Phi Beta Mu
Hall of Fame
R. B. "Scrubby" Watson
(1897 - 1975)
Richard Brinsley Watson was born July 13, 1897, in Monroe, LA.
Richard Brinsley, the second son and middle child, was named for a famous paternal ancestor, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the British dramatist and politician.
William Watson, Richard's father, taught both his sons to read music and to play brass instruments before they were old enough to enroll in public school. When Richard was six years old, he played his first cornet solo at a concert of which his father was conductor; at age of eleven, after his father's death, he became the director of the Monroe Band.
While Richard was a little boy he received a gun for Christmas. Unfortunately, he received no instruction on safety, and he shot out his right eye. Thus, tragedy entered Richard's life, and misfortune seemed to plaque him as long as he lived. This and other unfortunate circumstances required him to develop courage, a sense of humor, and the the determination to achieve in spite of all calamities.
In 1911 at age 14, Richard saw an ad in the local paper for a job opening for a cornet player in a nearby Louisiana town. He packed his cornet, boarded a train, and set out to get his first job in the band world.
He found the distant office, entered, and took a seat. For hours men reported, played for the director, and left. The longer Richard listened to the tryouts, the more self-confident he became; he new he could do as well or better and certainly make the music sound prettier than what he had heard.
Finally, the director was ready to leave. When he noticed the little boy sitting there he asked, "Young man did you want to see me?"
Richard said, "Yes sir. You advertised for a cornet player. I cam to tryout."
"Well, you're such a scrub of a kid!" the director said. "Can you read music? Okay, come over here and play this cornet part for me."
Richard got the job, and the name "Scrubby" was born. The nickname lasted a lifetime and marked his entry into the professional music field.
Before going into school band music in 1932, Scrubby played in community bands; he even joined a road show playing cornet and trumpet. During his vaudeville days, he met Merle Evans of Ringling Brothers Circus. They became friends, and years later enjoyed exchanging stories when they were both chosen for membership in the American Bandmaster's Association.
As nearly as can be determined, Scrubby settled in Little Rock in 1918.
In the late twenties, Scrubby commuted to Chicago to take private lessons to become a concert violinist and further his education in music. He still made his living in Little Rock, but he completed requirements for degrees from Chicago Music College, Vandercook School of Music, and the Innes Band School, all in Chicago, by the early thirties.
In 1932 Scrubby became the band director at Pine Bluff High School. He was the first to organize a Band Parent's Club and a band queen drive. Through these efforts, funds were raised to meet expenses of the band: music, uniforms, large instruments and other equipment. No school funding was used except for salaries until 1965.
During Scubby's work in the school field, he participated in the Music Educator's Association and in the State Band and Orchestra Association. He served as treasurer of the Arkansas Music Teacher's Association; he was a board member of the Music Educator's Journal. He was past president of the Omicron chapter of Phi Beta Mu.
In 1960, Scrubby received his highest honor and the one most prized by him. He was nominated, observed, and accepted for membership in the American Bandmaster's Association. He became the first Arkansan so honored and, for years, was the only one.
In 1964, he and the Pine Bluff High School Band were invited to play as the featured group at the Mid-West National Band Clinic in Chicago.
Declining health forced Scrubby to retire in 1966. On Feb. 5, 1975, he died knowing that he had given his last full measure of devotion to his beloved young people in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.