b. John Larkin, c.1942, USA. One of the more unlikely success stories of the mid-90s, Scatman John is a side-project for jazz singer and pianist John Larkin. Based in Los Angeles, California, USA, he performed widely at festivals and at piano bars throughout the world. Despite his prolific work in jazz, however, it was within the house music tradition that he eventually became a star. He was discovered by Manfred Zähringer, owner of Danish label Iceberg Records, in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1994. Larkin passed him some tapes of his ‘bebop poetry’ renditions, which impressed the label owner greatly. However, no record label he approached would take seriously the prospect of a 50-year-old jazz pianist improvising scat vocals over a pop dance rhythm.
Eventually he found a sympathetic home at BMG Ariola Hamburg under Axel Alexander who paired Larkin with producers Tony Catania and Ingo Kays, with whom he recorded a single, ‘Scatman’. Though sales were slow initially, the single earned repeated plays on mainstream radio and eventually became a massive Europe-wide hit. A remix version was produced by disc jockey Alex Christensen to ensure that the record also appealed to dance club audiences. ‘Scatman’ eventually sold over 600, 000 copies in Germany alone, reaching number 2 in the national charts. It also topped charts in Scandinavia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Turkey. It peaked at number 3 in the UK charts. A second single, ‘Scatman’s World’, also sold heavily in Europe and preceded the release of a debut album of the same title, by which time the attraction was wearing a little thin for some.