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An unsung hero for the Bakersfield music scene, Scott Thompsett dies after decades-long health battle

Posted at 3:04 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 18:22:54-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — To some he was Chief. To others he was Guru. But to the family of Scott Thompsett, he was Pop.

Scott Thompsett died on June 3 at the age of 64 after a decades-long battle with Berger's disease, a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A builds up in your kidneys.

But Scott’s children said anyone who saw him would never have known about his disease. Instead, they would only come to know his voice and his music.

“Anything he remembered he would tell us, anytime we would hear a song or anything he just loved to talk,” said his youngest daughter Celeste. “I think talking was his favorite thing, besides music and being a father.”

Scott may not have been born in Bakersfield, his family moving here in 1969, but he embodied Kern County. He was a graduate of Bakersfield High School, Bakersfield College, and Cal State University of Bakersfield. He worked for years as a geothermal driller, traveling to Ecuador, El Salvador, New Mexico and Hawaii for work.

Most of all, he was an established name in the Bakersfield music scene. A savant of music, he played saxophone, the flute, as well as dabbled in guitar and singing.

In 1985, he joined the local band The News Brothers, made up of local TV News reporters and a few select ringers. Scott played alongside Kevin Keeshan, Bill Woodward, Ken Hunter, Karl Schweitzer, Tim Murray, Artie Niesen, and Greg DeRego.

The band often graced the Bakersfield community with soul, rock and roll, and blues music. In 1986, just a year after Scott joined, they opened for The Beach Boys at the Kern County Fair.
“I didn’t know how Scott’s role in the Bakersfield music scene was. He was a veteran of countless bands in Bakersfield,” said Matt Munoz, Scott’s bandmate and fellow co-founder of the local Ska band Mento Buru. “As time went on he kind of introduced us to the whole scene.”

Before Mento Buru became a household name, Matt said they were just young kids looking to start a band an enjoy the life of musicians. The drive was there, but they needed guidance. That’s where Scott stepped in.

“He’s just one of those unsung heroes,” Munoz said. “I certainly owe him my music career.”

Scott helped build Mento Buru from the ground up, starting in 1992. He supplied them with instruments, soundboards, speakers and more. These items collected throughout the years as Scott explored his love for music.

That love of music started early on, Scott’s family said. As a child, Scott would go with his mother to local restaurants and venues where he would watch up-and-coming musicians perform.

“He just aspired so much to be up on that stage and to be part of a group that he helped create and mold,” said his eldest daughter Alexandra.
Eventually, he turned those dreams into a reality, helping build Mento Buru into the band it is today. Mento Buru went on to play as Goose Loonies, the Bakersfield Jazz Festival and even opened for Joe Higgs at the Reggae Festival.

Not only did he help establish the band, but throughout the years Scott played many roles for the members of Mento Buru. From band member to classmate, to mentor, to peacemaker.

“The first time he took me on stage,” Munoz recalled. “Scott would be like, ‘just get out there.’ He just used to push me out there.”

Munoz’s early memories of playing at Bakersfield clubs and bars now synonymous with Scott’s mentoring. Now nearly 30 years later, the band still plays with some of the equipment given to them by Scott.

Shortly after Scott helped bring Mento Buru to life, he was married in 1993 to Tonya Bryant. They had three children, Alexandra, Ian and Celeste.

Even after Scott and Tonya’s divorce in 2012, the two lived together until 2017 as the continued to co-parent their kids.

Scott's children said it was important to him that they explore music, either in jazz band or drumline, even if they didn’t stick with it. He simply wanted to share his passion with them.

Scott made an impact on the music scene of Bakersfield and on the lives of people he met. His children said he always wanted to pave the way for future musicians. Not only did he push them to explore music, but he often volunteered to help their high school bands, even after they had moved on.

“He was just a band dad, but we knew that he really cared about these children who loved music and wanted to help give them that outlet,” said Alexandra.

Munoz said he has been in contact with other bandmates and they are looking into celebrating Scott with a tribute as soon as possible.