Boz Scaggs Graces the Music Circus

By R. Scott Reedy, correspondent ( Wed Jun 04, 2008

Cohasset -
These days, when people say they enjoy the work of Boz Scaggs they may be referring not only to his music, but also to his wine. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and northern California resident — who opens the season at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset next Friday and plays the Cape Cod Melody Tent on July 5 —recently added vintner to his resume.

“I got involved in the wine business a few years back when my wife and I moved up to a small place in Napa. It was almost a requirement that we plant a few grape vines. One thing led to another, our yields steadily increased, and we found ourselves needing to sell some of it,” explained Scaggs by telephone recently. “We live in a foodie culture in San Francisco so it seemed to make sense that we go in this new direction. Before long, what had been a hobby became a business for us.

We learned pretty quickly, however, that the wine business is not child’s play. There are lots of regulations that have to be followed. This year, we’re releasing our first wine — a 2006 Rose — from the Scaggs Vineyard. Initially, it will be sold in restaurants in San Francisco and then we will see where it goes from there.”

Where Scaggs himself goes next is on his annual summer concert tour with a show that features some of the biggest hits in the singer’s more than four decade-long career, including “Lido Shuffle,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” “Heart of Mine,” “Lowdown,” and “We’re All Alone.”

Born in Ohio, as William Royce Scaggs, but raised in Texas, Scaggs’ earliest musical influences included rhythm and blues, soul music, early rock and roll and raw Delta and Chicago blues — the music he recalls hearing on the radio in Texas, but from places as far away as Nashville. In high school, he provided lead vocals for a band led by classmate Steve Miller. By 1965, he found himself in London and then spent the next couple of years traveling around Europe, playing everything from small clubs to sidewalk cafes before making his first record and establishing a home base in Stockholm.

In 1967, Scaggs headed to San Francisco (via India and Nepal), where he reunited with his friend and classmate, joining the Steve Miller Blues Band to take part in the now legendary Bay Area scene that was revolutionizing American rock and roll.

After two albums with Miller, Scaggs made his U.S. solo debut for Atlantic Records with the self-titled “Boz Scaggs.” The release led Columbia Records to sign Scaggs, where he released a series of top-selling albums including “Moments,” “Boz Scaggs & Band,” and “My Time.”

It was in 1976, however, that Scaggs really broke big with the release of “Silk Degrees,” which he recorded with drummer Jeff Porcaro, keyboardist and arranger David Paich, bassist David Ungate, and guitarists Louie Shelton and Fred Tackett. The album was his commercial and artistic breakthrough into the mainstream. After its release, “Silk Degrees” remained on the Billboard album charts for 115 weeks, posting three chart-topping singles and becoming one of the signature albums of the 1970s. When the single “Love Look What You've Done To Me” was included on the soundtrack of the 1980 feature film “Urban Cowboy,” Scaggs’ soaring popularity only went higher.

Scaggs made a few more albums including the 1980s top-selling “Middle Man” before taking a hiatus from the road and the pressures of stardom.

Scaggs spent a good part of the 1980s in retirement, owning and operating the San Francisco nightclub Slim’s, and limiting his performances primarily to the club’s annual black-tie New Year's Eve concerts. He resurfaced in 1988 with the album “Other Roads,” and three years later resumed regular touring. In recent years, Scaggs has released “Greatest Hits Live,” a two-disc live collection that spans his entire career. He also made “But Beautiful,” in which he tackled the Great American Songbook accompanied by a jazz quartet. Later this year, Scaggs will release a second volume of standards, entitled “Speak Low,” on his own Gray Cat record label. Scaggs acknowledges that recording new versions of standards associated with people like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole has been an interesting process even for an accomplished performer.

“It opened up a whole new set of challenges for me,” he says. “It’s sacred ground, as far as I’m concerned, and the more I got into it, the more I realized how little I know.”

What Scaggs - who will turn 64 on Sunday - does know is that, wine-making aside, performing will always have a unique place in his life.

“I’m a professional musician. It pays the bills and it satisfies the itch I’ve had to perform since I was 10 years old. There are very few people that I’d rather be around than musicians. When you work live, it’s never the same experience twice. If it becomes boring, then you've done something wrong. Now, if I were doing this 10 or even 12 months a year, then I might feel very differently, but I love going on the road in the summer.”

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