Born in 1944 in the heartland of Ohio, William "Boz" Scaggs spent his early years in Oklahoma, before his family settled in Dallas, Texas. While attending boarding school in Dallas at the dawn of the 1960s, Scaggs met and befriended Steve Miller, an … Read more
Born in 1944 in the heartland of Ohio, William "Boz" Scaggs spent his early years in Oklahoma, before his family settled in Dallas, Texas. While attending boarding school in Dallas at the dawn of the 1960s, Scaggs met and befriended Steve Miller, an aspiring musician who encouraged Scaggs to take up the guitar so he could join his band, the Marksmen. The two high school students began performing together, essentially playing blues covers and R&B hits of the day. In 1962, Miller relocated to Madison, Wisconsin to pursue studies at the university and formed a new band, the Ardells. Scaggs would join the Ardells the following year, before they would venture to Europe, where Miller would attend the University of Copenhagen in Denmark for a semester during his senior year. When Miller dropped out and returned to the United States, Scaggs remained behind, becoming a street musician in Sweden, where he eventually generated enough interest to record his first album, Boz, in 1965. Today this album is a rare collector's item, but back then it failed to find an audience in Europe and was soon forgotten. Discouraged but not defeated, Scaggs returned to the US and settled in the Bay Area. In the meantime, Miller, who initially had relocated to Chicago and formed a blues band with keyboardist Barry Goldberg, had also relocated to the Bay Area. The two old friends rekindled their musical relationship just as the vibrant San Francisco dance hall scene was beginning to take off and the city was quickly becoming the epicenter of the counter-culture movement.
Miller again recruited Scaggs into then-unknown Steve Miller Band and although Scaggs still had designs on a solo career, he agreed, and made notable contributions to Children of the Future and Sailor, two acclaimed (1968 and 1969, respectively) albums that were solidly rooted in the psychedelic blues style that dominated the San Francisco music scene. Scaggs' contributions to Miller's Band, which was fast gaining respect and recognition, proved to be advantageous. During his tenure with Miller, Scaggs had become friends with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who helped Scaggs secure a solo deal with Atlantic Records. Simply entitled Boz Scaggs, his debut Atlantic album was a critical and underground success. However, the album proved to be a commercial disappointment, despite it containing one of the classic soulful blues tracks of all time, "Loan Me A Dime," which prominently featured Duane Allman on slide guitar. Over the course of the early 1970s, Scaggs and his band became a popular fixture in the Bay Area, but commercial success continued to elude him until he made a move to Columbia Records, where Clive Davis was still at the helm as president. Columbia would provide the support and encouragement that would truly launch Scaggs' solo career to another level. Following a series of albums that continued to develop his soulful musical vision, the release of Slow Dancer in 1974 would pave the way toward superstardom, which would be fully realized on the follow-up album, Silk Degrees, Scaggs greatest commercial success and one of the most widely acclaimed albums of the decade.
Scagg's 1974 album, Slow Dancer, was bursting with creative ideas and would indeed prove to be the turning point, essentially breaking a new sophisticated form of Bay Area neo-soul into the nation's consciousness. Conceived as a sort of homage to the string-drenched Philadelphia soul sound, combined with the singer's obvious love for classic R&B, Slow Dancer's romantic and heartfelt approach would strike a nerve far beyond the Bay Area and begin bringing Scaggs recognition far exceeding the cult status of previous albums. Produced by Motown legend Johnny Bristol, who also contributed material, Scaggs delivered some of his finest performances to date, synthesizing all of his musical experiences into a highly melodic brand of organic urban soul. The Atlantic album gave Scaggs enough clout to make a move to Columbia Records, where Clive Davis was still at the helm as president. Columbia stuck it out with Scaggs until Silk Degrees made him a pop music champion between 1976 and the early 1980s. Scaggs then took a decade off to open a popular Bay Area restaurant called Slims, but he returned to music and touring in the mid-1990s.