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Boz Scaggs Interview 2009

Three decades on, Scaggs still going
Longtime musician, nearing 65, set to play in Lincoln City

By kerry eggers

Boz Scaggs, whose 1976 album, “Silk Degrees", reached number two on the charts, said he toured longer last year than he ever has.

Longevity often meets creativity on the road to success in the entertainment business.

There stands Boz Scaggs, at the intersection of fame and musical genius.

For a half-century – since his days with Steve Miller’s first band, The Marksmen – Scaggs has entertained audiences with his brilliant voice and guitar artistry. His 1976 album “Silk Degrees” – which included such hits as “Lowdown,” “Georgia” and “Lido Shuffle” – reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts.

Scaggs, who turns 65 on June 8, will be in Lincoln City for two shows at Chinook Winds Casino Resort April 24 and 25. The San Francisco-based singer spoke with the Portland Tribune on a variety of subjects.


Portland Tribune: You are coming off a week of vacation. Where’d you go? What’d you do?

Scaggs: My wife and I went to South America on an excursion boat. We were off the coast of Chile and Patagonia, and we spent time at Buenos Aires. I’d been on (a cruise) before, but never to that region. It was quite a getaway – a dream trip.

Tribune: You’re on a tour now that takes you through the Northwest and California and Texas and the Northeast and the South and ends in Denver in July. How much touring do you do these days? Do you get tired of it?

Scaggs: I toured last year more than I’ve ever toured in my career. I haven’t added it up, but I was probably on the road for six months … (and) involved in it for seven or eight months. That’s a lot for me. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I had forgotten what it’s like to do nothing but play music most of the time. It reminded me how lucky I am to be a musician.

Tribune: You go back 50 years with Steve Miller. You guys met in high school in Dallas, went to college together at Wisconsin-Madison and played in bands together. You even sang on the Steve Miller Band’s first two albums. What was that like?

Scaggs: I played guitar and wrote and sang. That was our first time in a studio. We recorded the first album in London, the second one in L.A. It was a great experience for us. We worked with a producer, Glyn Johns, who was very highly thought of as an engineer, having worked with such bands as the Rolling Stones and Beatles. That was really exciting, coming out with our first two records and starting a tour. Nothing like that maiden voyage.

Tribune: What were your musical influences growing up?

Scaggs: Two things. One, the music that was around my house. My parents loved music. There was a lot of music on the radio and the stereo. And two, radio itself. I’m one of those people who grew up when rock and roll started. I lived in a small town (Plano, Texas) near Dallas. There were a lot of different kinds of music on the radio – country and western and rhythm and blues, as well as top 40 and classical and all that stuff. It was remarkably diverse and rich. I felt as if I got a first-rate education in American music.

Tribune: You have such a distinctive voice. Are you a natural, or did you have to work at it? Did you have much professional training?

Scaggs: I didn’t have any professional training. I’m only a natural in that I have love for music. I’m passionate about it. It’s a big part of my makeup. When I compare myself as a professional to other singers or musicians, I find a lot of people with more natural talent than I have. I’m not being falsely modest when I say that. I really love music, and I forced myself to get it right and learn from the different styles to develop my own style.

Tribune: How much of your music do you write yourself?

Scaggs: I write all my own music, though I did do a jazz-tinged album, one with American standards. When I record a regular album, I’d say probably 70 to 75 percent of the music is mine, and all the lyrics are mine.

Tribune: Do you consider your music rock? Blues? Jazz? A combination?

Scaggs: I do it all. I come out of the American roots tradition of New Orleans. That’s kind of where my heart is – basic Delta black blues. When that turned into rhythm and blues, I went that way. When it turned into rock and roll, I went that way. That’s where I come from. That’s the music I loved and emulate.

Tribune: “Silk Degrees,” released in 1976, remains a classic. Do you still enjoy singing the old hits such as “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle” and “We’re All Alone”?

Scaggs: I do, yeah. Those songs have stood up really well. They sort of become reinterpreted with different situations I get into musically. I work with great musicians, and they put their signature sound on whatever style I’m working with. A song like “Lowdown” can take all sorts of different treatments. Same with “We’re All Alone.” With “Lido,” we can move around a little bit. “Georgia” is one that has an arrangement that you pretty much stick to. Some songs you can do that with and have longevity, and others take on a different life.

Tribune: How much new material do you play in your concerts now?

Scaggs: We’re just putting together a set list for this coming tour. I’ve written nothing new for the tour, but we’re going to do some songs I have never performed. I released an album (“Dig”) in 2001, and unfortunately it came out on 9-11. It is a record that never got heard. We’ll play some stuff from that, and some rhythm and blues material I’ve never recorded that people might be interested in. We’ll do a mix of hits – songs people want to hear – and a smattering of other stuff I like to do.

Tribune: Do you still own Slim’s nightclub in San Francisco? Do you ever play there?

Scaggs: We just had our 20th anniversary. I played for it. We have another place in the city called “The Great American Music Hall.” I play there from time to time for benefits, on occasion to play with other musicians.

Tribune: Do you still own a vineyard in Napa Valley?

Scaggs: My wife and I live in San Francisco, and we have a place up in Napa. We have a couple hundred of acres of grapes. We get 200 to 300 cases of wine a year from it. In past years, we’ve made it for ourselves and friends. It stacks up pretty high. Now we’re going to start selling it at scaggsvineyard.com.

Tribune: You’ve played Portland before, but have you been to the Oregon Coast? How do you feel about playing there?

Scaggs: I have been to the Oregon Coast. It’s been some years. I’m on the road to play shows. I’m into playing music and seeing what I haven’t seen.

Tribune: You’re pushing 65. How much longer will you continue to perform?

Scaggs: I don’t know. I’ll do it as long as I can and as long as I’m interested. I don’t see that changing. I don’t see it right around the corner.

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