Who's The Boz - Boz Scaggs Interview

[By Lynne Maroous - June 4, 1998]

After years away from the mainstream, Boz Scaggs makes his way back.

Early on in Boz Scaggs' career, there was little indication he'd become the smooth R&B crooner who would burst to stardom with "Silk Degrees".

When he joined his former high-school chum's new band, it was still called the Steve Miller Blues Band.

And when Scaggs released his first solo album, it contained a tune that would reverberate in the blues world to this day — his 13-minute masterpiece version of "Loan Me A Dime" with Duane Allman.  Yet his heart always yearned to produce music like that of his hero, Ray Charles. When he finally nailed it he would become one of the prime purveyors, along with Daryl Hall & John Oates, of the musical subgenre known as blue-eyed soul.

Scaggs still reveres 70s R&B stalwarts such as Earth Wind & Fire and the Isley Brothers.

That was probably the greatest era of popular music (of my lifetime)," he says. "I love American blues rhythm and blues to me is my favorite music That really took a giant step in the "70s".

But after selling 5 million copies of "Silk Degrees" and turning out two more million selling albums. Scaggs gave up touring in 1980 and just went away. Parenthood and business pursuits in his adopted home of San Francisco occupied him His club Slim's is 10 years old this year.

Scaggs also released an album in 1988, his first since 1980's "Middle Man" and his compilation "Hits".

But except for a brief road stint as a member of Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue and an impromptu duet with former Guns N1 Roses guitarist Slash on "Loan Me A Dime" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum's opening concert, Scaggs has done little touring.

"I took 12 or 14 years just away from the whole thing." he says A few years ago, he signed a new contract with Virgin Records and became active again.

"I just was enjoying music " he says of his decision to pick up where he left off. "There was music going on in my head, and I was enjoying being with other musicians. I never really stopped music. I just really stopped performing."

"It's a nice feeling doing it again", he says. "Times have changed, too Punk and grunge have faded, and disco and lounge music are popular again." Scaggs fluid singing and slick arrangements certainly fit into those categories although in the 70s, not everyone was pleased with that development.

Asked whether it bothered him that some people said be went commercial or sold out when he adopted that disco-styled sound Scaggs replies "It never occurred to me I do what I do for my own reasons."

"I wish everyone could have the same success after as much work as I did," he adds. Unfortunately, it often comes with a backlash.

"In England, their press is particularly poisonous - if you're ever accepted by the mainstream, you're persona non grata, you're spit on," Scaggs observes. He says he sees the same effect here at times. Once something goes mainstream, it's not cool anymore, says Scaggs.

But his latest album is different too. Gone is the instrumentation by members of Toto. Players this time out include Ricky Fataar, Jim Keltner James, "Hutch" Hutchinson and some other friends, most notably Dave Matthews on keyboards.

"Come On Home" is the album Scaggs should have made years ago A revisitation of his pre-"70s R&B roots, it's full of compositions by the likes of Deadric Malone, Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker and Sonny Boy Williamson.

He's glad he waited "It just seemed the right time to do it" Scaggs says of the disc, which crowned the Tribune-Review's list of 1997's top 10 rock and pop releases.

There's been a renewed interest in music from that era," he says "I had been playing more guitar and sort of leaning toward that stuff personally."

It actually was an expansion of the work he does with "a little ol' Tuesday night band" — the kind of music he plays for shear pleasure.

Although he hadn't planned on touring this summer — he's working on album for release early next year — when the offer came, the chance for renewed exposure seemed to make sense. But after a conversation full of discussion with a decidedly business perspective, be admits, "I really am enjoying playing live."

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