After over a decade of trying to make it as a solo act, singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs hit with a 5-million-seller, Silk Degrees.
Scaggs grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, and while at St. Mark's Preparatory School in Dallas he met Steve Miller. He joined Miller's band, the Marksmen, as lead vocalist while Miller taught him guitar. Scaggs followed Miller to the University of Wisconsin, where they played together in a blues-rock band known as the Ardells or the Fabulous Knight Trains. Returning to Texas in 1963, Scaggs joined an R&B band, the Wigs. The next year, Scaggs and two of the Wigs —John Andrews and Bob Arthur —went to England. Finding little success, they broke up (most of the Wigs eventually forming Mother Earth), while Scaggs roved Europe as a street singer, recording his debut LP in Stockholm. He returned to the U.S. in 1967 and moved to San Francisco. There he reunited with Steve Miller for two albums with the Steve Miller Band: Children of the Future and Sailor.
Jann Wenner, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, helped arrange for Scaggs' U.S. solo debut with Atlantic, Boz Scaggs. It was released to some critical acclaim but scant profits. The album gained most of its fame from the tune "Loan Me a Dime," which featured a memorable Duane Allman guitar solo; bluesman Fenton Robinson later successfully sued for composer credit on the song. Scaggs' second and third U.S. LPs were produced by Glyn Johns. On My Time he dispensed with a backing band in favor of studio musicians. Also at this time his vocals began to show more pronounced on Slow Dancer, produced by ex-Motown producer Johnny Bristol, which was again critically hailed but not commercially successful.
Then came 1976's Silk Degrees, with its #3 hit, "Lowdown," and other smashes like "Lido Shuffle" (#11, 1977). His studio band for much of the '70s included the nucleus of what became Toto. Though Scaggs has never quite matched that success, Middle Man yielded minor hits with "Breakdown Dead Ahead" (#15, 1980) and "Jo Jo" (#17, 1980). Scaggs also appeared on the soundtrack of the film Urban Cowboy (1980). In San Francisco, Scaggs became known for his annual black-tie concerts on New Year's Eve.
Scaggs' 1994 Virgin Records debut, Some Change, was his second album in 14 years. The preceding release, Other Roads (#47, 1988), yielded the hit "Heart of Mine" (#35, 1988). During the mid-1980s he opened a restaurant and rock club, Slim's, in San Francisco. Save for a lone 1988 album, Scaggs didn't fully begin to return to music until he appeared as part of Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue in 1991. Some Change (#91, 1994) was produced by former Beach Boys drummer and Bonnie Raitt band member Ricky Fataar. Its 1997 followup, Come On Home, peaked at #94.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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