1980 - Radio Interview with Robert W Morgan
Air Date - December 1980
RWM: This week - the underside of an underworld filled with loners, lovers and losers. Each of these characters is desperate struggling to capture their own piece of the action... William Royce Scaggs, better known as Boz.
Boz: I love music in general, I can't say that there is any form that I dislike or don't find a certain amount of interest in. Most things I am greatly interest in. I have been exposed to a lot of it and I am not one to have to classify or draw boundaries between certain stylists, certain musicians and composers. I find a great deal of influence in everyone. That is I see very few people who can truthfully say that they are hard-core or bound or by such strict standards that they aren't influenced by an awful lot of different kinds of music. I'm pretty open to all styles.
RWM: Style: More than anything else Boz Scaggs embodies the elements of style, his songs capture a vast panorama of musical styles from the cool funk of "JoJo" to the smooth sophistication of "We're All Alone". Style also permeates Boz the man, from the fashionable clothes on his back to the impeccable notes on each track, Boz Scaggs is elegance personified. Elegance at a distance.
Boz: You develop your music as best you can, and if somebody likes it terrific, and if a lot of people like it its still terrific, if a lot of people don't pick it up it's terrific anyway, you made the record and that's supposed to be its own thrill, and it is. I still feel to this day and I have felt all along that there are alternatives in my life.
[What Can I Say]
RWM: Back in the 50's Boz's sense of style would have been called cool, unlike most artists who are feverishly passionate about their work, Boz is coolly dispassionate, even detached. After all if Boz Scaggs wasn't making music he would simply be making something else.
Boz: I might get a boat and sail around the world, I might be a fisherman, I might be a restaurant owner, I might be a lawyer. There are a lot of other things to do. I find no difficulty in finding things of interest to me. Certainly once you get into a lifestyle you get into certain patterns and develop your interests and your talents along a certain way. I must say I am doing what I know best how to do, and to make a change I would have to back-up 10 spaces and start all over again. But that doesn't bother me, it doesn't worry me. I have never had responsibilities that I couldn't take care of one way or another. I do what I do because I enjoy it and I have always enjoyed it. There have been ups and downs and disappointments and a lot of work, but it has been satisfying.
[Love Me Tomorrow]
RWM: He may seem above the battle, but as we will learn life for Boz Scaggs hasn't been without its low-downs.
Boz: I think on some earlier albums I was disappointed because I thought I had real strong musical material that didn't gain wider public acceptance. So I have been disappointed and after a point you stop expecting things to happen and you have to take the attitude that the work is its own reward. The real challenge and the real rewards are in the making of these albums. You do the best you can. You follow your integrity to the highest degree you can, you don't cut any corners, you don't compromise, you develop your music as best you can.
RWM: Few people are aware of what shot Boz into music, I'll give you a clue, its the thing you're listening to right now.
Boz: I had an ear for the radio just like every other kid who grew up at that time. It was right when rock n roll hit the radio. I was 12 years old and my mother bought me my first Elvis - Blue Suede Shoes. I grew up in that era of having one ear on the radio and the other ear on whatever else I could pick up. There were pretty well rounded musical interests readily available to me and I think I absorbed and picked up and maintained a good deal of it in trying to develop the style I have now.
Boz: I was listening to almost anybody that played guitar, from classical to Chet Atkins, to Jim Hall, to B.B. King. T-Bone Walker was my favourite, he was one of those people that I tried to learn note for note. I listened to all guitar things and tried to pick up a little of all those styles. As far as singers and overall musical influences go I would have to say Ray Charles, Ray was up there from the very beginning, he was very important to me.
RWM: You would figure that a kid who played guitar like T-Bone Walker and sang like Ray Charles might not have had anybody to play with in a country music Mecca like Dallas, but Boz Scaggs wasn't alone because there was another young man in town with equally eclectic tastes, Steve Miller.
Boz: Steve and I went to high school together. He had been playing from an early age and was quite an accomplished musician at 14 or 15 years old, at least in my eyes. I followed a very similar path of musical interests and playing styles. We got started together pretty young. He is one of my oldest friends and acquaintances. Music I think has been our mutual bond and we have been fortunate to have been able to keep up with each other for all these years.
[We Were Always Sweethearts]
Boz: I really didn't have any goals or any plans when I was young, and very romantic in the traditional sense. I mean, strange names and far away places fascinated me. I was healthy and strong and had a good imagination and just followed up some of those ideals and some of those dreams.
RWM: In true 60's fashion Boz's boot heels wandered in search of his dreams, first with Steve Miller to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, then on his own to the University of Texas in Austin, to New York's Greenwich Village and finally to, of all place, Scandinavia.
Boz: I had a guitar, I got around a good deal without the guitar, but that seemed to be a calling card for me, it was a crutch in other ways. I came to depend on that. It was a good introduction to a lot of situations for me. I could go into virtually any town/city and sort of follow that guitar singing into meeting some people or just sort of following that around. I did a lot of other things too. Most of the time I didn't even have a guitar. I would borrow one if there was one around. That was the centre of a lot of my activity.
[You Can Have Me Any Time]
RWM: Although Boz had become a Scandinavian sensation he just couldn't wait to get back to the States, but unfortunately Boz couldn't afford to fly home from Stockholm. Luckily he would find his ticket, and more, awaiting him at the local American Express office. Boz didn't leave from home without it.
Boz: I got a postcard from Steve Miller's manager asking if I would like to return to San Francisco to play in Steve's band. One of the players had left and they had a rhythm guitar/vocalist slot and Steve thought of me because we had worked together in the past so much. I replied that I would be interested in coming back, it was a round-trip ticket, and I went to San Francisco in September of 1967 to check out Steve's band and I was very very pleasantly pleased with what Steve had developed.
[Look What You've Done To Me]
RWM: While Boz was strummin' and bummin' his way around Europe his old pal Steve Miller was in San Francisco getting his act together, the Steve Miller Band, so when Boz rejoined Steve in 1968 he must have felt as if the Children of the Future had gone big time.
Boz: The year that I was with Steve at that point was a very exciting time, the signing of the first recording contract, and the making of the first two albums, the national tour - we went to Europe. It was a real eye opener, it was music on a level that I had never considered before. You must understand that up to this point I had no ambitions or interests in becoming a professional musician per sae. I mean I was in fact a professional musician, but I had no thoughts of becoming a star, I really had other things on my mind.
RWM: Although he liked playing with the Steve Miller Band, Boz wasn't the boss, so when the time felt right for him to go solo Boz issued his declaration of independence.
Boz: I'm a pretty independent person, I come and go pretty much as I please, I make my own decisions. The group thing just didn't work out, I wasn't really following up a lot of my own interests. During the making of the albums I found that the thing that were the most satisfying to me was writing the songs and coming in to the studio and developing my own material. I really felt like getting on my own... again. I guess I had gotten almost everywhere on my own and pursued my own interests and I really just followed that up.
RWM: For Boz Scaggs it wasn't over at all, in fact his career was just beginning. He went to Muscle Shoals Alabama to record his first solo album produced by Jan Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone, and while that album gathered no moss with the public, Boz learned lessons in the studio that would help him avoid any future breakdowns dead ahead.
Boz: Its all an experiment. You go in with certain preconceptions and certain ideas about what you want to happen, but I didn't really expect anything in particular. I have never had that problem, I don't think too many people do. Things are bound to change. Once they materialise they appear different and then the more you fool with them the more they change again. Its really a matter of being able to reassess and re-evaluate at every corner. They are experiments and I hope that there are a lot of surprises because that's where the spark is, that's where the thrill in doing it is.
[Breakdown Dead Ahead]
Boz: There's always that thought that given one major success it would be disappointment to come back with anything less than that, but that's mainly a source of worry and I don't really need anything more to worry about. I have many things to worry about, but there's not really much you can do except what you do.
RWM: After "Silk Degrees" Boz received the third degree. His follow-up album "Down Two Then Left" moved down more than two on the charts and left him high and dry. Then for 3 years nothing... until 1980 when Boz recaptured the romance of elegance with a new album entitled "Middle Man".
Boz: Things changed and I found it more interesting and more exciting to go on to a new format entirely, well not entirely, there were a few elements that we brought over from "Silk Degrees" but I think in the interest of music itself, and satisfying my own personal desires to experiment with the music, and with a growing musical awareness and perhaps aptitude I wanted to move on, and move on we did. I didn't really try to carry anything in particular over from "Silk Degrees", this is a new album and a new time and represents what I am doing and what I am thinking musically now.
[Isn't It Time]
Boz: We tried some changes and some effects and some things that one will only attempt if you have a certainty that there is somebody out there to listen. We experimented a lot, we tried a lot of different ideas. We took the music apart many times and put it back together. We played with a lot of things. In that sense it is more fun, although I wouldn't attach that word to it myself. Its a job like anything else and there is a certain amount of creative playfulness, the fun moments come a little later.
[We're All Alone]
RWM: In a way Boz Scaggs clashes with his music. While his songs pulsate rhythmically with steamy tales of seamy lives, Boz the man is still very much the laid back lad from Dallas, easy on the drawl. Perhaps its his carefree confidence that gives him his sense of style and taste. By taking things in stride, Boz has avoided being strident, which is why change will never change Boz Scaggs.
Boz: My life has changed as much as my life has ever changed. I have been through a lot of changes, but they are not really changes to me. I don't have to do too much re-evaluation or think too much about what I'm going to do as a result, its just a new situation in some cases to me. In developing a sort of identity which means being aware of things on a national or international level, the day to day events become more important if you like, in a way, they are not really, but they take on this aspect of being more critical or more important.