Summoned to San Francisco by school friend Steve Miller to join his band on a couple of albums, Scaggs set out on his own with 1969's Boz Scaggs, produced by Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. It set the template for subsequent efforts like Moments, My Time and Slow Dancer. Record sales and concert audiences started to grow.
But the doors blew open on Scaggs's career with the 1976 release of the multiplatinum Silk Degrees. The right album at the right time -- and still his best known work -- its mixture of a smoother-sounding R&B produced hits like "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle," "What Can I Say" and "We're All Alone" (which was also a hit for Rita Coolidge).
However, Scaggs says he was happy to bide his time till that moment.
"If I had had that success with my first record, it would have been a lot different, but I was selling enough records to keep going," he says. "But I worked very hard. I didn't have a manager and I was doing it all myself -- the travel, keeping the band together and dealing with the record company.
"But at the same time, I was learning how to be a writer and gaining more experience in the studio," adds Scaggs. "And at the time of Silk Degrees, I was listening to a lot of contemporary R&B. So it was an incremental process of success. And it gave me an opportunity to sort of step things up with larger audiences, better equipment and more work with the record company."
Albums Down Two Then Left and Middle Man produced more hits with "Hollywood," "Breakdown Dead Ahead" and "Jojo." His contribution to the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, "Look What You've Done to Me," was also a massive success.
Then, in the early '80s, Scaggs did something unusual: He stepped away from it all. A scheduled six-month hiatus took years as he dealt with both personal issues and a feeling that he'd come to a creative dead end. His recorded output trickled to almost nothing.
But in the mid-'90s, he came back with his own projects as well as stints with the collaborative New York Rock 'n Soul Revue. In 2001 he released Dig, one of his finest records ever (and reminiscent of Silk Degrees), but it unfortunately had a release date of September 11 of that year and -- like a lot of other music -- sank.
And while seemingly every classic rocker of a certain age was taking a stab at the Great American Songbook, Scaggs's two albums of jazz standards, But Beautiful and Speak Low, were lush, gorgeous, and perfectly suited to his voice and delivery. It was a step outside of his comfort zone, and they are the releases that he is in fact most proud of today.
So with Memphis, things have come full circle for Boz Scaggs, who is also embarking on an extensive U.S. tour that will hit the Arena Theatre in Houston on April 27 and is sure to combine material from that record, his big hits and deeper album tracks.
"The way this record came together was kind of perfect, and we did all the tracks for this record in three days, and it felt easy and good," Scaggs sums up. "More than performing or playing guitar, I just love singing. That's what I wanted to do more than anything on this record, and that's how it turned out."
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