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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published September 22 2012

Eriksmoen: Successful, prolific music composer from North Dakota

One of the most successful and prolific music arrangers/composers was born and raised in North Dakota.

During a 50-year career, Frank Scott wrote more than 7,000 arrangements for some of the biggest names in the music industry. The list includes Pat Boone, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, the Mills Brothers, Liberace, Debbie Reynolds, Ella Fitzgerald, Robert Goulet, Billy Vaughn, and Pete Fountain.

Scott spent 12 years as musical director and studio pianist for the WDAY radio station in Fargo. He then joined the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, continuing to compose and arrange music. He also played the piano and harpsichord, and filled in as conductor when Welk needed to take a break.

Scott was born June 21, 1921, in Fargo to Frank and Alice Wilson Scott. Scott’s father was a cashier at the Merchant’s National Bank and became the bank president in 1935.

Scott was introduced to music appreciation at the age of 6 when an “older brother showed him four chords on the ukulele. Scott discovered he could match those chords on the piano.” With that experience, he said, “I was a goner.”

A couple of years later, he began taking piano lessons from Laura Campbell. While attending Hawthorne Elementary School in Fargo, Scott purchased a harmonica for 60 cents and launched a harmonica band. Jean Mason, another student who was a year younger and a lifelong friend stated, “He could play anything, and did.”

Scott mastered not only the piano and harmonica, but also the guitar, banjo, and ukulele. In the sixth grade, he began composing and arranging his own songs and formed a seven-member band.

The band’s first gig was playing for a DeMolay dance, and they were each paid $1. Scott later commented, “I have the feeling that we were somewhat overpaid.”

At Central High School, Scott organized a band called the Vagabonds. After graduating in 1939, he enrolled at the North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University). Scott followed the advice of his father and older brother and majored in engineering, but his heart was in music.

During his freshman year, he arranged all of the music and conducted the pit orchestra for the annual Bison Brevities Variety Show and then dropped out of college midway through his second quarter. Scott married his high school sweetheart, Jeanette Daniels, and on March 1, 1940, the two left Fargo to live in Cleveland, Ohio.

In Cleveland, Scott worked for the Bell Aircraft Co. during the day and played the piano and arranged music for the Paul Simms Orchestra at night.

In March 1944, Frank, Jeanette, and their infant son returned to Fargo, where he found work as a music arranger and studio pianist at WDAY for $27 a week. He remained there for 12 years, scoring more than 2,500 music arrangements. One of the more popular radio programs Scott appeared on was the Stump-Us Boys, where people would call in and try to stump the band, consisting of Scott, Ken Kennedy, Pat Kelly, Buddy Nulph, and the Texas Ranger.

In Fargo, Scott joined the Kiwanis and was a member of its musical group, the “Warblers.” During summer 1956, he went with other Warbler members to Los Angeles. While there, Scott drove to the Aragon Ballroom one Sunday where Welk was playing. He introduced himself to Welk, who said he was looking for a music arranger. Welk laid out a couple of requirements for his music. “None of the songs can be over two minutes long” and the songs could not have anything to do with the “Las Vegas style.”

Although Scott arranged one or two musical numbers each week, his main duty with the Welk orchestra was “coordination of the music for his television show.” On “The Lawrence Welk Show,” he played the piano and harpsichord and occasionally filled in as conductor.

Besides his work on the show, Scott arranged music on all of Welk’s albums and arranged music for most of the show’s major artists, including Myron Floren, Norma Zimmer, Joe Feeney, Jim Roberts and the Lennon Sisters.

He also arranged music for many of the other top recording artists of the time. Several of Scott’s compositions were recorded by major artists, and two of his songs became classics. “Apples and Bananas” was a Welk standard that later became a popular children’s song. “The Moment of Truth” was recorded by Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Peter Nero, Robert Goulet, and Peggy Lee. Scott also recorded his own albums for Coral and Dot Records.

When his wife, Jeanette, became ill in 1969, “clean air drew Scott and his family back to Fargo.” He taught arranging and orchestrating at NDSU. He also put together bands to perform for special occasions and worked as a real estate agent for the Arneson Co. In 1977, the Scotts moved back to California, where he resumed work for Welk, Myron Floren and Norma Zimmer. Two years later, Jeanette died.

Over the next several years Scott frequently returned to Fargo and put on concerts, recruiting some of the major artists in the region to perform with his band. One of his return trips was to perform at the farewell of Festival Hall, on the NDSU campus, on July 6, 1982, prior to its demolition.

In 1983 Scott moved to Palm Desert and assembled the Frank Scott Orchestra. He hired Audrey Roseland as his female vocalist. Roseland had worked for Scott at WDAY in the 1940s and then sang with several big bands. In 1993, Scott and Roseland were married. Scott died on Oct, 5, 1995.

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“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.