Worcester Telegram and Gazette (MA) - Boz Scaggs Interview


[By Scott McLennan - Entertainment Columnist- June 11, 1998]

Boz Scaggs is back where he belongs.

Not that he's ever really left San Francisco, his adoptive home of 30 years. But as a musician, Scaggs is delving into the rhythm and blues roots that first inspired him. The results were captured on last year's Grammy-nominated "Come On Home" album, and the spirit has carried over to his current tour, during which he is the opener for Stevie Nicks. Playing before tens of thousands of people night after night along the summer amphitheater circuit seems to make it official: Scaggs' semiretirement is over.

The singer and guitarist said as much when reached by telephone in Detroit at the start of the Nicks tour.

"The tour offer from Stevie presented a challenge to me," Scaggs said. "It puts me in front of a very wide audience. I need to do that. I'm rebuilding my work. This tour is 40 cities and brings me to places I haven't been to in a long time."

Great Woods in Mansfield is one of those places. Nicks and Scaggs bring their respective bands there tomorrow. Scaggs said the fit is comfortable and makes sense in that he and Fleetwood Mac (Nicks' first vehicle to stardom) shared a fan base at the height of their popularity in the 1970s.

"I see some common ground here," Scaggs said. "But I don't want to be tagged as a nostalgia act."

Scaggs is bringing to Mansfield a smaller version of the 12-piece band he assembled for a tour of small halls last year. But the emphasis will still be on tunes from "Come on Home." Naturally, there will be dips into the back catalog for such hits as "Lowdown," "Lido" and "Jojo."


But Scaggs sounded more excited talking about the possibility of playing the show-stopping slide-blues classic "Loan Me a Dime," which Scaggs recorded with Duane Allman in the late '60s. Alas, the big hits Scaggs had in the '70s were the beginning of the end.

Scaggs, 54, was born in Ohio, but developed his musical tastes in Austin, Texas, where he settled after college and followed the careers of B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland and Ray Charles.

Upon moving to San Franciso in the '60s to join a band with Steve Miller, Scaggs found his place in the city's burgeoning rock scene. His R&B sensibilities were just one more flavor added to the stew that included the works of other hotshot guitarists, including Carlos Santana, Elvin Bishop, Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen and Taj Mahal. His blue-eyed soul was aired on a handful of albums that earned him critical praise.

In 1974, Scaggs released "Slow Dancer," which yielded the hit "You Make It So Hard (To Say No)." That set the stage for more production and a slicker sound that shaped the massively popular "Silk Degress," which followed in '76. The horns-and-blues roots were deeply buried for Scaggs' refined pop sensibilities, and the band that backed him at the time left to become Toto.


A recording hiatus through the early '80s was interrupted by "Other Roads," which tried to reprise the "Silk Degrees" blueprint with little success.

In 1992, Scaggs left Columbia Records and joined the roster at Virgin Records. His first step toward "Come on Home" was to join the New York Rock & Soul Revue, formed by Steely Dan's Donald Fagan.

"That got me out of San Francisco and back in front of a crowd again," Scaggs said. "I really started playing after that."

He also really started singing. Scaggs' voice never sounded as powerful as it did on his return to the blues last year. He acknowledged that many performance qualities he learned back in the days of playing the Fillmore West in San Francisco were dormant until his last tour.

"During that time I was close to the original idea of what I wanted to do," he said. "I feel like I'm back to that idea."

>HOME >INTERVIEWS >1990 Interviews >1998 - Worcester Telegram and Gazette (MA)