Music Fills Summer Night Air


Grammy Award-winner Boz Scaggs will bring the blend of his blues, rock and jazz music to the Wells Fargo Amphitheater as he headlines the annual Under the Stars Summer Arts Festival on July 13. The festival also includes the Jazz in July concert featuring Emily Asher’s Garden Party with guest Bria Skonberg on July 8. Both concerts begin at 8 p.m.

“The Memphis Tour’’ is in support of Scaggs’ new studio album, “Memphis,’’ his first in five years. His 32 show dates take him throughout the country from California to Connecticut and from Texas to Florida, as well as Canada. He puts a distinctive touch on classic hits like “Rainy Night in Georgia,’’ “Corinna Corinna,’’ and “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,’’ as well as on a couple of originals. The 13-tracks were recorded in Memphis in three days at the city’s landmark Royal Studios.

His smash hit, “Lowdown,’’ earned Scaggs a Grammy Award in 1975 for “Best R&B Song,’’ off the multi-platinum release, “Silk Degrees.’’ The album also featured hit songs “Lido Shuffle,’’ “What Can I Say,’’ and “We’re All Alone.’’

Prior to his 1975 breakout album, Scaggs enjoyed critical acclaim and success with Columbia Records. He recorded seven albums with the record label, including “Moments,’’ “Boz Scaggs and Band,’’ “My Time,’’ and “Slow Dancer.’’ Those albums featured hit songs such as “We Were Always Sweethearts,’’ “Dinah Flo,’’ “You Make It So Hard,’’ and “Slow Dancer.’’

Raised in small towns in Oklahoma and Texas, William Royce “Boz’’ Scaggs took up the guitar at age 13. The 1950s music scene proved to be very influential on the aspiring musician as he listened to Top 40, R&B and jazz music radio stations. The era’s sound, featuring Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, TBone Walker and the Delta proved to be very influential on his career.

In the 1960s, Scaggs started playing in bands as a high school student in Dallas, Texas. Soon after entering college, he decided instead to devote himself to journeyman playing around campuses and various clubs and resorts. Scaggs’ guitar and voice provided his self-described “ticket to ride’’ as he left the states to travel in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He developed a club following in Sweden and began his recording career there in 1965 with a solo album for Polydor.

Yearning for a blues and R&B band, he traveled to San Francisco, Calif., in 1967. After a stint with fellow Texan Steve Miller on several albums, he signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records and debuted with Boz Scaggs, produced by friend and Rolling Stone founder, Jann Wenner. That record featured the renowned Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Duane Allman, and the slow-burn-to-high-heat track, “Loan Me a Dime.’’ Critical acclaim followed as did his long-term relationship with the record label.

Following “Silk Degrees’’ was “Down Two, Then Left,’’ “Middle Man” and “Hits,’’ a compilation that featured “Look What You’ve Done to Me” from the motion picture, “Urban Cowboy.’’ Scaggs only recorded one album in the 1980s, “Other Roads,’’ in 1987.

“In 1980, I decided to take a hiatus from the music business,’’ he said, recalling his decision. “I had intended it to be a six-month break, but I found when I got away from it that I wasn’t ready to jump back in. I had family matters to attend to. And at the bottom of it all, I just didn’t have any music in me, no creative urge at all. Music had become a routine.’’

The nineties began what Scaggs calls chapter two of his career. An invitation by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen to join his New York Rock and Soul Revue teamed Scaggs up with Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, Michael McDonald and Charles Brown among others.  Scaggs also signed a contract with Virgin Records and made an album of original material, “Some Change,’’ and then the Grammy-nominated, “Come on Home,’’ which was a collection of R&B classics and originals.

Scaggs’ jazz standards album, “But Beautiful,’’ was released on Gray Cat Records and featured a traditional quartet. It hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz chart. His second jazz record, “Speak Low,’’ was arranged and produced by Gil Goldstein for Verve Records. It featured a string quartet with harp and woodwinds.

“I’m not a jazz musician or singer,” Scaggs said, “but it showed me a whole new world of vocal expression. It was important to me in the way that I perceive music, in terms of harmonics and in using my voice as an instrument. These records were incredibly challenging, like nothing I’d ever done before.”

New Yorker magazine, commenting on Scaggs’ performance, called him, “one of the few middle-aged pop stars to convincingly delve into the Great American Songbook.”

In addition to touring extensively with his own band, Scaggs continues to work with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald as The Dukes of September, most recently playing a 47-city tour to rave reviews, performing their own material along with R&B and soul classics.

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