Scott Kemper had rock-star dreams, ones he thought died some three decades ago.
Then his phone rang, and he found out he’s famous.
Buffalo famous – but still famous.
Kemper, a lifelong resident of Indiana, is the guy who sang the iconic Buffalo Bills “Shout!” song. He recorded it 28 years ago, and had been largely anonymous until a Buffalo News article published Sept. 13 revealed his identity.
Now, fans are calling via social media for Kemper to come to Buffalo and sing the song live. He’s wrestling with that idea, but in the meantime he released on Friday a homemade video of him performing the song on his Yamaha grand piano.
Since the publication of the article, Kemper has been fielding calls, texts, emails and Facebook posts from family and friends congratulating him on his newfound, niche fame.
“An old bandmate said, ‘Hey man, I knew you were a rock star 30 years ago,’ ” Kemper said by phone from his plush basement studio, which is stacked with guitars and digital recording equipment. “They figured it out in Buffalo, too.”
Here’s the backstory:
Last month, while Kemper was driving on the winding country roads of his Indiana hometown, he got a call from a News reporter who said, “I’m calling you about the Buffalo Bills’ ‘Shout!’ song.”
“Do they still play that?” Kemper asked.
A slender, 56-year-old grandpa with shaggy, dark locks, Kemper has written or adapted thousands of jingles with his producing partner, Rich Airis. “Shout!,” a remake of the 1959 Isley Brothers song, was just one of them. It was recorded in 1987 for Buffalo-based Singer Advertising, which was then the Bills’ agency of record.
When the job was done and paid for, that was it. The work was over, and Kemper moved on to the next jingle. He had no particular reason to keep track of “Shout!” Kemper was born, raised and still lives in Pendleton, Ind., a rural town 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. He’s never been to a National Football League game. So he understandably had no idea that “Shout!” is still played not only after every Bills score at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but also at Buffalo expat bars around the country and virtually every wedding with a Western New York connection.
The News, which had been searching for the anonymous “Shout!” singer for some time, visited with Kemper at home. During that interview, he talked about his early days as a musician: He began training on piano at age 8, won his seventh-grade talent show playing “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, and delayed attending college to tour with a rock band. He landed developmental deals with Warner Bros. Records and a well-known Nashville producer, but neither worked out.
In his 20s, Kemper began taking college classes and started a family. He discovered that the jingle business was a great way to making a living in music while maintaining a 9-to-5 lifestyle. So he traded his rock-star dreams for being a dad, and it worked out: Today, Kemper has two adult daughters and three grandchildren, along with two adult stepdaughters and a step-grandaughter through his wife, Jana.
His rock-star aspirations were never fulfilled. But when Kemper learned that 65,000 fans in Ralph Wilson Stadium sing along with his voice after every score, and when he saw the fan reaction to The News’ story earlier this month, he realized those dreams weren’t completely lost, either.
“It does touch a little bit of that, I have to say,” Kemper said this week. “I don’t have that desire to be a rock star. I just gave that dream up. But to hear that people are loving your voice, that always feels good.”
Kemper and his wife are hoping to visit Western New York soon. They married six years ago and never had a honeymoon, so Niagara Falls beckons. So does Buffalo.
“It seems like a really cool city, a great place to visit,” said Kemper, who has researched the waterfront and other attractions here.
Of course, the Kempers want to attend a Bills game. Which raises the big question: Would he sing “Shout!” live?
He might. Or might not.
First, Kemper would need to be invited. And he’d need to be ready: Except for playing in church, he gave up live performing long ago, and today is perfectly happy playing music for himself. (In the past few weeks, he’s been practicing the works of the French composer Claude Debussy on his Yamaha.)
But if asked, Kemper is open to the idea. He said, “I hope I can do it.”
If he does, Kemper also realizes it won’t be a solo performance: Thousands of voices would join in, just as they have to his recorded track for years.
In Buffalo, that’s the only way “Shout!” is sung.