Daily News - Boz Scaggs Interview
Boz Scaggs doing it his way in L.A.
[By Fred Shuster, Daily News Music Writer - August 8, 2006]
Boz Scaggs is very comfortable as one of the world's longest-running critics' favorites. It all began when, with the aid of Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, the onetime Texas bluesman scored a contract with Atlantic Records, resulting in Scaggs' soulful self-titled 1968 debut disc; the one with a stirring cameo from Duane Allman on "Loan Me a Dime."
The close relationship with what arguably remains the most powerful music mag in the world continued throughout the following decades. Today, the Scaggs name appears in every issue; Austin Scaggs, an associate editor for the glossy, is Boz's boy.
"Hey, I don't work there," a testy Scaggs said when asked about the connection. "I had nothing to do with it."
Whatever. Scaggs has never been the most forthcoming interview subject. But he doesn't have to be. At 62, the longtime Bay Area resident has always been a useful touring commodity and, if he decides to pack it in tomorrow, he's still part-owner of two popular San Francisco nightclubs and the proprietor of an organic vineyard in Napa Valley.
"I have very little to do with the clubs," Scaggs said of Slim's, opened in 1988, and the comfortably ornate Great American Music Hall, which dates back to 1907. "It keeps me tuned to contemporary music more than I might otherwise be, but I'm not there a lot."
This summer, Scaggs is on the road in a hits-laden tour that stops Wednesday at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. Along with tunes like "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" from the stylish "Silk Degrees"; the multimillion-selling album that launched Scaggs into the commercial mainstream 30 years ago; the singer and his eight-piece back line will delve into the Top-40 songbook for "Look What You've Done to Me," "Miss Sun," "JoJo," "Heart of Mine" and others.
"I never get tired of singing them," said Scaggs, whose current "Fade Into Light" album offers unplugged versions of some of his big sellers. "My philosophy as early as that first album with Duane is to let the musicians explore the songs, and then do my best to get the best out of the songs. I've always worked like that; hire good musicians and let them express themselves. I've always believed in guys playing together in a room."
Scaggs grew up in Texas immersed in rhythm and blues, soul music, early rock 'n' roll and raw Delta and Chicago blues; the sounds he heard coming over the radio airwaves across Texas, from as far away as Nashville. In high school, he played in a band with classmate Steve Miller, before striking out on his own. Landing in San Francisco in 1967, Scaggs joined the Steve Miller Band and became part of the Bay Area scene documented thoroughly by Wenner's then-new Rolling Stone magazine.
Most agree that, along with his bluesy debut, the other essential Scaggs product is 1974's "Slow Dancer," an elegant and entirely convincing bow to soul, produced by Motown's Johnny Bristol.
"I've always just tried to explore the music that means something to me," he says. "I had a period where I had hits and sold a lot of albums, but I wasn't really aiming for the pop charts with those albums. I was just exploring the music I love, which has always been rhythm and blues, and a lot of those songs got on the radio because, at the time, they were close to the mainstream. And now I know that I might be out of the mainstream, but I'm still exploring the music I love."