Early life and career
Blue-eyed soul, classic rock and jazz singer Boz Scaggs was born William Royce Scaggs on June 8, 1944 in Canton, Ohio. His family relocated to Oklahoma before settling in Plano, Texas. He then attended a private school in nearby Dallas where he got the nickname “Bosley” — later shortened to “Boz” — which was given to him by a schoolmate.
It was at that very private school where he also met Steve Miller. The two became friends and later formed their first band The Marksmen, where Scaggs was the vocalist. Their friendship and musical partnership continued as both would attend the same university in Wisconsin. It was during that period where they started to play in blues outfits like the Ardells and the Fabulous Knight Trains.
For an unknown reason, Scaggs and Miller separated and the former returned to Dallas alone, where he formed an R&B outfit the Wigs. Then he and his band went to London, England and took part in the city’s burgeoning blues scene. He soon left Wigs, and the remaining members (John Andrews and Bob Arthur) later formed Mother Earth. Remaining in Europe, Scaggs went to Sweden and struck out on his own. In 1965, he released his debut solo album Boz in Sweden, which flopped.
Short stint with Steve Miller Band and first taste of commercial success
Two years later, Scaggs returned to the US and settled in San Francisco where he reunited with Miller. He later joined the Steve Miller Band and took part on its first two albums Children Of The Future and Sailor before leaving to have another shot of solo career.
Scaggs himself snagged a deal with Atlantic Records label in 1968. That same year he issued his sophomore effort Boz Scaggs which was warmly received by critics but, like the first album, it flopped commercially. Next he signed to Columbia Records and released the following LPs during the 70s music era — Moments (1971), Boz Scaggs & Band (1971), My Time (1972) and Slow Dancer (1974) which remained favorites with the critics but didn’t quite get the expected commercial success.
It wasn’t until 1976’s Silk Degrees where it finally became Scaggs’ commercial breakthrough, yielding four hit singles “It’s Over” (at #38 on the Hot 100), “Lowdown” (his first Top 10 hit at #3 pop, #5 R&B), “What Can I Say” (at #42, pop) and “Lido Shuffle” (at #11, pop). Silk Degrees peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and it sold five million copies and went multi-platinum. These songs have made them to ranks of the oldies music favorites.
Scaggs released Down Two Left in 1977, which also did well on the charts, eventually going platinum. He continued his fortunate streak with 1980’s Middle Man, which produced two Top 20 pop hits “Breakdown Dead Ahead” (at #14) and “Jo Jo” (at #17). He released his first compilation album Hits! in 1980.
He spent the rest of the decade out of the limelight, taking a long break to pursue other interests such as managing a night club in San Francisco where he occasionally performed. Scaggs resurfaced in 1988 with a new album Other Roads. The following year he joined an ensemble of musicians (that included Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen) for a musical project The New York Rock and Soul Revue. Scaggs remained with that project until 1992.
Scaggs continued to release solo albums: 1994’s Some Change, 1996’s Fade Into Light, 1997’s Come On Home and a two-disc anthology album My Time: The Anthology (1969-1997). He followed this up with Dig, which was released on September 11, 2001 which obviously got less attention than would have been expected although it got good reviews from critics.
Scaggs continued to consistently release records such as The Lost Concert (2001),But Beautiful (a jazz hit in 2003), another live album (and a companion live DVD)Greatest Hits Live! (2004) and Speak Low (2008).
In 2012, Scaggs toured with Fagen and Michael McDonald as a member of Dukes of September Rhythm Revue. He still continues to actively tour every summer. In 2013, he released his latest album MEMPHIS, which debuted at #17 on the Billboard 200. The Southern soul-influenced album featured a collection of original music and covers and was recorded in Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee (hence the album name). At 69 years old, he is still active touring as well as writing and recording music — and it looks like retirement is the last thing on his agenda right now.