SouthCoastToday Boz Scaggs Interview

So Boz: Scaggs returns to Newport

Among the many trademarks of finally "making it big" is the possession of an UrbanDictionary.com entry in your name. If you look up Boz Scaggs, you'll see: "A synonym for cool, hip, crunk, and the like [...] The opposite of Boz Scaggs would be Steely Dan."

Used in a sentence, the website explains: "Dude, that concert was soooo Boz."

Scaggs himself, however, is sublimely unaware of his seat upon the throne of modern slang.

The 66-year-old guitarist who stormed the Top 20 chart more than three decades ago plays as part of the Sunset Music Series at the Newport Yachting Center this Friday. With an attitude as silky smooth and mellow as his 1977 Grammy-winning "Lowdown," Scaggs is just going with the flow these days.

Does he wish he'd been more famous? Filling stadiums like the Rolling Stones still do? "I don't think it really matters, after a while," he says quietly. "Of course everybody wants those things starting out. After you've been working at it as a job, making a living playing..." He pauses over the phone. "I feel most fortunate about that."

Scaggs hasn't directed his career like someone in it for the glory. At the height of his late-'70s fame, he took a hiatus from the music business, which lasted for most of the 1980s, to concentrate on family.

He went through a divorce. And the sudden death of his son Oscar, 21 years old at the time. (An album dealing with the grief over that loss was released on, of all days, Sept. 11, 2001).

Ultimately, the passage of time, Scaggs reflects, has made him a better singer and guitar player. He's been able to explore many different genres of music.

Growing up, Scaggs says, "I was exposed to just about everything that got recorded. I've been influenced by everyone I've listened to."

Born William Royce Scaggs in 1944, Boz (an early childhood nickname) moved with his family (and traveling salesman father) from Ohio to north Texas, where he spent his formative years.

When he was 15, Scaggs saw Ray Charles perform live, which crystallized for him what music could do. The tunes that pervaded the radio airwaves when he was a kid — particularly jazz trickling in from New Orleans — would later spur albums like 2008's collection of standards, "Speak Low."

In high school, Scaggs struck up a friendship in with "midnight toker" Steve Miller, who later gave him a gig with the Steve Miller Band before Scaggs struck out on his own and broke onto the scene with the classic 1976 album "Silk Degrees."

He now lives with his second wife, Dominique, in the hills of northern California, and owns his own wine label. While the tour keeps Scaggs away from the vineyard for long stretches, he said he's "very involved" in carrying the grape from vine to fermentation.

He also likes to jam with his son Austin, a bass player and music journalist for Rolling Stone.

"We've shared a lot of music and a lot of musical ideas all of his life," Scaggs says. Then adds with a laugh, "He's certainly got a lot more of a sense of the contemporary scene than I do. He's my link in that way."

Besides his son, if Scaggs could collaborate with anyone (he's already played with greats like Miller and Duane Allman), he says, "Herbie Hancock." The world will have to wait and see. At any rate, Scaggs' eclectic repertoire promises to leave the audience with nothing to say but, "Dude, that was sooooo Boz."

 

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