Scott Gager has been a horse dentist for 40 years, a singer for just six. His dad, Eddie Gager, also an equine dentist, actually wrote the book on it: “Sound Mouth, Sound Horse”. Scott’s son Andrew is in his 10th year working on horses’ teeth. The singing? That just happened on New Year’s Eve 2011 at a karaoke party.
The singing dentist, 54, is a fixture on the Parx Racing backstretch. When morning training is over and the afternoon races begin, Scott Gager is working on equine teeth. The rest of the time? Well, he is singing.
“We actually float the teeth, what we call filing the teeth so we take the rough edges out of a horse’s mouth,” Gager said on a recent morning at the track. “It would be the equivalent of a blacksmith in a horse’s mouth. We’re making sure everything’s smooth because they have the bit contact with a horse so we want them not to be able to throw their heads, lug in, lug out. It’s a very important thing that trainers around here do.”
The dental work was, and is, a family tradition. The singing happened quite by accident. Gager’s wife Debbie “coaxed me to get up in front of a group that was all doing karaoke”.
“She said when the radio comes up, you sound just like James Taylor,” Gager remembered. “I said ‘well, I’m not getting up there so forget about it’. She said ‘these people are terrible, just do it.’”
So he did it.
“I got up there and starting singing a James Taylor song, ‘Carolina In My Mind’ and within a few seconds, everybody’s cell phone was out,” Gager said. “I didn’t think anything of it. Nobody even said anything to me. A month later, it was posted.”
And Gager began to think he could make some extra cash being James Taylor. Within a few weeks, he realized he could do several voices. He auditioned for a job in Robbinsville, N.J., got it and, within five months, he was at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City four nights a week
Scott Gager, “The Man of 100 Voices”, was born. He has seven octaves in his voice and he is now technically up to 200 voices, ranging from Elvis Presley and then to Louie Armstrong.
“Who finds out they can sing at 48?” he said. “I can change my voice from Johnny Cash to Frankie Valli.”
“I can be anybody I want to be on stage,” Gager said.
On Aug 13, 2017, he created a Facebook Page called “Scott Gager Man of 100 Voices”. He already has 27,500 followers.
He has sung the National Anthem at the United States Capitol Building.
And by day, he is still out there messing with horses’ teeth, although his son Andrew does most of the work now.
“I actually use my hand as a speculum,” Gager said, explaining the technique. “I put it in between the bars of a horse’s mouth and I can reach every tooth in the horse’s mouth with my hands.”
One hand actually keeps the horse’s mouth open while he is working on the teeth.
“I hold their tongue,” Gager said. “I have their tongue almost outside their mouth. I reach in with my other hand and just feel the teeth.”
He uses a hand float bolstered by his arm and body strength. Over his career, he figures he has done 100,000 horses, approximately 2,500 per year. His dad, he thinks, worked on 90,000. Younger horses need their teeth worked on three or four times per year. As they age, they need fewer visits from the dentist who is not unmindful that he is working with 1,000-pound animals.
“It is dangerous,” Gager said. “I’ve been run over by horses, struck by horses, kicked, everything. Most of the horses, especially racehorses, they get a bad rap. The Thoroughbreds are actually the nicest horses. They’re the most handled. People around here are good horsemen. They’re super easy to do. They’re my favorite horses to work on.”
And Parx Racing is one of his favorite places to work.
“What I’ve seen with Pennsylvania is the breeding program has just exploded,” Gager said. “You’re getting a nice bonus for having a PA-Bred racehorse. Everybody wants PA-Breds. I think they are really climbing up the ladder, contending with these other states now. I think the stats show that.”
It was at Parx where an incident in trainer Ron Glorioso’s barn at 8:38 am on May 5, 2014 became a music video classic. Fellow equine dentist Paul Briscione was walking down the shedrow with two buckets of water when he did not notice an orange cone in front of a horse’s stall and got bitten when he got too close to the horse. Gager captured the resulting mayhem in “That Horse Bit Me”, a song he wrote in about 10 minutes.
His wife wrote a haunting song about returning soldiers with PTSD, called “Alone”. Scott sings it beautifully. He wrote “Red and Blue” when he saw the presidential map on television the morning after the 2012 election. Paul Presto contributed the music to both songs.
So the Man of Now-200 Voices is also the Man of Two Careers, one he has been doing forever; one he might be doing forevermore.
-By Dick Jerardi