It is a pleasure for our Clan Society to officially represent all Carruthers and derivations of the same from wherever they may hail, this includes that of Crothers.
As the derivations came about through misspelling of the original root name Carruthers, they are many and varied but all distincly remain accepted as part of the clan. We therefore thank our Clan Commissioner Dana Caruthers Norton in the US for stimulating this fascinating blog piece.
Benjeman Sherman ‘Scatman’ Crothers (1910-1986)
A famous individual carrying the name Crothers was of African-American descent. He was professional known as Scatman Crothers. He was born Benjamin Sherman Crothers on May 23, 1910 in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA, to parents Fredonia Lewis and Benjamin Crothers. He married Helen, a native of Steubenville, in 1937. In the 1940s, the couple moved to California where they had one daughter, Donna Crothers born in 1949.
As an American actor, dancer, singer, and musician he was best known by adult viewers for appearing as Louie the Garbage Man on the sitcom television show ‘Chico and the Man’ and as Dick Hallorann in the horror flick ‘The Shining’. He became well known and loved for his big smile, scratchy jazz voice and his clean shaven head, the latter before it became fashionable or popular.
Music, TV and the early years
It’s somewhat ironic that the late Scatman Crothers is primarily remembered as a character actor given that he spent the majority of his career as a highly competent musical performer, even earning his stage name for his skills as a scat singer. To his credit, in his lone Motown LP, ‘Big Ben Sings ‘ he avoids the pop covers and contemporary hits common among comeback efforts of its kind, instead resurrecting the postwar jazz and R&B approaches on which his reputation rested. It was classed as a charming, lighthearted split between golden oldies like “God Bless the Child” and original compositions including “Waiting for My Baby” and “Wondering,”. the LP was a lively evocation of an era long gone by, made notable for highlighting the Scatman’ wily and wizened vocals.
At the age of 15, Benjamin Crothers, embarked on his musical career as a drummer in a local speakeasy band. As a skilled musician with great rhythm he supported himself through his high school years, playing a variety of instruments,including guitar and drums in a variety of bands and playede throughot the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. In the 1930’s, however he formed his own dance band which became very popular to both black and white audiences, as well as performing as a regular on a radio show in Dayton, Ohio.
He was particularly known for his free form “scat singing” which led to the station manager at the time suggesting the name. Signed by Capitol records he also recorded many solo albums and singles in his own right and was part of the USO tours with the actor and comedian Bob Hope. During his appearance on Sanford and Sons, an adaptation of the UK’s comedy Steptoe and Son, he joined John Elroy Sanford better known as the comedian and actor Redd Foxx, for two musical numbers. One was a version of the jazz standard “All of me” in which he accompanied Foxx on guitar
In the early and more formative days of television he was the first black performer to be hosted on a music programme out of Los Angeles called Dixie Showboat. It was here that he picked up his nickname ‘Scatman’ when the station manager suggested it was a more catchy name. Even though Crothers worked in television at the beginning of his career, after doing voice-over work on numerous animated series, beginning with Disney’s ‘The Aristocats’ his career took off. Working on the voice work for ‘Harlem Globetrotters’, ‘Hong Kong Phooey’, ‘Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels’ and ‘Trollkins’ brought him further attention. This lead to many guest appearances on several popular shows including ‘Bewitched’, ‘McMillan & Wife’, ‘Dragnet’, ‘Adam-12’, ‘Kojak’, ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’, ‘Starsky and Hutch’, ‘Sanford and Son’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘Taxi’, The Love Boat’ and ‘Roots’ to name a few.
Scatman Crothers also starred in the short-lived television series ‘Casablanca’, ‘One of the Boys’ and ‘Morningstar/Eveningstar ‘.
Although it is suggested that his debut in film was in Meet Me At The Fair in 1953 which was his big break, he seemingly appeared prior to that in the 1951 minstrel-show pastiche; Yes Sir, Mr. Bones. From 1961 to 1969, the actor did several films to include the film musical Hello Dolly in 1968 with Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau, out of which only ‘The Sins of Rachel Cade’ and ‘The Patsy’ got him any acting credits. He also appeared in a minor part in the romantic drama; The Great White Hope in 1970 with James Earl Jones.
Scatman was almost a regular on the set of JackNicholson movies, appearing in four of his films; the King of Marvin Gardens in 1972, and in 1975 the classic One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, and a comedy with Warren Beatty called The Fortune in the same year.
Although his movie parts covering three decades varyed in size he was always busy and received acclaim for his role as the concerned handyman in the Stanley Kubrick classic horror, The Shining in 1980. This was again with Jack Nicholson, who remained a good friend of his. Interestingly the Shining was released in the US on Scatmans 70th birthday. Scatman received the Saturn Award for best supporting actor in that film and in 1981 received a Star on the Walk of Fame at 6712, Hollywood Boulevard.
As a heavy smoker for most of his life, the actor was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1985. Despite his failing health, he continued working until he was too ill to even speak. His publicist, Jerry Zelenka, said “Mr. Crothers learned last year that he had an inoperable cancerous tumor behind the left lung and the cancer recently spread to his oesophagus”. Scatman had been bedridden for weeks at his home in the Van Nuys area and had slipped in and out of mild coma in his final days.
On November 22, 1986, he died of pneumonia at his home in California, aged 76. He was later buried at Lincoln Terrace, Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles. His wife, who died in 1997 aged 79, was buried next to him.
He was posthumously inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in Oakland, California (1987).