a song entitled “Scottsdale,” with lyrics like “Twas a little cow town, deep in the west.” It was played by the Parada del Sol band in the 1963 parade and during the rodeo.
Scottsdale resident, musician and composer Louise Lincoln Kerr wrote more than 100 works for orchestras, individuals and instruments. In honor of the October 1968 dedication of Scottsdale’s Civic Center (City Hall and Library), Mrs. Kerr composed “Arizona Profiles,” which was performed by the Phoenix Symphony at a special concert held at Coronado High School. Mrs. Kerr generously bequeathed her studio to Arizona State University, and the Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale continues to nurture musicians of all kinds.
In 1973, Mike Dale and the Sidewinders introduced a song about Scottsdale during a gig in Phoenix, singing “Scottsdale, Arizona/That’s where I’m from/And I’m proud to say/It’s the greatest/in the whole U.S.A.” The lyrics also included the (Chicago) Cubs, hot summer days and cacti.
Country star Waylon Jennings drew loyal audiences at Wild Bill Moses (later named Handlebar J’s) and JD’s in 1960s Scottsdale.
Folksinger Gordon Lightfoot sang “Carefree Highway” in 1974.
Country singer Roger Miller was the opening act at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts at its debut in October 1975.
Rock stars who have called the Scottsdale area home include Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame and Nils Lofgren of E Street Band.
Scottsdale-based band Chronic Future composed a song called “Scottsdale.”
Former City of Scottsdale planning department executive Harry Higgins and his wife Jill wrote the song “Magnificent McDowells,” which was performed at one of the first large public meetings to discuss saving the McDowell Mountains at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch on June 20, 1994. Its lyrics begin “Magnificent McDowells, vista grand and wide/Purpl’d panorama, Sonoran Desert pride.” The Higgins dedicated their composition to the memory of Scottsdale’s former mayor Herb Drinkwater, following his death in December 1997. They also wrote tributes to the Lost Dog Wash and “Sonoran Dawning.”
Ted Newman wrote a song, “Adios Mr. Scottsdale,” as a tribute to Mayor Drinkwater, which he performed at the Drinkwater family’s request at the community-wide memorial service at WestWorld in January 1998.
American composer Ron Nelson created “Sonoran Desert Holiday” in 1994; it is available on CD as performed by the Dallas Wind Symphony.
Some songs have given romantic tributes to Scottsdale; others are parodies. The musical GUV from the 1990s as well as the annual appearance of the Capitol Steps at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts often poke fun at local politics. Historically, the Scottsdale Follies featured parodies performed by local talent during the 1960s through the 1980s.
One of the most sought-after singers these days is Gary Sprague, Scottsdale’s Singing Cowboy, who often kicks off events – from the Giant Race in March to the Scottsdale History Hall of Fame in May – singing the national anthem astride his horse. He can also be seen around Old Town.
Keep on singing!
Louise Lincoln Kerr (at left) composed “Arizona Profiles” for the October 1968 Scottsdale Civic Center dedication events.