Scaggs returned to Dallas alone in 1963, fronting an R&B unit dubbed the Wigs; after relocating to England, the group promptly disbanded, and two of its members — John Andrews and Bob Arthur — soon formed Mother Earth. Scaggs remained in Europe, singing on street corners. He also recorded a failed solo LP in Sweden, 1965’s Boz, before returning to the U.S. two years later. Upon settling in San Francisco, he reunited with Miller, joining the fledgling Steve Miller Band; after recording two acclaimed albums with the group, Children of the Future and Sailor, Scaggs exited in 1968 to mount a solo career. With the aid of Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, Scaggs next secured a contract with Atlantic. Sporting a cameo from Duane Allman, 1968’s soulful Boz Scaggs failed to find an audience despite winning critical favor, and the track “Loan Me a Dime” later became the subject of a court battle when bluesman Fenton Robinson sued (successfully) for composer credit. After signing to Columbia, Scaggs teamed with producer Glyn Johns to record 1971’s Moments, a skillful blend of rock and R&B which, like its predecessor, failed to make much of an impression on the charts.
Scaggs remained a critics’ darling over the course of LPs like 1972’s My Time and 1974’s Slow Dancer, but he did not achieve a commercial breakthrough until 1976’s Silk Degrees, which reached number two on the album charts while spawning the Top Three single “Lowdown,” as well as the smash “Lido Shuffle.” Released in 1977, Down Two Then Left was also a success, and 1980’s Middle Man reached the Top Ten on the strength of the singles “Breakdown Dead Ahead” and “Jo Jo.”
However, Scaggs spent much of the ’80s in retirement, owning and operating the San Francisco nightclub Slim’s and limiting his performances primarily to the club’s annual black-tie New Year’s Eve concerts. Finally, he resurfaced in 1988 with the album Other Roads, followed three years later by a tour with Donald Fagen’s Rock and Soul Revue. The solo effort Some Change appeared in 1994, with Come on Home and My Time: The Anthology (1969-1997) both released in 1997. The newly energized Scaggs spent the next few years consistently releasing new material, including Here’s the Low Down, Fade into Light, Dig, and a collection of standards called But Beautiful. An expanded reissue of Silk Degrees and Runnin’ Blue (a recording of a 1974 performance) appeared in 2007, and Speak Low saw him reinterpreting a number of jazz standards in 2008.
Scaggs toured as a member of the Dukes of September in 2012; the group’s other principals included Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen. Scaggs emerged from his recorded silence in March of 2013 with the Steve Jordan-produced Memphis, a collection of original and cover tunes. Recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studio in the city, the album was meant to reflect the heritage of the Southern soul tradition in the 21st century.
In 2014, Scaggs — with Jordan again as his producer — booked four days at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studio with a core band from Memphis. They enlisted top-flight Music City session players as well as guests Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams to supplement the sessions. A Fool to Care, released by 429 in 2015, showcased covers of classic soul, NOLA R&B, rock & roll and country covers, and new material. ~ Jason Ankeny