Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London’s Soho is probably the most famous jazz club in the world. But before Ronnie settled down to became a responsible business man, he was one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians.
I go further: he was considered by the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie to be one of the top tenor sax players in the world.
But back in the 1950’s, before he became a sober, down-to-earth jazz club owner, Ronnie was a wild, tearaway. Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” was a choirboy by comparison.. It was smoke–everything-drink-everything- snort-everything and even inject everything – kind of life. It was all-night jam sessions either with other musicians – or with women.
Ronnie’s best friend was Charlie Short, a superb bass player (he became a featured bass man in the Ted Heath band) who was as wild as Ronnie. When high, which was most of the time, Charlie had a way of dreaming up crazy fantasies which would percolate through his highly charged up brain into fact. Amazingly, he possessed the kind of personality that was capable of persuading others around him to actually go along with these wild mental excursions of his.
For example playing a gig with a local band in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, he suddenly dreamed up the notion that there was buried treasure under the sand of Cowes beach. And he managed to convince the band he was gigging with for the night.
So that at one o’clock of a Sunday morning, had you been walking your dog along the prom or something, you would have been greeted with the sight of seven guys with dinner jackets off, bow ties akimbo, madly digging holes in the beach while Charlie was marching up and down busily engaged in assessing the angle his shadow as it fell across the beach in the bright moonlight, which was somehow an integral factor to this crazy search for the cache of pirate gold Doubloons he felt sure – but for one night only – was buried beneath the Isle’s golden sand.
In those days, Ronnie rode around on a huge, very powerful Norton International motor bike. It was after giving his pal Charlie a lift on the pillion of this noisy monster that the idea hit Charlie.
The next day he called on Ronnie at his little flat, and as they proceeded to get high on some fine Mexico Green, Charlie presented his latest idea.
Ronnie must enter the Isle of Man TT motor cycle race.
He told Ronnie he was sure he would win because even though he would be up against some of the finest motor cyclists in the world, Ronnie had a secret that would guarantee him victory. The secret was a handful of uppers followed by smoking a joint of Bechuhana Gold, which Charlie assured Ronnie would afford him the perfect high for winning the race.
The way he saw it, these other cyclists were just a bunch of squares. “Their cornball minds will only work at a normal rate,” he explained to Ronnie. He went on to explain, that Ronnie’s mind, on the other hand, charged up with this mind- dazzling intake of pills plus Bechuhana’s finest would be racing twice as fast as all the others in the race.
“You’ll be able to control your bike at speeds these squares would never imagine. Treacherous corners, difficult turns: man, they will be as nothing to you because of your super speed mind. “Man, you cannot lose” he assured Ronnie. “We are set to make a fortune. You’ll be world famous”.
Ronnie fell for it.
And that is how, on the Isle of Man, on the day of the famous TT race, with all the world’s finest racing motor cyclists, there, on the back row stood ‘R. Scott, from Great Britain’. Standing next to him in a clean, white overall was his ‘engineer’ Mr Charles Short.
Ten minutes before the race was scheduled to start, chief engineer Mr Short asked R. Scott from Great Britain if he could see him privately. They found a spot out of sight of the riders and officials where Mr Short ‘engineered’ the brain of R. Scott from Great Britain, with a handful of uppers plus a joint of Bechuhana gold and a swig of whiskey to help the medicine go down. Ronnie returned to his bike stoned out of his skull.
Now all the bikes were busy revving their engines prior to the starting flag.
The way Ronnie told it to me: “The flag came down and we were off. In a very short time I was whizzing along at a dazzling speed. I knew I was ahead of everybody. There wasn’t another racer in sight. ‘Christ, I’ve done it’ I thought . Charlie was right. Wow”.
He went on: “I swung the bike round a bend to see a guy with a flag waving me down. As I got off my bike I said to him, “Phew, that was one hell of a race. Have I won”?
“No” the official said. “You have been disqualified for not having exceeded 35 miles an hour! “