News Column

Music 'thrill' abides for Scaggs [Hutchinson News, The (KS)]

July 24, 2013

YellowBrix

At the pinnacle of his superstardom, Boz Scaggs decided he needed a break from the music business.

After the 1980 release of his album "Middle Man," the blues rock and soul singer/songwriter decided to take a personal hiatus of about six months or so.

It ended up being eight years.

That's an eternity in an industry with a short memory and a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. But Scaggs said he never regretted taking the time off.

After the release of his 1976 smash hit album "Silk Degrees" - which contained the future classic songs "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle," "What Can I Say" and "We're All Alone" - followed by two lesser- selling albums, Scaggs felt his music well had run dry.

"I didn't know what the hell I was going to do for my next record," said Scaggs, 69. "Personal matters also were distracting me. I was fortunate I could take time off to deal with other things in my life. The only thing I regret was I stopped touring. If you have a core audience, they like to see you come around. If you don't do that, there are a lot of people there to take your place."

Scaggs returned to the music industry in 1988 with the album "Other Roads," which produced the Top 40 hit "Heart of Mine." He hasn't left the road since.

Scaggs and his band will be in concert Friday at Salina's Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe.

Raised in Texas

William Royce Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio, but spent most of his childhood in Plano, Texas, just outside of Dallas. Although Scaggs can't remember the exact story behind his nickname "Boz," he said it came from a childhood classmate and stuck.

That classmate, by the way, wasn't Steve Miller, a future blues guitarist who grew up to form his own band and also reached superstardom in the 1970s.

"We were good friends in high school and had a band together," Scaggs said.

Scaggs said the style of blues, rock and soul that became his musical style was inspired by his father, an avid record collector, and the music he heard on the radio.

"Growing up in a small town in Texas, I was a product of all the radio I listened to - Top 40, a lot of country and, most important, the R&B of Memphis and New Orleans," he said. "It's still the music I love."

Eventually, a hit

In his early 20s, Scaggs hooked up again with his old band-mate Miller in San Francisco, where he briefly joined the Steve Miller Blues Band as a singer/guitarist. He performed on Miller's first two albums before signing a record contract as a solo artist in 1968.

His first self-titled album on the Atlantic Records label sold only moderately, as did several follow-up albums. But in 1976, "Silk Degrees" became his breakthrough album. Recorded with several session musicians who later formed the group Toto, the album went multi-platinum and won a Grammy award.

Scaggs said he's still mystified why that album in particular hit a musical nerve with the public.

"I had six or seven albums before that and had hopes, as all young artists do, that I would hit the big time and find a greater audience," he said. "By that time, I had pretty much loss my illusions of any album becoming a huge thing. But then it kicked in, and I got a big ride out of it."

Work to 'Dig'

By 1980, Scaggs had released "Down Two Then Left," "Middle Man" and "Hits," the latter a compilation album that featured the hit "Look What You've Done to Me" from the movie "Urban Cowboy." He then took his self-imposed break.

After returning to the music industry in 1988, he recorded several critically acclaimed albums, including his favorite and most personal work, "Dig." The album was recorded shortly after the death of his 21-year-old son, Oscar, of a heroin overdose.

Scaggs' newest release, "Memphis," is his first studio album in five years. The album features original songs and Scaggs' distinctive interpretations of such classics as "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Corinna, Corinna" and "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl." Unusually for the perfectionist Scaggs, 13 tracks on the album were recorded in a record three days.

"We got this one right," he said. "I worked with great studio musicians and had a great producer and arranger. It's very special to me."

Thrill isn't gone

In concert, Scaggs said he wants to leave audiences with the same feeling he had when attending live concerts as a young man.

"Some of the best musical experiences I've had have been seeing my musical heroes live," he said. "I grew up in a generation that loved live music, and I think there's a generation out there that's not too different. They get the same thrill that we feel on stage every night."

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