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Bon Scott Birthday Tribute July 9 at Arlene's Grocery

By Danny Coleman

originally published: 07/08/2024

Bon Scott Birthday Tribute July 9 at Arlene

Based out of New York City, John Jackson, producer, musician, creative A & R executive and founder of "Jacksonic Sound & Vision LLC" lists Billy Joel and Roseanne Cash among his clients but it's his involvement with the Bon Scott Estate and a July 9 birthday tribute to the late, great singer of AC/DC that has his attention at the moment. 

Bon Scott's vocals were considered by many to be "Risky" when he joined the band circa 1974 due to their texture and brash nature and by the time of his death in 1980, they had set a benchmark for down and dirty, grab you by the throat rock vocals that were unrivaled. 

Bon's death left a void that few thought could ever be filled and now, through Jackson and the Bon Scott Estate, his legacy will be perpetuated. 

"I've been working for Bon's family for about three years now since his 75th birthday," he began. "They are a wonderful group of people who have lots of great ideas on how to further his legend and legacy beyond where it already is; making sure people don't forget him and so new generations learn about him in the future. One of the things on their mind and in various places was to have tribute events to him. There were a couple already going, there is one called, "High Voltage" that was in Australia which they've done a couple of times and there is something called, "Bonfest" that is held in  Kirriemuir, Scotland which is the town he was born in and where his parents came from before they moved to Australia. So, the one big hole was the U.S. and I've been talking to some folks and I know a guy who does his Angus better than anyone except Angus of course, a guy named Paul McGilloway in New York here. So, we just sort of put our heads together and figured out that we wanted to do a tribute show and sort of started intentionally small with hopes of maybe building it up over the years at Arlene's Grocery in New York City, which is about a hundred cap, real sweaty little rock club; just the way Bon would've liked it I think. We've got 16 singers doing 16 different songs and so it should be a great night just celebrating the man and his lovely words."

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Jackson says this is their first endeavor here in the U.S and as he stated, they wanted to "Start small" but when asked as to if there was any interest from either himself or the estate in acquiring larger names to participate to draw more attention his response was low key. 

"There are some obvious, sort of better known fans and we'd like to get there eventually and have some more sort of marquee folks involved but this first shot out we sort of said, let's intentionally make it small so that we can build from here and not get out over our skis on something that's a bit DIY at the moment. A lot of the vocalists are just people we knew from different bands. Obviously, you need to have very powerful vocals and a loud screaming rock singer and we got our Rolodexes out and just started calling and emailing people and saying, hey; do you know somebody who might be able to do this? Every single person we asked said, "Yes" and more than half of those performing are women; wonderful rock women which I'm very happy about. We've got a guy who was a "Phantom of The Opera" on Broadway, we've got another woman who has won a Tony Award, different people from different rock bands. So, it's sort of a mixed bag of people that are coming together to sing these songs and nobody overlapped songs; everybody had their own favorite song. So, the list of people and what they are singing was really easy to put together, not everyone said they wanted, "Highway To Hell (laughs)." All of these songs owe as much to Angus and Malcolm, Phil and Cliff as anybody but they are sort of the ones from the quote unquote "Bon Era" so there will be no "Back In Black" or "You Shook Me All Night Long" or whatever. So, yeah, I think it's just gonna be a night of fun and hilarious people doing this material; I think it'll be a great night for everybody." 

Remember the aforementioned "Risk" factor? According to self-confessed "Massive fan" Jackson, it was a risk which reaped great rewards.

"When they took a chance with Bon in '74, they were really taking a risk that did payoff handsomely for them. They struggled for the first five years of their career. We all know and love all of these songs but if you remember, "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" didn't get released in America until 1981 after Bon was dead and Brian was already the singer and "Back In Black" was tearing up the charts. The "Let There Be Rock" movie that Bon was obviously a huge part of didn't come out until after he passed away. so, there was that weird overlap period where they had the new guy that was doing really well but people wanted to be reminded of the old guy and so those few years, especially in the U.S. were very successful for them but probably confusing."

"Massively yes!" He continued with enthusiasm, "Honestly, I was one of those confused people 25 years ago who knew there was an old singer, knew there was a new singer, understood that someone had died but didn't really get into it until I started working with the catalog and started to really understand. OK, these are the outtakes, here's the songs that have never been released in the U.S., here's all of the "B" sides to the records, there were Australian versions of the albums and album versions everywhere else. So, I went really deep really quickly; I had lots of help with it because they have folks who have worked with them for decades at their Australian company and Angus and Malcolm are really great about approving things and they loved all the stuff that Sony did in terms of the box sets and releases. They made it very easy to embrace and love them in a way that I don't with other bands. So yes, I'm a massive fan and want nothing more than to get out there and play some of this music for people and make them remember that they love them."

Putting aside that he's a fan for the moment; how did he get involved with the family of Bon Scott and does this event benefit any charity or organization in any way? 

"It's just to keep his memory alive and all of the proceeds are going towards the musicians just for doing it," he explained. "We're keeping the ticket cost low, it's a 20 dollar ticket and I think they can sell 80 tickets for the room and we've got a great band; we're using Roger Daltrey's drummer, he's out with Roger right now and like I said, Paul is amazing and Brian our bass player is fantastic. We're lucky to do it and have something to talk about and keep the memory going. I got involved because I worked at Sony Music for about 20 years and was lucky enough to work on the AC/DC catalog when it came over from Atlantic in 2002. So, we produced re-issues and sets like "Family Jewels" and "Plug Me In" and then the "Backtracks" box set which was the one that sort of looked like a guitar amp and also is a guitar amp. I did all of that stuff with different camps and publishers, the Australian folks at Albert Music; I got to know everybody and when I ended up leaving Sony, they called and said they needed somebody who could do things like put together a tribute night or do merchandise ideas, design stuff, sort of the creative part of running someone's estate."

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"We're gonna record it and film it, take some really nice photographs and stuff; not sure what we're gonna do with it other than social media, YouTube and those kind of purposes.I guess I should mention that the sort of big thing we are building towards is 2026 for what would've been his 80th birthday. What we're really trying to do is take steps now; we really started a couple of years ago to take steps to put things in place that will hit on the 80th birthday and get a larger appraisal or re-appraisal of people talking about him. People understanding what his place was in all of this music and what a character he was so that we make sure he's more famous in the future than less famous in the future which is really the goal of any estate or legendary artist; to make sure people remember them in the future and don't just hear the songs."

Speaking of the future; where does this go after the July 9 event? Any plans beyond that build to the 80th birthday event and beyond?

"I would hope to; we'll see how this goes but I would hope that we would and each year make it a little bit bigger and a little more visible and a little more out there so we can say, hey, remember when we started at Arlene's Grocery in 2024? There are lots of tribute acts, cover bands and guys that do this just for a living out there but as far as the estate was concerned, they wanted to carve out their own little niche to celebrate him and not employ people who are already out there doing it. So, we'll see who we can get onboard and hope to get some slightly more notable folks in the future but I think this is going to be great." 

Given his affection for Angus and Malcolm Young; one may think that the band itself may lend their support for an event like this; or will they?

"They're out doing their own thing and celebrating their 50th anniversary and are out on a huge tour for their "Power Up (PWRUP)" album so the last thing we want to do is bother them at all with any of this; it would be nice but the guys are certainly busy doing their own thing on a much, much, much larger scale."

Bon Scott Birthday Tribute July 9 at Arlene

OK, so maybe you won't see any of the band at the event but Bon's family has taken steps to ensure anyone can dress like him with a clothing and accessory line with a definte Scottish flair.

"That was something that the family started last year," he chuckled. "They wanted to have Tartan patterns because they are Scottish originally and they wanted to have some real Scottish Tartan patterns designed to celebrate Bon because Sir Walter Scott has a Tartan pattern as do different families and clans and so they worked with a company called Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers and they actually designed from scratch, these two different Tartan patterns. Now that they have them, we're creating products that are using those patterns. We have shirts coming with a company called Dixxon Flannel Company, they make really nice flannel button down shirts. The Gordon Nicolson  people; you can order a kilt, pants or a vest and they are making wallets and keychains, all with a really nice Scottish wool Tartan fabric. That idea actually came directly from Bon's brother and sister-in-law who are the family and they run everything. So, it's a family idea that has seen the light of day around the birthday and we hope to continue to use these patterns and really market them as his own thing; which for Scottish people is a really big deal."

The July 9 Arlene's Grocery event, tickets and links to the merchandise sites and more can all be found at 

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Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7:000pm EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.

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