The Lowdown on Boz Scaggs

By Jeff Moehlis

Although Boz Scaggs is best known for the slick R&B hits "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" from his breakthrough 1976 album Silk Degrees, his career in music has spanned much, much more.

Scaggs first made a mark as a member of the Steve Miller Band during their early psychedelic rock phase, playing guitar plus writing and singing a few songs on the band's first two albums.

His first solo album after leaving Miller's orbit was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and featured a young Duane Allman on guitar shortly before Allman reached guitar god status. This has been ranked in the Top 500 albums of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Subsequent solo releases were also well regarded, hitting a peak with the aforementioned Silk Degrees, which sold millions of copies and won Scaggs a Grammy for Best R&B Song for "Lowdown." Scaggs has continued to release acclaimed albums over the years, most recently the covers-heavy Memphis.

Scaggs will be performing at the Chumash Casino Resort on Thursday, Sept. 12

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show at the Chumash Casino?

Boz Scaggs: You can look forward to a really good band of top musicians, who are going to be helping me through some music that much of your audience perhaps has heard on the radio over the years.

Boz Scaggs: There'll be some hits, there'll be some blues and some R&B things from my past. And, of course, I'm playing music from a new record called Memphis, which was released in the earlier part of this year. It's all over the map, kind of.

JM: Speaking of your new album, Memphis, how did you decide which songs to cover for that?

BS: I made demos for myself. I'd try out each song — I tried different arrangements, different keys, different approaches. When I find a song that I really like to sing, that I think I can do some justice to, it becomes a candidate. And then I bounced some ideas around with my producer Steve Jordan. Between the two of us we came up with a shortlist, and that's how we'd choose our songs.

JM: If you don't mind going back in time a little bit, what was the good, the bad and the ugly about the San Francisco music scene back in the late 1960s?

BS: Well, the good was that so many musicians converged upon that scene, so many styles. I think it told us all how closely related we were. There was a great intermingling of all sorts of forms of music from all the bands and musicians that were coming in, folk music and rock and roll, and blues and jazz. Everyone from Ravi Shankar to the British blues and pop invasion with Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton and Cream. Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, great blues artists, Miles Davis. You know, everybody came through that scene. It was a great cross-pollination. You know, Miles borrowed from the scene. It just crossed over.

It was a great explosion, probably the greatest thing that happened in the 20th century in popular music. I can't think of any other convergence that was so ... ooof! So that's the good of it.

The bad of it ... I don't know, I don't dwell on it. I don't think there was any real bad that came of it. There was an aftermath to the Haight-Ashbury scene after everybody went home after the Summer of Love. I mean, I'm generalizing. After the great convergence there was a tapering off. Just like a high, you know, there's a comedown always. There was something empty after the party, after the parade went through. But not bad. It's life. It's kind of remarkable, the trail of ideas and the effect that it had on the culture.

JM: Unfortunately, I missed the fun. I was born in 1970.

BS: Yeah, well, you've probably absorbed more of it than you realize. It's still around. It certainly influenced a generation and had its fallout. I have a son who's 35 years old, and he knows an awful lot about the music from that time, and you probably do, too.

JM: Your first solo album after you left the Steve Miller Band has the song "Loan Me a Dime," with that killer guitar solo by Duane Allman. What was it like recording with him?

BS: Duane was a very big influence on those sessions. It took place at Muscle Shoals, and there were studio musicians. Duane had been an active musician with that section and left about six months before to start the Allman Brothers Band. So it was something of a reunion for him to come back to Muscle Shoals and work with those guys.

He was very much respected, and I'd say loved by those guys. And his coming in, he inspired those sessions. And, you know, personally he was a wonderful guy. Besides being a fantastic musician he was a real solid guy. A very kind guy, a funny guy. A very private guy in his own way. And just a really wonderful presence.

JM: Moving on to your album Silk Degrees, which was a huge, smash hit. What are your reflections on that album?

BS: It was really a great experience for me to work with those musicians. They were young, very highly respected studio musicians. My sessions, I think, were somewhat special for them because I really used their talent and ability as arrangers. I wanted their opinion. I really locked in with them. And we had a lot of fun making that record. They got to do things with my sessions that they might not have gotten to do with some of the other sessions they were doing. It was a special occasion, and a lot of fun for all of us. We made good music, and of course we got to enjoy the success of that album. Just wonderful. I've remained friends with everybody I worked with.

JM: You probably always get asked this. Is Lido from "Lido Shuffle" based on a real person?

BS: No, it's just fictional. Just an idea.

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