Scott Hamilton was born in 1954, in Providence, Rhode Island. During his early childhood he heard a lot of jazz through his father’s extensive record collection, and became acquainted with the jazz greats. He tried out several instruments, including drums at about the age of five, piano at six and mouth-organ. He had some clarinet lessons when he was about eight years of age, but that was the only formal music tuition he has ever had. Even at that age he was attracted to the sound of Johnny Hodges, but it was not until he was about sixteen that he started playing the saxophone seriously. From his playing mainly blues on mouth organ, his little band gradually became more of a jazz band.
He moved to New York in 1976 at the age of twenty-two, and through Roy Eldridge, with whom he had played a year previously in Boston, got a six-week gig at Michael’s Pub. Roy also paved the way for him to work with Anita O’Day and Hank Jones. Although it was the tail-end of the of old New York scene, a lot of the greats were still playing and he got to work and learn from people like Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Vic Dickenson and Jo Jones. Eldridge was Scott’s champion, but pulled no punches, and could be extremely critical, something for which Scott has always been grateful. In December of the same year John Bunch got Scott his first recording date, for Famous Door, and was also responsible for him joining Benny Goodman. He continued to work with Goodman at different times until the early 1980s.