Cleveland Rock Critic Jane Scott Honored at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Memorial
Cleveland Rock Critic Jane Scott Honored at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Memorial

Nearly 900 people crowded into Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on the evening of Aug. 28 for a memorial service to honor pioneering rock music reporter Jane Scott.

The location for the service was fitting, many of the event's speakers said, noting that the Rock Hall would likely not exist in Cleveland if it hadn't been for Scott's lobbying.

Affectionately known throughout her career as the "world's oldest teenager," Scott was remembered by friends, family and colleagues as one of rock'n'roll's earliest -- and greatest -- advocates. She died on July 4 at 92.

Scott worked for the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1952 to 2002, and is credited with being the first rock journalist at a major daily U.S. newspaper -- and eventually the oldest, retiring at age 83. Remarkably, Scott was a woman who thrived in a field of journalism that has long been populated with mostly young, male reporters.

"There wasn't another one like her," Rock Hall president/CEO Terry Stewart said in an interview before the memorial service. "They broke the mold, got rid of the casting and shut the plant down. Nobody else would come to the table as a writer like Jane did and have the overall impact she did."

Scott started out as a society reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and later edited the paper's teen page, which consisted mostly of high school gossip, events and dance listings. Her life changed on Sept. 15, 1964, when she went to see the Beatles perform at Cleveland's Public Hall, and was awed by the crowd's manic reaction to the band. She saw her future that evening and promptly transformed her teen page into a rock'n'roll page -- the first of its kind.

"Who could have guessed that the first reporter at a major daily newspaper to make a full-time beat of what many dismissed of greasy kid stuff, would be a woman old enough to be the mother -- or even grandmother -- of the rock stars she frequently disarmed with her sweet demeanor?" asked Cleveland Plain Dealer pop music critic John Soeder.

Scott attended an estimated 10,000 concerts and interviewed every major artist who ever passed through Cleveland. Her favorites included Bruce Springsteen, Lyle Lovett, David Bowie, and Cleveland rocker Michael Stanley. And the love was mutual. While other rock journalists struggled to gain backstage access at concerts, musicians frequently requested Scott's presence backstage. With her signature blonde bouffant, oversized red glasses, ticket stub always pinned to her shirt and limitless passion for music, she was a rock star in her own right.

Scott never saw herself as a critic. Instead, she approached writing about music objectively and enthusiastically, and always kept an open mind. With quirky questions ("Where did you go to high school?"), a genuine and warm demeanor and an infectious laugh, she easily endeared herself to rappers, heavy metal rockers, pop stars, and readers alike.

In a video tribute played at the memorial, artists like Alice Cooper, Eric Carmen, and Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson described their interviews with Scott over the years as refreshingly enjoyable and lacking in pretense.

Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich recalled meeting Scott for the first time when he worked as a copy boy for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1964. "She'd sit at her typewriter and play it like a musical instrument," he said.

"She proved that the generation gap was a myth," he continued. "She knew instinctively if an artist had the stuff of greatness, because she listened deeply."

For example, in 1972 she interviewed a young Michael Jackson on tour with the Jackson 5, who told her he usually spent his weekly $5 allowance on candy. Most famously, in a review of a 1975 performance by Springsteen at Cleveland's Allen Theatre, she predicted that he "will be the next superstar."

Scott's nephew Dave Scott told the crowd some of his favorite memories of his Aunt Jane, who brought a trunk full of new records with her whenever she came to visit, and delighted her relatives with tales of the famous, and not-so-famous, musicians she'd interviewed.

"She recognized these individuals as people, not icons," he said. "She didn't have expectations about how people should act. She took everything at face value."

When the Plain Dealer's Soeder took to the stage wearing a T-shirt that read "Induct Jane" -- referencing a Facebook campaign to induct Scott into the Rock Hall -- the crowd cheered wildly.

"Certainly, she should be up there with rock journalists (in the museum)," Stewart said before the memorial. "It would be my hope that she might be lucky enough to get in … Time will tell."