When Scott McGill plays the first notes of a song, you know why this local musician is revered by so many colleagues across Southeast Texas.
McGill, 66, has been a staple of the local music scene longer than most current, regularly performing musicians in the Golden Triangle have been alive.
For more than 50 years, he has been playing at venues across the region, including old favorites such as The Boulevard, and, through it all, he remains a favorite of fans and musicians.
He may have a day job, but McGill can still be found performing multiple times each week across Southeast Texas and even in the Houston area on occasion. For McGill, it’s not about the pursuit of fame or glory or riches. It is all about the craft and the joy it creates.
“Back in the ’60s and ’70s, I would make more money in a week of playing than guys with college degrees did,” McGill said. “I still make a great living, but now, I just want to settle in. I just want to play songs that people want to hear, even if it is songs that most musicians will not play.”
McGill’s name is spoken with profound respect in Southeast Texas music circles. His skill on the six-string is unquestioned. With just one listen, you know you are hearing greatness as his fingers nimbly maneuver up and down the fretboard of his Fender Stratocaster.
Many consider McGill a rock man, while others reference his blues-influenced style of play. McGill considers himself a musician, plain and simple.
“I started off playing folk music and country at first, then I got into rock and roll later,” he said. “The first songs I ever learned were ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ and ‘All Around the Watertank.’”
It didn’t take long for McGill to figure out performing live was in his blood because, while a young teenager, he was already finding a way to show his skills at local venues. Especially at ones where the music spoke to him the most.
“I used to play at a place called The Auditorium with some old friends of mine,” he said. “We had this little trio and we did straight-ahead blues stuff. It was predominantly a black venue, but we had some great times in there.”
Although he still hankers to perform, creating his own music is not the priority it once was.
“I have probably written around 400 songs in my career. I’ve proven myself as a songwriter and as a guitarist,” McGill said. “Where I came from and where I am now, musically, are vastly different. You aren’t going to be cool and hip forever, so I just went back to doing what I want to do and that’s playing for myself.”
McGill performs across the Golden Triangle at venues such as Texas Ave. Tavern in Bridge City, The Boudain Hut North at Brentwood Country Club in Beaumont and Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp in Beaumont.
“The owner at Tia Juanita’s (Ricky Martinez) has given Beaumont a great place to eat and he has turned it into a great music outlet for myself and others,” McGill said. “I’ve been performing at Tia Juanita’s for over a year, and it’s really become a great place.”
Another location McGill has been seen at every four to six weeks is The Bayou Café No. 2 in Port Arthur, where he performs with fellow musician and guitar-legend-in-the-making Mike Zito.
Although McGill and Zito differ in style, the substance of what these two axe-masters bring to the stage has created a buzz.
“Mike is more of a modern blues player, and he is really focused on what he is doing,” McGill said with a great deal of admiration. “He’s the hardest working musician I know. He has been through a lot in his career already, but he has accomplished so much. It’s been amazing to see him grow, become more focused and get better over the years.
“When I play with Mike, I just kind of settle into the background, so to speak, and just add to what he has going on with the band. We play some old standards and some of his tunes, and people like it. We are like Yin and Yang, but it works so well.”
McGill is always willing to share his years of experience and wisdom with friends and fellow musicians, especially those with aspirations of stardom and glory.
“The young acts really have to develop and prove themselves. You can’t just be good anymore because there are so many great guitarists now,” he said. “Years ago being good was enough, but not anymore. And for those who don’t like performing cover music, you’ve got to know when to be an artist and when to be a servant. There’s a difference.”
McGill has taken those 50-plus years of experience and talent and put it to work for him. As a result, he is reaping the benefits of a life-long passion.
“At my age, there are just certain venues I can’t play anymore. It’s just the way it is,” he said. “There are facets of playing guitar I enjoy now that I used to take for granted, but I really like what I get to do now and that’s what is important.” By Tommy Mann Jr. on February 23, 2016 at 2:12 AM Beaumont Enterprise