This month, the gospel music community of Indianapolis will have a major reason to celebrate, as one of its own receives a rare honor.
Dr. Leonard Scott, founder of Indianapolis-based Tyscot Records, will be inducted into the Stellar Honors Hall of Fame during the 32nd annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards.
The event will be held in LasVegas on March 25 and will premiere on April 9 on the TV One network. It will also be shown in syndication in various markets until May 7.
In addition to Scott, Fred Hammond and the Mississippi Mass Choir will also be inducted into the prestigious Honors Hall of Fame.
“We are elated and humbled about this honor,” Scott told the Recorder. “It was definitely a pleasant surprise.”
Produced by Chicago-based Central City productions, the Stellar Awards is recognized as the premier event honoring African-American gospel artists.
Artists placed in the hall are people who have been widely recognized for having high artistic quality, long-term success and a significant impact on the growth of the gospel music industry.
Even with Tyscot’s popularity and his own success as a recording artist, Scott has expressed genuine surprise about receiving the honor from the Stellar Awards. He said he “did not know what to expect” when contacted by Stellar Awards founder and industry titan Don Jackson.
Scott noted that Indianapolis itself has been home to many great gospel recording artists and executives who have had a national impact, such as Rodnie Bryant, Lamar Campbell and the late Al Hobbs.
“I never thought of myself as being in the same category as people like them,” he said.
Although many people may admire this kind of humility and measured confidence, the fabled success of Scott’s company cannot be overstated.
Established in 1976, Tyscot is the oldest surviving African-American-owned gospel music label. It is also one of the few independent recording companies still in operation.
Scott and his co-founder, the late Craig Tyson, formed the company as a recording vehicle for the Christ Church Apostolic Radio Choir.
“We were just praising the Lord through music,” Scott said. “We were advised that if we wanted to record the songs, then we needed to do it the right way for legal purposes and incorporate.”
Since the early 1980s, many high-profile gospel artists have been signed by Tyscot, including Rev. John P. Kee and his New Life Community Choir, Deitrick Haddon and the Voices of Unity, Rodnie Bryant, the Anointed Pace Sisters, the Rance Allen Group, VaShawn Mitchell, Carman, Shirley Murdock and Bishop Larry Trotter.
Like most recording companies, however, Tyscot has also had to overcome tough times that challenged its very survival. This kind of situation occurred in 1993 when Spectra, Tyscot’s distributor, filed for bankruptcy. This left Tyscot unable to receive more than $500,000 it generated from selling albums, which also meant the label could not pay its artists or expenses.
“Fortunately, all of our artists stayed with us, even though it was not clear whether or not they would get paid,” Scott said. “The manufacturers we owed worked with us.”
Tyscot experienced a full recovery with the release of more material by Kee, including 1999’s “Not Guilty,” which was the label’s first certified Gold Record.
Scott noted that such experiences provide some of the best testimonies of divine intervention.
“It was an example of how God can work any situation out,” he stated. “There are times when we should have been wiped out. However, God has his hand on us, and we are still here.”
In recent years, Tyscot has been riding on a massive wave of success, which was shown during the 2016 Stellar Awards when Anthony Brown & Group therAPY won in a record-setting 10 categories.
Brown’s ensemble was widely recognized for the album “Everyday Jesus,” which was driven in part by “Worth,” a popular single.
“Every now and then you have a song that becomes a standard,” Scott said. “‘Worth’ is in that category.”
Additionally, the Stellar Awards recognized Tyscot’s Casey J. as new artist of the year and honored the Rance Allen Group as both quartet of the year and traditional group/duo of the year.
Also in 2016, Brianna “Bri” Babineaux’s album “Keys to My Heart” made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard gospel chart and was nominated for a Dove Award in the newly created category of Urban Worship Album of the Year.
Tyscot is anticipating more success in 2017. Scott said he is excited about some of the new products the label is developing, including “Trust in You,” a fresh single from Anthony Brown. Also slated for release is a new film entitled “Switching Lanes,” which includes Fred Hammond and actress Marla Maples, the former wife of President Donald Trump. The film was among the last projects to feature the late “Martin” actor Tommy Ford.
In addition, Scott is preparing to release a book, 31 Days to Wealth, Wholeness and Happiness.
“The book is about taking care of the total man, including the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual aspects of your health,” said Scott, who says he is sometimes told that he looks younger than his actual age. “That is one way to look and feel younger.”
Scott’s induction into the hall is the latest triumph in a lifetime of achievements that even he did not anticipate early in life.
During his youth, Scott’s goals and plans were very simple.
“My dream was just to graduate from school, get a good job and a car, make at least $100 a week and party on the weekends,” he said.
However, Scott said, God and his parents had greater expectations for him. Scott’s father wanted him to be a doctor, although the younger Scott did not believe he was smart enough to do that.
“My father said, ‘Boy, why don’t you do something with your life?’” Scott recalled. “He saw something in me. That is what young people need today, someone who believes in them and can point out something positive in them that they may not see on their own.”
Scott set out a list of goals and was successful in achieving them, including establishing his own dental practice, which continues to thrive today.
“I decided that even if I didn’t make it, I was at least going to try,” he said. “And you know what? I discovered that most of the time, when you give it your best and aim as high as you can, you will reach your goals.”
In the early days of Tyscot, Scott operated the label out of his dental office. Today, the label has a modern building on the city’s north side. Scott is also pastor of Rock Community Church and takes pride in his role as a husband, father and grandfather.
When asked how he has been able to juggle all of these responsibilities, Scott simply replied, “God.”
He also credited the support of his wife Christine, his son Bryant, who manages the day-to-day business of Tyscot, and his daughter Lynna, who works with him in the dental practice.
“God has placed tremendous people in my life,” Scott said.
He is quick to add that the ultimate source of his strength and success has been the higher power that continues to guide his life.
“There is no way I can take the glory,” Scott said. “Everything I have, God gave it to me.”