Dispatches - Boz Scaggs Interview

A Record That Changed My Life

[Interview by Rob Hughes 2003]

Acclaimed troubadour and ex-Steve Miller Band fretmeister gives it up for legendary Texan bluesman Aaron T-Bone Walker.

"We all have those moments when you hear a record and time seems to stop. I grew up in North Texas and there was a late-night radio show five nights a week that played R&B, primitive and modern.  One night, they played T-Bone's "Blues For Marili". When I heard that for the first time, it was the music I'd been waiting for all my life. It was the attitude and the sound of that guitar, sort of an extended guitar solo piece. So I went out, found that record and went about learning to play everything on there. It sounded easy enough because it was very basic and simple, but in order to get that expression, well, I'm still working on that.

"So many people talk about BB King as being one of the seminal figures of electric blues guitar. And what he's done is enormous. They talk about the way he uses the guitar to punctuate his vocals and him being the innovator of that, but we all know that it was T-Bone who really defined blues electric guitar. He sort of invented the string-bending style, as far as I know. I still go back to this record.

"I got the Anthology a few years ago [1995's Complete Capitol Recordings] and as I settle into that handful of guitar players I really admire (like Jimmie Vaughan, for instance), they're still playing the licks from that record. It's part of their vocabulary and indispensable for any Texas guitar player. I still have to smile to myself each time I hear one of those subtle riffs, because there's only one place they come from.

"I made a record called "Come On Home" [1997] and one of the songs I wrote was "After Hours". It was the simplest piece of music I could've put down - an eight-bar progression with one pass of guitar over it - but listening back, it was reminiscent of how my interpretation of T-Bone had evolved. It was similar in mood to "Blues For Marili" and just came out spontaneously. Some things, you don't know where they come from, but they're already in us. It just needs something to awaken it."

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