Boz Scaggs Interview - ZigZag 33

Vol 3 - No 9 - 1973

ZigZag 33 Cover

By Connor/Mike Haines

ZigZag 33

I can't think of any musician who has given me more pleasure than Boz Scaggs. Not the pleasure of some kind of super-super energetic bounce like The Faces, nor the pleasure of acknowledging some kind of genius at work, like Tim Hardin. No, its kind of an all season, moist eyed, trying-very-hard-to-suppress-a-smile pleasure. His records are the sort of music I put on for my friends, and if that sounds precious, then too bad; the truth is that for every other record, in my somewhat meagre collection, that I play, I play twice as many Boz Scaggs' records. If you don't share my views, even only slightly, then turn on to the next interview, because this interview is by a devotee in front of his hero.

I have to pay homage to the chap who helped with this interview, Mike Haines, who runs Noel Edmonds' record shop in the King's Road, and besides being one of the most informed, and enthusiastic music lovers in London, is a great mate of Boz' and spent some time with him when he was recording 'Boz Scaggs And Band' over here two years ago, and was the guy who urged Boz to do a gig at the Country Club, and anyone who was there, knows the extent of their gratitude to Mike for so doing.

It may sound corny, but to meet and to talk to, Boz was exactly the sort of fellow that one might have been led to expect from his music - warm, relaxed and friendly. Since this intro is turning into a general appreciation society, I'd also like to thank Clive Arrowsmith who provided the photos, and also co-wrote some of the songs on "Boz Scaggs And Band"; and Bob Kingsbury, the Art Director of Rolling Stone, who mailed the old photos that adorned the Atlantic album. And finally - thanks to the man himself, for his music, and for the time he took to answer our questions.


Boz didn't add much to what has already appeared in Rolling Stone No. 80, concerning his early life in Texas, his travels all over the world, and his final reunion with his old mate Steve Miller in San Francisco.

ZZ: When you were playing live with Steve's band didn't you find it hard to play some of those songs - like 'Song For Our Ancestors'?

Boz: Well 'Sailor' was completed in July 1968, and I left in August, and that material was all written in the studio as we made the album, and none of it had been played on gigs before. We used to do some of the stuff from the 'Children Of The Future' album, on stage. One side is a sweet sounding thing, 'We Are Children Of The Future' kind of thing. We performed most of that material except for the violins. There was a sequence of the London Underground, and a couple of other things, and we got some of that on stage by using tapes.

But making 'Sailor' was strange because all we had was the title when we went in. It was going to be called 'Sailor' and the idea was that the whole album was going to be about early morning on the wharf, a sailor comes home from being away for years, and he was very young when he went away, and he comes back to his old city. He gets back in touch; he wants to go see his old girlfriend and see his parents and hit a few of the places that he used to go to, and see some of his old buddies. Through the course of the album, each song would be about one of these episodes, seeing his chick, raving up with his old mates. And in the course of all the songs he'd grow a little older and wiser and find that it wasn't as he'd hoped. Everything had changed, he'd left there for a reason, and he couldn't stay there for the same reason, so he goes back off to sea. We got as far as the opening sequence, the fog horns and that. It was supposed to depict an early quiet morning and that's as far as we got with the whole thing. Glyn and the rest of us went out and collected the sound effects. We went down to the waterfront, and tapes all the ships, and we got a lot of sound effects records.

The idea of a continuing theme, we only retained by creating segues between the songs, and right after the opening song, we wanted a segue of rain, just to create a mood of rain and then get into 'Dear Mary'; and the little baroque trumpet thing at the end was for the same reason.

ZZ: How did you come across Glyn?

Boz: The manager that we had in San Francisco came on a sort of scouting tour over here to check out houses and studios. We weren't sure that we were going to do it, but he met Glyn through some circumstances or other. At the time he was basically an engineer, he was doing The Stones, and Glyn expressed an interest in doing it. So, Harvey the manager came back and said "There's this superb engineer, a great cat, and I've found a house," and it was all possible. So we cane here in January of 1968, and we got settled in and started work at Olympic with Glyn, and he turned out to be much, much more than an engineer, and has as much of a hand in producing the album as we did, although he's not given credit on the album sleeve. He really got the whole thing - the perspective - together.

ZZ: You were busted weren't you?

Boz: Yeah, in February. Over in Eaton Place. Our secretary back in San Francisco had a Valentine's Day box of chocolates covered in satin, and she'd taken the chocolates out and filled it with weed, Mexican grass, and sealed it all up and sent it to us for a Valentine's Day present. It was caught at customs, who notified Scotland Yard, and Scotland Yard came round one day, very quietly, and busted eighteen of us - all the people that happened to be in the house. And while they were searching the house for two or three hours various friends turned up and they all got taken down too. The headlines were terrible, like "Sixteen Year Old Unwed Mother-To-Be Involved In Rock Band Dope Bust'. It was just after the Rolling Stones bust and the city was a little hot, and it was a very touchy subject. One of the cats in the band was in fact married to a fifteen year old girl, and she was pregnant, but it was groovy, so it was just the sensational line the press made out of the whole thing. It looked like it could have been very serious; there were a couple of friends of ours who were junkies and they found hard narcotics - so it looked bad, possibly go to jail, not just deported. We had an excellent lawyer who cleaned it all up - you know "Dere good boys, didn' mean to shoot da police" so it was a 10 pound fine and we were out.

ZZ: What is this 'Lockhart Thing' alongside the left of one of the musicians on the 'Sailor' cover?

Boz: I don't know really. Maybe it was the name of the guy who designed it. It was a guy from Capital who put the sleeve together. It's a mystery to me.

ZZ: We have this image of San Francisco where it was regarded as totally amazing. Was it really like that?

Boz: I wasn't around for that much of that period. It went on over a couple of years. The big explosion, or whatever it was, came from all over. It all came together in the summer of 1967, and that was the summer when it was all happening. I arrived on September 1st just after the summer was over. That was the apex of the whole scene, and from that point on the whole thing got very exposed.

ZZ: For a working musician, what was it like?

Boz: It was a very stimulating scene; there were so many musicians around, just millions of cats from all over. Everybody was writing, and it was always, "Got a new song today, we're gonna go sit in with so-and-so tonight. See you over at the Matrix; would you like to play with us tonight?" We worked like 4 nights a week or maybe even seven, because it was a total thing, a total working environment. It was serious, but fun and games. It totally baffled me. It was very productive and very healthy - no jive, no bullshit, everybody was working hard and working very well.

ZZ: What kind of deal did you get from Capitol?

Boz: Well, Steve has a mind for business. The other bands were like "Oh a record deal, that's nice, where do I sign?" kind of happy go lucky. But Steve has always had an eye out for the possibilities of business. We also had a very sharp manager who was a friend of ours. So they took their time and negotiated possibly the first real modern record company contract where groups got like big guaranteed sums up front, other kinds of rights and benefits as far as control went. He was one of the first people to actually go into a record company and use it as a total vehicle to get something across.

ZZ: How do you remember The Charlatans, who are fairly legendary now?

Boz: They were all just mad cats. Musically, none of them were really proficient. But they had such a good feel. They had a lot of style. They were into clothes and image which was something other bands were into, but not in the same way.  They were much more stylised. Each of them was a character. They were very entertaining and very popular in San Francisco. But through one thing and another, they never had anyone to take care of business for them.

ZZ: Can you recall any other bands from that era who were ignored, who were as good as The Charlatans?

Boz: The Charlatans were just well loved, and well known. They were there at the beginning and they may have been the first band, I don't know. But I don't know what it was like before I got there.  We're talking about the first year and a half when the Fillmore and the Avalon ballroom were going and that was pretty much a local thing - local acts, millions of bands. And after that, the ballrooms were stretching out a bit and Graham, or Chet Helms who ran the Avalon, started to bring in people like Clifton Chenier, and out of town bands, and then English bands started coming in, New York bands, black artists, and Chicago blues cats. So rather than a local thing it became a total entertainment outlet. By that time Jefferson Airplane were major stars, The Dead were a major San Francisco act, and Steve Miller was big. So whenever one of those bands was in town, they'd be a strong, heavy headliner, but in other cases they would reply on someone like Van Morrison, or Chuck Berry, or The Band.

ZZ: So you left Steve Miller, Was it like it was described in Rolling Stone 80?

Boz: Yeah, that's right. It wasn't a band; which is why I became a bit disenchanted working in it. I didn't play in any of Steve's songs and on my songs Steve didn't even bother to come into the studio.


Boz finally left The Steve Miller Band in September 1968 and played around San Francisco in places like The Stardust Lounge on the corner of Hayes and Laguna, which was a small black R & B bar, but had met his next door neighbour, Jann Wenner, who had just started up Rolling Stone magazine. Eventually their friendship turned to the possibility of making a record together, and before Boz knew where he was, he was signed to Atlantic Records, and in April 1969, they headed for Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 'That album is probably my favourite record - it exudes an unselfconscious warmth and beauty from every track and you can actually share the musician's delight in each other, and in the music that they are making, an altogether fabulous record.

ZZ: What was the attitude to Muscle Shoals when you decided to record there?

Boz: Atlantic had been sending people down to Muscle Shoals for a longtime. Aretha, Sam and Dave.

ZZ: How many studios were down there?

Boz: There's about five studios and like two main R & B studios. There was one that was built from money that Percy Sledge made from 'When A Man Loves A Woman'. That was one studio. And then there was this cat called Rick Hall, he really started it. Its three cities in the one area. They were built in the thirties during the depression by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was a thing set up in the New Deal to give jobs to that part of the country. They build these dams and also the three towns that make up Muscle Shoals, Florence Alabama, Sheffield Alabama and Muscle Shoals Alabama, but they're basically one huge town. I mean there's about 180- 200 thousand people, but it looks like a town of five thousand people. It's really just like any small town. The reason that there was a studio there in the first place was because of gospel music. Those sleeve photos were taken at Otis Redding's ranch, not in Muscle Shoals. So were the ones of Duane, which came from the Allman's first album.

ZZ: That message, about a yesful orgy, what does that mean?

Boz: Jann wanted something to describe the event, because it's a totally magic experience. Anyone who has ever been down there goes through it. It's almost a religious experience. We just wanted to write something that would be a good memory of what it was like. We had a pretty high time. We put a lot of effort and thought into making the album, but the actual event took place just like that. It only involved ten days in all. We arrived on Friday night and we'd finished the album by the next Friday night. It was just a flash and there was the album.

ZZ: Had you written the material?

Boz: I'd written some and I had a pretty good idea what we wanted. We did two other songs that weren't on the album. It was all finalised in the studio, but I'd done a few demos of stuff.

ZZ: What made you pick the Jimmie Rodgers song 'Waiting For A Train'?

Boz: Jimmy Johnson - one of the guitarists - came up to me in the studio with this single. And he'd been a Jimmie Rodgers freak for years, a real follower of Jimmie Rodgers, and he just brought this song along. And he was so sweet. He's really modest, and he was very shy about telling me about it. He said real quiet, "I really love your songs and I love what we're doing, man," and he was really apologetic while he was saying this, and he went on, "I really think it would be a gas to do it, just like it is on the record, I think your voice is great for this song". I mean, it was all his idea to do it. And we got hold of this cat at the barber shop to play his fiddle and Duane had his dobros, and everybody got right into it.

ZZ: Now I understand that there's a bit of a story behind Duane and his dobros.

Boz: Oh year. Well, this was a little bit after the album - about four or five months. I went back to the south, to Macon, just to visit people that I'd met there, and I just told my girlfriend to pack up a few suitcases, and we'd stay for a bit. And it was just when the Allmans were getting together. Now I was playing with a few friends of mine called Mother Earth, at weekends and things. Somehow or other, I knew all the people in the band from different sources. Tracy Nelson I was real friends with. And there was this cat up there in Nashville who just travels around - and he's a really famous guy. I mean Tracy has got this most fabulous collection of steels and dobros, he's got everything, and he told me about this cat. And when I went back to Macon I told Duane about it, and he wanted to check it out, because he didn't actually own a dobro at the time. So he and his wife, and myself drive up to Nashville to get the lowdown on this guy. He was living in this little dingy apartment building, that he'd just taken temporarily and he had more dobros that you thought existed. Man, he had dobros stacked against the wall up to the ceiling; I mean, there was hardly any furniture, just dobros everywhere, and it was a really shitty apartment, covered in dobros. Every sort that you could imagine - inlaid, pearl inlaid, gold inlays, gold plated. His hobby was just dobros, it was also his livelihood. He also had all these snakes, and there was like boa constrictors and rattlesnakes crawling all over the place, and this big dirty aquarium tank full of snakes, and he fed them live mice.  A very weird cat. He was a Harvard graduate who'd gone off a bit.  Anyway Duane tried them all, and he found this perfect one, just what he'd always wanted. It was more money than he could afford, but it was too good to miss, so he took it.

ZZ: You had to put him in the toilet during 'Loan Me A Dime' didn't you?

Boz: That track was one of the only tracks where we had all the musicians in the studio at the same time, where they were all blowing away. We had five horn players, and the whole rhythm section and Duane's style - the way he gets his sound - is to wind up that energy level, and he sounds really loud. Now the other cats use tiny little Fender amps, that's just the way they play. And they freaked when old Duane cranked his guitar up, so we had to move him into the other room otherwise he would have filled up the whole room and his stuff would have leaked onto all the other tracks. So we put Duane's amplifier in the bathroom, no actually we put Duane himself into the toilet which was only about as big as this table - 3 by 3. And he was crammed in there with his headset and amp, and just wailed away. And man he played... wheeeeew.

ZZ: Was the other guitarist on 'Loan Me A Dime' you?

Boz: No, Duane.

ZZ: It sounds like there's a bit of lick trading going on there.

Boz: That was Eddie Hinton and Duane.

ZZ: I remember when you were over here a couple of years ago you told me that the track was a jam, and that it was a very rare thing to hear those Muscle Shoals cats to that.

Boz: We came to the end of the number and they knew that they were going to do it. The drummer, Roger Hawkins, said "Lets break into a slow boogaloo, and play out the chords and just have a jam," and we were going to let it just fade out, like just a sniff of what we were doing. And they broke into a little boogaloo, and the little boogaloo broke into a slow shuffle and the slow shuffle turned into a swinging shuffle and they just went right on. And Duane started soloing, and Barry Beckett started soloing and they just took it from there. Rarely do they come back in to listen to the playbacks, I mean those guys have been in the studio for years and they don't have to go back into the room to listen, they know what they've played. But they came in to hear what they'd played. And while they were listening to it they were looking at each other and going, "God, man" and grinning at each other. The first time we did it it lasted 25 minutes, and everyone thought it was such a gas that they trouped back in and did it again and it ended up with about 40 minutes of "Loan Me A Dime" and we wanted to use at least 20 minutes of it, but we had to use the shorter version, but that music is in the can somewhere in Muscle Shoals, and Duane was really rockin' out.

ZZ: He was a fantastic musician because among other things he would fill out a number, rather than dominate it.

Boz: Oh absolutely. Any great musician’s strength is his ability to play with other musicians, to support them. That's, number one, and it's a quality that's there in all great music. And number two; he grew up a lot in Muscle Shoals as a session man, at The Rick Hall (also known as Fame) Studios, playing with other session musicians, and that's the way they play, very clean and very laid back. They're in the studio every day for hours and hours, they have this tremendous amount of experience, and Duane had that.  When you play in a studio you have to change your style to fit in, you have to be very versatile, and every note has got to be played perfectly and that's how he could play so well.

ZZ: Were you aware that you'd made such amazing music?

Boz: We didn't know what we'd get really, because we'd put a lot of elements in and at the end we weren't too sure what we had, but we liked it. It all happened so fast. Bang! We had the album in our hands. It didn't get too much promotion and most of the people who got it were friends, and they liked it, so that pleased us, that gave it a real kick.

ZZ: Has anyone ever recorded, say 'I'll Be Long Gone', because, by my standards it's a beautiful song.

Boz: That particular song was recorded by Cissy Drinker. I was going through the south checking out all the studios in MS, The Sweet Inspirations were there doing an album, and Cissy Drinker was there and I played it for her in another studio, and Tom Dowd was producing them, and they liked it and did it, so they were really the first to do it, but it was never on an album, because they didn't use it.

ZZ: What about some of your other songs?

Boz: Well that's really down to the music publisher. You submit a lot of material - demos, and lead sheets and they send them around to specific producers and artists - well that's the way it should be done, but I've never done that. It's not a deliberate thing. I've never had time to do it, to keep my eye on the publishing side of things. Writing songs is how I earn a living, but that part of it I can't see as a business per se, you know, pushing tunes. Other people have done my songs, but not because there was someone pushing them - Tracy Nelson did 'I'll Be Long Gone', and a new group called Blood has just done it. And also a black gospel group in Detroit, called The Vance Allan Group have done it.

ZZ: What was their version like?

Boz: It was really funny, funny as hell. They're basically a gospel group, and I think they should be popular over here soon. But he takes these songs that he hears - really obscure material, and he changes the words around and gives them a Christian message. That's what he did with 'I'll Be Long Gone', he changed it to give it a religious meaning. And it said written by Vance Allan, but we straightened it out very easily. But I've really lost out on that side. When I left, Mary Travis wanted to do 'I'll Be Long Gone' and 'We Were Always Sweethearts' and I was to send lead sheets, but somehow I just didn't get it together.

ZZ: What was Jann Wenner's role on that album?

Boz: Well he just helped me to get the whole thing together. I'm a great procrastinator. Jann just has a way of pushing, you know. "Do you have a song ready for me I'd like to hear it" and I'll say "Sort of, but I don't have all the words yet, there's one chorus that still needs to be done," and he'll go, "Well sit down and here's some paper and a pen, just sit down and do it, write it down, and when you've done that we'll get some musicians together and go into the studio, and make a demo, and have a listen to it." Or he'll come in and say "We've got to listen to them all tonight. We're going to use Muscle Shoals, and we're going to listen to them all, and pick the guys we like - and we're going to do it tonight," and somehow we do it. He's a producer in the sense that he's like a film producer, he takes all the elements and makes all the arrangements.

ZZ: Is the M.S.S. Horns credited on the 'My Time' sleeve the same as the guys on the early album?

Boz: No, one of them is. Ben Cauley on trumpet was the head of the section that we used for 'My Time'.

ZZ: What about the two girls that we don't know about? Jeannie Greene is on Elektra now. Donna Thatcher is in the Dead. What about Sue Pilkington and Mary Holliday?

Boz: Mary Holliday is around Muscle Shoals. She lives in Memphis, and she plays around there. Sue Pilkington wasn't actually on the record - that's the only existing photograph of all the other chicks, and she happens to be in it.

ZZ: And the other guys?

Boz: Well Eddie Hinton, besides being an amazing guitar player is a fantastic songwriter and singer. He made an album which Atlantic didn't release, last year, and it's great. He's half Paul McCartney and half Burt Bacharach, and he sings like Joe Cocker and Ray Charles. He went to Nashville to do it and he's in Nashville now. The rest of the cats are still there. They still live there and come over for the Traffic gigs.

[At this stage in your reading I'm going to call a coffee break, and urge you to listen to 'I'll Be Long Gone' simply because I couldn't begin to describe how beautiful it is, but a listen will remind you.]


The next album Boz made was 'Moments' for CBS, and although it has that Scaggs seal of wholesome goodness, I've always thought that it lacked the joyousness of all his other works, not that that opinion is worth more than a two-yen note.

ZZ: What happened to the Atlantic album? Did it sell?

Boz: No it didn't. After we finished it, I had some bread, so I stayed down there just hanging around and doing some work, but not too much, and so I was rather out of it. I didn't even know that it had been released. In fact it's sold more in the last month than in its entire previous period of release, because of 'Moments'. [Note: this is part of an interview done over here during the recording of 'Boz Scaggs And Band'.] It got a lot of FM play and was a very popular album with those sorts of people, but it never reached the mass audience.

ZZ: Why the move to CBS?

Boz: It finally came down to CBS and one other major concern. I think that for every artist there is a right label, and from the very first contact that I had with CBS, it was a gas - they wanted to do what we wanted to do, and when we finished 'Moments', we'd been touring a lot and I'd met a lot of CBS people, and they're all a gas. The Atlantic album sold less than twenty thousand first time around, and CBS sold 120,000 just like that - I feel that they can sell an album better than anyone. They are very straightforward about it, that is their job. Atlantic are very cool people, they'll come to listen and run around with you and they get along with their artists very well, but CBS can sell.

ZZ: How did you come to form that band?

Boz: Well - I was living in the South, and towards the end of 1969, George Rains, and I, who had been friends for some years, decided to go ahead and do it on our own. We went to Texas and looked for some musicians to take back to the coast with us and we got a guitar player, Doug Simril. And we got another two musicians from Florida through recommendations from Duane because they used to be with Duane's original band, and the five of us went to California, and we rehearsed for a week and then started to play in San Francisco and we worked five nights a week - this was in January 1970 - and we've worked 5 nights ever since. As a result the band developed very quickly, because three months after that we could add three horns, but they weren't stable, but it became stable just when we started to record 'Moments'. Jim Young playing organ and the three new horn players, and from that time the band has been set.

ZZ: Where did you get hold of John McFee on steel?

Boz: He's in a little country band out in the country. We tried to get him to join, but he preferred to stay where he was.

ZZ: So the band was exactly as in the picture on the 'Moments' album?

Boz: Exactly.

ZZ: What about the cover of 'Moments'?

Boz: An acquaintance of mine - an amateur photographer - has one special shot that he takes. He does this things where he gets very soft textures and superimposes these clouds, because he has a friend who's a pilot and they fly up and shoot clouds. It really knocks me out, but he couldn't take a picture of that bottle there. And CBS blew up when they got the bill from this cat, because he has no concept of what was a reasonable fee, and CBS have a fixed fee for album sleeves. But he charged the aircraft charter, and special colour processes and everything. CBS finally agreed but said never again.

ZZ: You made 'Moments' at Wally Heiders', but you mixed it at Island, was that just because of Glyn Johns?

Boz: Yes, he's very good. CBS has a very old union agreement that only CBS engineers can work in CBS studios, and we have to use CBS' studios, so we couldn't have used Glyn in the States, and it all works out about the same in terms of the money, and anyway we needed a vacation.

ZZ: What about the instrumental track on 'Moments' - 'Can I Make It Last (Or Will It Just Be Over)'? Did you simply give up trying to get lyrics or was it meant to be an instrumental?

Boz: I had the title. And I had that little simple riff and it had that effect on it. And when we came to listen to the track after we'd done it, it just seemed pointless to put words on. The title said what the music was about and echoed what the music said. We tried to cut the whole album more or less live. It worked when we recorded like that in Muscle Shoals - instead of putting bass on one track and then adding horns, and chicks and a voice after - we did that with 'Loan Me A Dime', 'I'll Be Long Gone', and 'Sweet Release'.

ZZ: How do you do arrangements, Pat O'Hara is credited on 'Moments'...?

Boz: Well I work on it too. I love that full sound type of music. Using a lot of different things to fill out the sound. Not a whole album, but just a few tracks that lend themselves to it.

ZZ: How did Rita Coolidge come to be on 'Moments'?

Boz: She was one of the girls. The chick who got the girls together was Dorothy Morrison, and Rita got one other girl, and Dorothy got the rest.

['Moments' had considerable success in The States, but Boz decided to make his next album, 'Boz Scaggs And Band' in London. And last year he produced 'My Time', to my mind, his best album for Columbia. We picked up the conversation for some general ruminations about those two records.]

ZZ: Do you think at all about the differences in the American market and the European market?

Boz: No not really, though maybe I am with this album, because I want to make a very stylised album, a very lyrical album, and London to me is much more style conscious than any other city in the world, that's why I come here. I just get that fix of being in London. Actually that's what I was trying to do with the 'Boz Scaggs And Band' album - I wanted to bring them over here and get that same flash from London that I get off it - and we'd be able to harness that on the album, but it didn't work completely that way, because they got such a flash off London that they were completely destroyed as far as the music went - their main interest came from being in London, and doing things in London. When we did 'Children Of The Future' it had the complete opposite effect - everybody in the band was into the music and London was just a good place to get flashes and new ideas, and just draw on the sort of exotic mood that you get from being in a strange place. London has a special way of reacting to artists - I'm not talking about the Top Of The Pops market, that Slade sort of thing, but the way they take in someone like Randy Newman or Feliciano - sort of take in and cherish. If I could be accepted in London in that way, that would mean more to me than being popular in New York or most any other place.

ZZ: How did Clive contribute to 'Boz Scaggs And Band'?

Boz: It's hard to say. I've rarely written songs with anyone else, so there must be something special there.

ZZ: Now Jim was the one that stayed on with you after 'Boz Scaggs And Band'?

Boz: Well, he stayed for all the reasons - the bread, and he likes to travel and he likes to sing. But his other offers were basically jazz oriented, and his interests go from one extreme to another. He can play all styles and he's influenced my music because working with him I know that I can get into anything. I've got some stuff here that would take your head off. We played Berkeley about a month ago, and we recorded two nights live and you wouldn't believe what he does - synthesizer and clavinette. I turned him on to Stevie Wonder when 'Music Of My Mind' came out, and he thought, "Oh, Motown, it's bound to be the same old trash" and the first time I'd heard it I loved it, and I'd been at home trying to figure out the chord changes, and in the middle of recording the album I started playing all these Stevie Wonder changes, but not quite right, and he would come up to me and say "Man where did you learn all that incredible stuff?" and I told him they were Stevie Wonder, and he went out and got the album and when we went into the studio, he was the one with all the Stevie Wonder licks and he has to have the clavinette and the wah-wah pedal. And Santana happened to be recording in the studio and had left their stuff there, and they had it all.

ZZ: You once mentioned Curtis Mayfield and the Gamble-Huff productions, because you liked the multi-layered textures and sounds. Did you accomplish that on 'My Time'?

Boz: No, I tried, but I'm still looking for it. All that Tommy Bell stuff, have you heard the new Ronnie Ellsmith album - wheeeew!

ZZ: Yeah... wheeeew!

Boz: The side one that Tommy Bell wrote and produced. Wow.

ZZ: There are a couple of tracks on 'My Time' where I think you got that layered feel.

Boz: Yeah. That's as far as I got with it.

ZZ: When you were over there recording the 'Boz Scaggs And Band' album, you told me that you were trying to get a live studio sound - a one-take kind of thing. Did you get that feel on 'Flames Of Love'?

Boz: No. Actually that was recorded for the 'Moments' album. That was just an old track that we had around in San Francisco, and Chepito and Mike Sirella of Santana came over and we jammed a rhythm track and we finished it off.

ZZ: Can you tell us how the falsetto voice that begins 'He's A Fool For You' developed?

Boz: I first used it on the 'Moments' album - and that's another Curtis Mayfield influence - just a sweet Philadelphia thing.

ZZ: Now you do a lot of your lyrics very late in the day in the studio, don't you?

Boz: Right. When I'm supposed to be recording. I just keep putting it off. On 'Dime A Dance Romance' I hadn't done the words and they were really getting desperate for them, so they sent me out to the bar and told me to get really drunk and not to come back until it had been done. So I went down and got really drunk and scribbled a bunch of shit down, and when I went back to the studio I screamed out all the lines from the top of my head, whatever lines I could read at the time. I’m trying to get out of that habit, because you spend so much time worrying, getting the lyrics done at the last moment, and that is the time that you should spend doing the music.

ZZ: When we had a meal with you last year you played a track from ‘Boz Scaggs And Band’ that had some lyrics on it, even though it was a rough collection of bits of tapes. How would you add words to that?

Boz: Well, if you listen to the music the music will suggest the idea, and the lyrics will just come out of it. On the ‘My Time’ album, ‘Might Have To Cry’ and ‘Dinah Flo’ were written as they played it. They all said, “We have the chords, you have the lyrics” so they started to play and told me to sit on the stool and take the microphone. I listened to them playing and then sang the words. There was never anything written down.

ZZ: Now what about this legendary Berkeley gig with thirty musicians on the stage?

Boz: That was going to be out first gig, and we wanted to do something special for San Francisco. I had all the string parts from when we’d done it in the studio, and although I wasn’t planning to take anything extra on the road, it just started out with a few chicks – Dorothy Morrison, and some of the other girls who’d done background for me – and then I thought I’d check out what Pete and Coke Escovido were doing that night, and they were free, so that was a bit more. They were on the album so they knew the arrangements. So then I called up the string arranger, found out how much it would cost me for a string section and got him, and we needed an extra keyboard player and I just happened to be trying out keyboard players to go on the road with me. So it just grew, but besides doing something special for the audience it was a bit selfish because I wanted to do something like that, since I knew that it would just knock me out. It took about two weeks of rehearsals every day to get it together. We’d do the girls in the afternoon, and then the rhythm section in the evening and so on. Tracy Nelson was coming our with just her guitar player and her keyboard player, so we had to get a set together for her, and right up till the show we’d never been on stage at the same time together, until the sound check in the afternoon, but even then there were guys missing because of recording sessions and so forth. The actual concert was pretty loose – I had a sort of plan. Tracy was going to come out and do a couple of numbers and then I would come out with the b and, and then we’d do a few, then the horn players, and then we’d do a number with Tracy, with the band as her backing, and the idea was to gradually accumulate everything on the stage.

ZZ: Ralph Gleason in Rolling Stone talked about you feeling it necessary to give something more than a performance.

Boz: Well I paid to do that gig. It sold out, and I still lost money. I wanted it to be a great show because San Francisco has always supported me. All along – they started me, they sustained me – it’s just my favourite audience.

ZZ: Would you like to do it again?

Boz: Oh sure. But it would have to be like eight or nine cities over two weeks, otherwise I couldn’t afford it. I’d love to do it over here too.


ZZ: Can you tell me a bit about Aspen where you got married  because it seems to be a fairly nice place?

Boz: It is. I don’t know too much about it really. I only started skiing last winter, I went up with Jann and his wife and my girlfriend Carmella, and while I was up there I met Hunter. [Hunter Thompson, whose articles on the American Presidential elections established him as probably the best writer in America at the moment – in the tradition of Hemmingway and Mailer – fantastic work. I think John Peel even voted him his top writer in some poll, whereas all the rest were voting for parvenu scribes like Richard Williams and Charles ‘The Sham’ Murray.] And Hunter and I have the same attorney.

ZZ: Not the famous personal attorney that was in Las Vegas with him?

Boz: No, that’s Oscar. But Aspen is just a small town that is descended upon by tourists and skiers every year. The townspeople keep pretty much to themselves, and the town is run by heads who are the waitresses, and the ski instructors, and drive the buses and taxis and so on. And in the summer they have a whole different set of things going on – art centers and seminars and symposiums – a lot of famous cultural events. So the three sets of people that go to Aspen kind of coexist, but the freaks are in the majority. And in Aspen there is more drugs than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world – every kind of stuff that you can imagine – but any place else would explode under these circumstances, but Aspen has this little bit of magic running through the place that keeps it a real nice place – no paranoia, no fighting, it’s just lots of fun and lots of laughs.

ZZ: How has all this Clive Davis stuff affected you personally?

Boz: Nobody is making decisions. I’ve got all my musicians waiting to come over. My wife is waiting, and we’ve got people waiting to take our house. We’ve booked the studio time – it’s all waiting for one specific decision. I don’t know Clive Davis that well, but with him he makes the decision quickly and there’s no ifs and buts with him; and I’d had a meeting with Clive on this very subject – exactly what I was going to do, and exactly what direction I was going in, and he understands that because although he hasn’t got a musical mind he knows all my albums and can understand what I’m talking about, and he dug what I was planning and we agreed very specifically about budgets. In the past when that has happened, I’d call up the head of A&R and say that I was going to start recording next week and he’d say that I was going to start recording next week and send the budget which Clive had already agreed, and he’d then give me the project number, and I was in business – and I’d start working. But now after coming over to set things up and ready to go – I’ve got all the musicians ready, and so I call up Los Angeles, and they give me all this bullshit – “Come into the office with your guitar and sing us some of your songs” – they’re obviously very paranoid and cautious. There was one guy – a major Columbia artist who was in the studio when Clive was fired, and during the hectic couple of weeks that followed the firing, musicians were actually called up at the studio in the middle of recording and told to get out of the studio – major artists. The idea behind it being the feeling that they didn’t know what was happening and they didn’t want any fooling around, so they stopped them. Just like that, and they would talk to them and find out if any money was being wasted. Really outrageous events. And it’s only now that it’s becoming clear what everyone there is doing, and who is responsible for what.

[As we were finishing the conversation Boz explained that he had to phone up CBS, and their decision was that he would have to return to San Francisco until it has all been sorted out. So he left and hopes to return later this summer with his band, when he plans to complete his album and do some work over here, so keep your eyes peeled for the dates, because they’ll be great.]

>HOME >INTERVIEWS >1970 Interviews >1973 - ZigZag