Scaggs, Boz (actually, Scaggs, William Royce)

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Scaggs, Boz (actually, Scaggs, William Royce)

Scaggs, Boz (actually, Scaggs, William Royce ), guitarist, vocalist; b. Ohio, June 8, 1944. Gaining his first recognition as guitarist and vocalist on Steve Miller’s first two late-1960s albums, Boz Scaggs debuted solo in 1969 with his self-titled album, an overlooked blues classic recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala., with Duane Allman. Becoming a major star in his adopted hometown of San Francisco in the early 1970s, Scaggs broke through as an album artist with 1974’s Slow Dancer. Adopting a sophisticated soul-style sound, he was established nationally with 1976’s Silk Degrees album and its four hit singles. Scoring four major hits again in 1980, Scaggs withdrew from recording and touring in 1981. Scaggs eventually issued new, modest-selling albums, in 1988 and 1994.

William “Boz” Scaggs grew up in Okla. and Tex., met Steve Miller at age 15 in a Dallas-area high school, and soon accepted Miller’s offer to join his band, The Marksmen, as vocalist. He learned rhythm guitar from Miller, who moved to Wise, to attend the Univ. of Wise, at Madison, a year before Scaggs’s graduation. Scaggs followed Miller to the university the following year and joined Miller’s band, The Ardells, before returning to Tex. in 1963, where he formed his own band, The Wigs. In 1964 Scaggs traveled to England and decided to stay in Europe, singing on the streets of European cities and eventually establishing Stockholm as his base. Around 1966 he recorded a blues and folkstyle album, Boz, that was issued in Europe only. Summoned by Steve Miller in 1967, Scaggs moved to San Francisco, where he joined Miller’s band during the heyday of psychedelia and appeared on Children of the Future and Sailor, two of Miller’s most highly regarded albums, before departing in August 1968.

Signed to Atlantic Records, Boz Scaggs’s solo debut was arguably his finest work. Produced with engineer Marlin Greene and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, the album was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala., with the able assistance of keyboardist Barry Beckett and guitarist Duane Allman. It featured the 13-minute “Loan Me a Dime” and included “I’ll Be Long Gone,” “Sweet Release,” and early country artist Jimmie Rodgers’s “Waiting for a Train.” After returning to San Francisco permanently in 1970, Scaggs switched to Columbia Records for recordings in a less bluesy, more poporiented vein. Moments, recorded in San Francisco, yielded two minor hits with “We Were Always Sweethearts” and “Near You,” but the follow-up, Boz Scaggs and Band, largely recorded in London, failed to produce a hit, although it did contain the favorite “Runnin’ Blue.” My Time, partially recorded in Muscle Shoals, produced the minor hit “Dinah Flo,” but Scaggs was not to register another hit for four years.

Employing veteran Motown producer Johnny Bristol and utilizing studio musicians exclusively, Boz Scaggs recorded Slow Dancer in an orchestrated soul style. The album, often regarded as his finest later effort, includes “Angel Lady,” “You Make It So Hard (To Say No),” and Bristol’s “I’ve Got Your Number.” Scaggs debuted the album in March 1974 at Oakland’s Paramount Theater in a first-of-its-kind “black tie optional” setting, lavishly staging the event with a 27-piece orchestra and formally attired rock band, which included guitarist Les Dudek. Scaggs retained the format for Bay Area New Year’s Eve shows in 1974, 1975, and 1976.

Boz Scaggs fully embraced a sophisticated soul and disco-tinged style for 1976’s Silk Degrees. The album finally established him nationally, yielding the moderate hits “It’s Over” and “What Can I Say” as well as the smash hit “Lowdown” and the near-smash “Lido Shuffle.” It also included Scaggs’s “We’re All Alone Now,” a top easy-listening and smash pop hit for Rita Coolidge in 1977. However, the album’s phenomenal success overshadowed Scaggs’s subsequent work. The equivocal Down Two, Then Left produced minor hits with “Hard Times” and “Hollywood,” whereas Middle Man yielded major hits with “Breakdown Dead Ahead” and “Jojo,” both cowritten with producer David Foster. In 1980 Scaggs scored major hits with “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” from the movie Urban Cowboy, and “Miss Sun.”

In 1981 Boz Scaggs ceased recording and began limiting live performances to Bay Area benefits and Japan, where his records had sold spectacularly. In 1984 he opened the restaurant Blue Light Cafe in San Francisco, later opening one of San Francisco’s most daring and prominent nightclubs, Slim’s, in 1988. He also released his first album of new material in eight years, but the sophisticated Other Roads produced only a moderate hit with the ballad “Heart of Mine.” With the expiration of his Columbia contract, Boz Scaggs switched to Virgin Records for the rather sparse album Some Change in 1994, and conducted his first American concert tour in 14 years.


B. S. (1969); Moments (1971); B. S. and Band (1971); My Time (1972); Slow Dancer (1974); Silk Degrees (1976); Silk Degrees/Slow Dancer (1986); Down Two, Then Left (1977); Middle Man (1980); Hits! (1980); Other Roads (1988); Some Change (1994).

—Brock Hetander