Boz Scaggs Interview - Melody Maker
Such excellence is overlooked by the great mass of the public, often for long periods of time, mainly because there's simply so much to choose from, so much music being made to cater to every shade of taste.
If any man has the right to follow, say, Rod Stewart into the heady stratosphere, its Boz Scaggs - who, despite four albums under his own name, is still almost certainly best known as a sideman on the Steve Miller Band's "Children Of The Future" and "Sailor" albums.
Granted, these were important albums in the evolution of rock as the Sixties moved into the Seventies; but Boz Scaggs (Atlantic) and "Moments", "Boz Scaggs and Band", and "My Time" (all CBS) have just as much - if not more - to offer.
England has played a fairly important role in Boz's life, considering that he comes originally from Houston, Texas: during the Miller Band's British sojourn in 1967 (to record "Children Of The Future") he was a regular visitor to clubs like the Flamingo, where he became familiar with the local bands - Chris Farlowe's Thunderbirds, for example, and Georgie Fame's Blue Flames.
He's adamant that this exposure had quite an effect on his own musical direction, and when he returned to Britain, four years later, it was with an eight-man band featuring a trumpet-trombone-saxes front line, quite closely approximating the old Blue Flames approach.
While here, they cut Boz Scaggs And Band at Olympic Studios with producer/engineer Glyn Johns, who'd worked on all the Miller Band albums. He also played a very memorable gig at Hampstead's late, lamented Country Club - an occasion celebrated by all who attended it.
So it wasn't too surprising to hear, last week, that he'd slipped into the country again, and plans to stay for most of the summer. It could be a visit to cement the relationship between Scaggs and Britain's rock public, and already plans are under way to showcase him in a number of suitable contexts.
First, though what's been happening to him the last year or so?
"I've gradually been getting comfortable in them, getting to the point were we can fill a place like that with our music - so that it projects right out to the people in the back row, a long way away."
His old band, the fine unit which made the album in London two years ago, broke up a while back, and almost as soon as it had scattered to various parts of the States, Boz got a good offer to tour with Humble Pie and Slade.
"I really wasn't at all sure about what to do, so I went and talked it over with Steve (Miller), 'cause he's a friend. We discussed it, and the outcome was that we got my drummer and his bass player, bought some boots and electric shirts, and went out to play rock n roll.
"It was real funny when we went on stage, 'cause to begin with I wouldn't say anything. I'd sing a couple of numbers, with Steve playing rhythm guitar, and I'd feel this little buzz going round a few rows back. Then, maybe before the fourth song, I'd say 'Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to present an old buddy of mine - Steve Miller' and then you'd hear them all saying "I told you it was! Steve's real popular."
That, of course, was just an interim arrangement, albeit lots of fun, and when Steve returned to his regular outfit, Boz began to pick up the threads of a new band - and finalised it with a real dynamic line-up.
On drums he has Rick Schlosser, from Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey album and Andy Pratt's "Avenging Annie" single; on bass there's Tom Rutley, whose brilliance on the acoustic stand-up instrument was such a feature of Santana's recent Caravanserai LP; on keyboards there's Jymm Joachim Young, the only holdover from the old Scaggs band ("He's playing synthesiser with us now, too, as well as all the keyboards"); and on lead guitar there's a "teenage sensation" called Les Dudek.
Boz has lots to say about the latter: "He's been working a lot lately with the Allman Brothers Band. I tell you, he's just unbelievable: he looks like Gregg Allman, and he plays just like Duane. Its uncanny, the way he fits in with them. He'll be on the new Allmans album, and he's on Gregg's solo album too. He's just amazing."
And no-one is better qualified to talk about Duane Allman - remember the classic "Loan Me A Dime" from Boz's Atlantic album?
Lastly and maybe the biggest surprise of all, the new Scaggs band will feature saxophonist Jack Shroer, an incredible musician whose playing on soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxes has enlivened Van Morrison's Warner Bros. albums from Moondance to St. Dominics Preview.
Judging by his past work with Morrisons, Shroer should be just the right man for Scaggs, too, imbued as he is with that kind of old-time Texas blues feeling.
"Jacks coming over with Van," says Boz, and then he's staying on with me for the summer. I'm really pleased to have him with us."
But what about all the rumours that Morrison, having failed to make it across the Atlantic before, will cancel out again this time?
"Well, I called Jack just last night, and he knows about the rumours too, but he said; Van's here, everything is packed and it looks like we're coming over."
During the summer, the band will tour Europe as well as Britain, and has already been booked for an Old Grey Whistle Test spot next month. But perhaps the major item on the agenda is the massive festival at White City on July 15, at which he'll line up next to Sly and Family Stone, Edgar Winter, the new Lindisfarne and others.
Being a careful man who likes to give his audiences value for money, he's a bit concerned about this gig at the moment: How big is the stadium? Do the promoters have any experience there? Will the sound quality be up to par?
The impression one gets is that he doesn't want to be part of any rip-off. And, he insists, he wants to play some small 200-capacity rooms like the Country Club again, too, so that he can have some fun and the audience can see another, more intimate side of the band.
While they're here, they'll record Boz's fourth album for CBS, and with all this exposure, the chances are that he'll leave in the fall a much bigger name than he arrived last week.
I hope so - as well as being a charming, friendly man and a real music fan, he's one of the finest bluesicians round.