Boz Scaggs Exploring New Musical Styles

San Diego Union-Tribune - Boz Scaggs Interview

[By Mikel Toombs - July 27, 2006]

His breakthrough album, “Silk Degrees,” came out three decades ago, but that doesn't mean that Boz Scaggs isn't still a household name.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago on CBS-TV's “Late Night With David Letterman,” the “Top 10” – “Top 10 signs you're at a bad pirate movie” – featured at No. 7, “The only piracy is of the illegal distribution of Boz Scaggs concert bootlegs.”

“Not bad,” Scaggs said of the mention, acknowledging that, all kidding aside, pirated Boz recordings “had been a problem in the past.”

Scaggs countered that situation two years ago by releasing “Greatest Hits Live” on his own Gray Cat label. The two-CD set nearly sums up Scaggs' lengthy career and myriad influences, from blues (including “Somebody Loan Me a Dime,” originally recorded in 1969 with Duane Allman on slide guitar), R&B (the '76 hit “Lowdown”), rock, soul and even smooth jazz, which Scaggs can be said to have helped introduce.

“Sometimes it comes easy and naturally; sometimes it's more challenging. And sometimes the challenging stuff is more fun, because that's a lot of what being a musician is about, learning new techniques and adapting new styles,” said Scaggs, who performs a sold-out Humphrey's show Tuesday with special guest James Hunter, who specializes in adapting old styles.

About all that's missing from “Greatest Hits Live” is an American Songbook standard or two. He has remedied that oversight by challenging himself on the critically acclaimed “But Beautiful.” Jazz Times praised his “impeccably good taste” and Rolling Stone his “soulful ease.”

“I'm not a jazz musician, but I listen to that primarily,” said Scaggs, who recorded “But Beautiful” with a jazz quartet. “I have been intending to make a second album, but the time hasn't been right, and I haven't really found a way I want to do it, until this year. And we'll be recording volume two this fall.”

Scaggs has come a long way since his '69 debut album, “Boz Scaggs,” and even then he'd already played guitar with Bay Area rocker Steve Miller (they had a high-school band together in Dallas) on Miller's first two albums. Recorded with the storied Mussel Shoals (Ala.) rhythm section, “Boz Scaggs” became noted for its evocative, and lengthy, version of a “minor blues song,” “Somebody Loan Me a Dime.”

“We were at the last day of our recording sessions at Mussel Shoals, and we had time to do another song,” Scaggs said from his home in the Bay Area, where he also opened the San Francisco club Slim's in 1988. “In retrospect, it was really one of the most natural things that I've ever recorded. We did it all live with the horns and Duane's solo. Everything was done on the spot, which is the way good things happen sometimes.”

The creation of “Silk Degrees,” which became a great thing for Scaggs with hits like “Lowdown” and “Lido,” was more premeditated.

“I think it all came together. We were borrowing styles from that time, off of radio,” Scaggs said. “David Paich arranged the songs, and he was listening to the same things I was. He was listening to Isley Brothers and the Philadelphia stuff, the Thom Bell productions. So that's what we incorporated into 'Silk Degrees,' and it was crossing over into the Top 40 at that time.

“So, we were there as that music was reaching a wider audience. And I think we probably opened up a lot of people's imaginations. It was very timely, and it was very much both the evolving of my style, my music, and what I was listening to. And it found a broader audience that was waiting for that style, I think.”

> HOME > INTERVIEWS > 2000 Interviews > 2006 - San Diego Union-Tribune