A Rockapaedia Obituary
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Scott McKenzie died aged seventy-three on 18th August 2012 in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. He had suffered from Guillain–Barré syndrome from 2010 until his death.
By 1998, Scott had retired from the road version of The Mamas and Papas, and resided in Los Angeles, California, until his death. He appeared at the Los Angeles tribute concert for John Phillips in 2001, amongst other 1960s contemporary acts.
Scott McKenzie was born Philip Wallach Blondheim III in Jacksonville, Florida, on 10th January1939. His family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, when he was six months old. He grew up in North Carolina and Virginia, where he became friends with the son of one of his mother's friends, John Phillips. In the mid-1950s, he sang briefly with Tim Rose in a high school group called The Singing Strings, and later with Phillips, Mike Boran, and Bill Cleary formed a doo wop band, The Abstracts.
In New York, The Abstracts became The Smoothies and recorded two singles with Decca Records, produced by Milt Gabler. During his time with The Smoothies, Scott decided to change his name for business reasons: at parties he complained that nobody could understand his real name, Philip Wallach Blondheim III, and realised that this was a definite liability in a profession that benefited from instant name recognition.
In 1961 John Phillips and Scott McKenzie met Dick Weissman and formed the folk group, The Journeymen, at the height of the folk music revival. They recorded three albums and seven singles for Capitol Records. After The Beatles became popular in 1964, The Journeymen disbanded. Scott McKenzie and Weissman became solo performers, while Phillips formed the group The Mamas & the Papas with Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips and moved to California.
Scott McKenzie originally declined an opportunity to join the Mamas & the Papas, saying in a 1977 interview that he was trying to see if I could do something by himselfself. Two years later, he left New York and signed with Lou Adler's Ode Records, one of whose most famous artists Carole King later became.
John Phillips wrote and co-produced "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" for Scott. John Phillips played guitar on the recording and session musician Gary L Coleman played orchestra bells and chimes. The bass line of the song was supplied by session musician Joe Osborn. Hal Blaine played drums.
It was released on 13 May 1967 in the United States and was an instant hit, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two in the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. It was also a number one in the UK and several other countries, selling over seven million copies globally.
Scott McKenzie followed the song with "Like An Old Time Movie," which John Phillips also wrote, composed, and produced, but which was only a minor hit. His first album, The Voice of Scott McKenzie, was followed with an album called Stained Glass Morning. He stopped recording in the early 1970s and lived in Joshua Tree, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In his own right, McKenzie likewise wrote and composed the song "Hey! What About Me" that launched the career of Canadian singer Anne Murray in 1968.
In 1986, Scott began singing with a new version of The Mamas and the Papas. With Terry Melcher, Mike Love, and John Phillips, he co-wrote "Kokomo" in 1988, a single recorded by The Beach Boys.
By 1998, Scott had retired from the road version of The Mamas and the Papas, and resided in Los Angeles, California, until his death.