Boz Scaggs to Play at the Cascade Theatre
● By Enjoy Magazine
He has always held high an appreciation of music history, especially the old blues and R&B tunes, he heard over the airwaves from faraway radio stations while growing up in Texas.
“We had radio coming out of New Orleans and as far away as Nashville and Chicago,” Scaggs says.
“I listened to a lot of hardcore R&B late at night. And there was an extraordinary station out of Dallas that was practically like a master class in roots music, specializing in Delta blues. In school we’d get together in a vacant classroom at lunch and listen to 45s,” he adds. “That’s where I heard people like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Elvis and the doo-wop groups.”
Many of those past influences were on Scaggs’ mind during the recording of his recently released “Memphis,” his first studio record in five years.
On this new CD, he has recorded R&B classics like “Corinna, Corinna,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” and “Love on a Two Way Street,” along with a pair of originals.
Produced by Steve Jordan, a drummer who has worked with the likes of Keith Richard, John Mayer and Eric Clapton, the album was recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studio in Memphis, where the late Mitchell recorded Al Green, Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner.
With a band that included Jordan, guitarist Ray Parker Jr. and bassist Willie Weeks, along with guests like Spooner Oldham, Charlie Musselwhite, Rick Vito, and Keb’ Mo, Scaggs says everything felt right.
“I just wanted to sing the songs, to be the vocalist primarily,” he says. “After all these years, after all the projects, there is nothing more satisfying than finding all the elements that go into a good song and putting them together and having them work out in a balanced way. When your love of the music and your voice can match up, it’s like you’re flying. It’s the closest thing to transcendence, a glimpse of something perfect.”
The genesis for the Memphis project came out of his work with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald. Together, they have recently been touring as The Dukes of September, performing their own songs and R&B classics.
Scaggs’ musical journey has switched gears throughout his personal history, beginning when he began traveling around Europe and Scandinavia in the mid-’60s, and discovered that people there often appreciated American music more than Americans.
“My guitar playing and singing was my passport to travel. I spent about three years traveling around the world. That, and washing dishes, and pushing a wheelbarrow around would get me from place to place. I loved the music; I’d been playing in high school, so I’d played in clubs in Stockholm, Paris and London. I was more interested in exploring things. It was only later on, after I had a couple of records under my belt, that I realized I was a professional musician.”
Summoned to San Francisco by his friend Steve Miller to join his band on a couple of albums, Scaggs set out on his own with 1969’s “Boz Scaggs.” It set the template for subsequent albums like “Moments,” “My Time” and “Slow Dancer.”
But Scaggs’ career shot to the top of the charts with the 1976 release of the multiplatinum “Silk Degrees.” The right album at the right time, it was a mixture of a smoother-sounding R&B which produced hits like “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,” “What Can I Say” and “We’re All Alone” (which was also a hit for Rita Coolidge).
In addition to the new songs from his “Memphis” album, Scaggs has a repertoire of hits that he plays during his shows, including “Breakdown Dead Ahead” and “Jojo” from the album “Middle Man,” as well as “Look What You’ve Done to Me” from the 1980 soundtrack to the film, “Urban Cowboy.” He’s still touring at an 80-show-per-year pace.
The name of the game, he says, is the same as it was years ago, when he got into the business.
“Butts in the seats. I’ve done a lot of different music, and I’ve cultivated my fan base. I’m of that generation where people want to hear the songs that I did back then, and I get to work some of the newer stuff in and capture people’s imaginations.” •
Boz Scaggs at the Cascade Theatre September 18 • www.cascadetheatre.org