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Boz Scaggs and the Dukes of September 2010

Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs: introducing the Dukes of September

Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 9:26 AM

Jay Lustig/The Star-Ledger

STAR-LEDGER FILE PHOTO

Donald Fagen is joining Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in the pop-soul supergroup, the Dukes of September.

The possibilities are endless.

The Dukes of September — a new pop-soul supergroup featuring Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs — will sing covers as well as their own songs on their upcoming “Rhythm Revue” tour, which starts Aug. 19 and comes to Atlantic City on Aug. 20 and Holmdel on Sept. 2. In a phone interview with a group of reporters last week, the three said they are considering songs recorded by everyone from the Beach Boys to David Ruffin, of Temptations fame.

“I’ve been doing revue-type things on and off since the early ’90s and it’s, in a way, the most fun kind of show to do, because it gives the audience a lot of variety, so it never gets boring,” said Fagen, who is best known as the voice of Steely Dan.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the interview came when Fagen said he may perform the Grateful Dead’s 1978 hit “Shakedown Street.” In the ’70s after all, the polished, subtly humorous Steely Dan and the scruffy, hard-jamming Grateful Dead were about as different as two bands could be.

As it turns out, Fagen has been singing “Shakedown Street” lately, when sitting in with Levon Helm’s band.

“It wasn’t the typical Grateful Dead song because it had kind of a dance beat to it,” said Fagen, 62. “I think they were kind of cashing in on the disco craze or something like that, but it’s a fantastic song with a beautiful lyric and it gets a great response every time that we do it, and so I think I’m going to try to put that in the show.”

BOZ SCAGGS
David Paul Morris/Getty Images


McDonald, 58, who contributed backing vocals to some of Steely Dan’s classic ’70s albums but became a star in his own right as a member of the Doobie Brothers, mentioned Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got News for You” as a possibility for the tour.

“That’s a song that I always loved playing, back even when I was a kid,” he said. “It’s one of those mainstays that I’m kind of thrilled to get a chance to sing again.”

Scaggs, 66, said the three are considering picking one song apiece from the repertoire of Helm’s pioneering roots-rock group, the Band. “Each of us has listened and dug them a lot over the years, and I know Donald’s been working with Levon, and it’s just sort of in the air,” Scaggs said. “So that’s a particularly exciting little bit of real estate that we’re looking at for the show.”

THE DUKES OF SEPTEMBER

This isn’t the first time that these three men, blessed with three of the most distinctive voices of their generation, have done this sort of thing. In the early ’90s they, and others, teamed up for a series of shows Fagen organized, called the New York Rhythm and Soul Revue.

“This is kind of a continuation of that tradition,” said McDonald, who described the opportunity as “a dream come true.”

“It’s almost self-indulgent for us,” he said. “And doing the old (covers) is really the more self-indulgent part for us, because we probably enjoy that even more than playing our own stuff.”
They will play with the same house band — made up, mostly, of Steely Dan alumni — and will back each other: Fagen and McDonald on keyboards, Scaggs on guitar.

Rene Macura/Associated Press

MICHAEL McDONALD

“Each of us probably enjoys being a sideman as much as being a frontman,” said Fagen.
They could have resurrected the New York Rhythm and Soul Revue name for this tour, but instead went with the Dukes of September. “Dukes” is evocative of classic doo-wop groups like the Earls and the Mello-Kings, and “September” alludes to both the time of the year that the group will be on the road, and the members’ ages (think of standards such as “September Song” and “The September of My Years”).

“We had a little trouble finding a name, actually,” said Fagen. “We went through a few names. I think we started out with the Theme from ‘Sea Hunt’ Rhythm Revue, but that didn’t get universal acclaim.”

Jay Lustig; (973) 392-5850 or jlustig@starledger.com

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