America’s Last Medicine-Show Performer Tommy Scott Dies At 96

Tommy Scott

Ramblin’ Tommy Scott

Ramblin’ Tommy Scott, billed as America’s last medicine-show performer, was buried on Friday, Oct. 4, in his hometown of Toccoa, Ga.

The 96-year-old Scott died on Sept. 30 as a result of injuries he sustained in an automobile accident on Aug. 10. He was a singer, songwriter, ventriloquist, comic, actor and show business entrepreneur.

He began his career on local radio in Georgia in 1933. When a medicine-show wagon stopped in Toccoa in 1936, Scott jumped aboard. It was a show that had been launched in 1890 by “Doc” M.F. Chamberlain. When Chamberlain retired, he turned the enterprise and its medicinal formulas over to Scott.

Using music and comedy, Scott sold the liniment Snake Oil, the tonic Vim Herb and the laxatives Herb-O-Lac and Man-O-Ree for decades.

Tommy Scott moved to North Carolina in 1938 to perform on WPTF radio in Raleigh. On WWVA in Wheeling, WV he was billed as“Rambling Scotty” when he fronted Charlie Monroe’s band The Kentucky Pardners. He moved to WSM and its Grand Ole Opry in 1940.

Back in Georgia, Scott became a country TV pioneer with the production of The Ramblin’ Tommy Scott Show in 1948. He later had the syndicated television series Smokey Mountain Jamboree.

In 1949, Scott starred in the movie Trail of the Hawk. Other films he appeared in include Mountain Capers, Hillbilly Harmony and Southern Hayride.

Tommy Scott recorded for such labels as King, Rich-R-Tone, Macy and Four Star. In the 1940s, he founded his own Katona Records company.

During his career, he wrote more than 500 songs, including the bluegrass favorite “You Are the Rainbow of My Dreams.” His most successful song was “Rosebuds and You.” It became a regional success for him in 1950, and was also recorded by George Morgan,The Willis Brothers and Red Sovine. Fiddler/singer Benny Martin had a country hit with the song when he revived it in 1963.

In the 1970s, Scott began billing himself as “Doc” and reemphasizing his medicine-show roots. He marketed a TV album and was featured by such national broadcasters as Walter Cronkite, Charles Kuralt, Ralph Emery, Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman. Scott made multiple appearances on The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight. He brought his show to Nashville’s Fan Fair celebration in 1977.

Over the years, “Doc Scott’s Last Real Old Time Medicine Show” featured such stars as Stringbean, Curley Seckler, Carolina Cotton, Johnny Mack Brown, Ray Whitley and Randall Franks. Franks directed a 2001 PBS special about Scott’s life titled Still Ramblin.’ He also co-wrote Scott’s 2007 autobiography Snake Oil, Superstars and Me.

Ramblin’ Tommy Scott is a member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. He was pre-deceased by his wife and co-star Mary Frank “Frankie” Thomas Scott. He is survived by daughter Sandra Scott Whitworth, sister Cleo Scott Cheek, nephew Benny Cheek, granddaughter Pam Lawson and great-grandchildren Craig and Corey Lawson.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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