Boz Scaggs is an American vocalist, musician, and songwriter who emerged in the late-sixties incarnation of the Steve Miller Band and went solo with a 1969 Atlantic album. Between 1970 and 1988, he released eight albums on Columbia. His popularity peaked with the 1976–80 albums Silk Degrees, Down Two Then Left, and Middle Man. Scaggs evergreens include “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” “Breakdown Dead Ahead,” and “Miss Sun.”
Boz was born William Royce Scaggs on June 8, 1944, in Canton, Ohio. His family moved to Plano, Texas, where he learned guitar at age 12 and attended St. Mark’s School with Steve Miller. It was here that another schoolmate nicknamed him “Bosley,” which he later abbreviated to Boz.
In 1959, Scaggs and Miller formed their first band, The Marksmen. Both later attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where they played in several blues acts, including The Fabulous Knight Trains and The Ardells.
In 1965, Scaggs decamped to London, where he briefly partook in the R&B–beat scene. He then headed to Sweden, where he cut the album Boz. It was recorded in one day (9.30.65) and issued in Sweden only on Polydor. The album consists of 12 blues and folk covers, including songs by Bob Dylan (“Girl From the North Country”), Johnny “Guitar” Watson (“Gangster of Love”), and the traditional “C.C. Rider.” While in Stockholm, he played briefly with beatsters The Other Side, which also featured American draft dodger Jack Downing and English journeyman Mac MacLeod (Argent, Hurdy Gurdy).
Returning stateside, Scaggs settled in San Francisco, where he re-teamed with Miller in the Steve Miller Band. Scaggs played guitar and sang backing vocals on their first two albums, Children of the Future and Sailor, both released on Capitol in 1968. The former features two Scaggs-sung originals: “Baby’s Callin’ Me Home” and “Steppin’ Stone.” On Sailor, he wrote and sang the last two tracks, “Overdrive” and “Dime-a-Dance Romance.” Scaggs left the band later that same year.
In early 1969, Scaggs resided in Potrero Hill, where he slipped a demo to his friend and neighbor Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine. Wenner played the tape for executives at Atlantic Records, who green-lighted an album by Scaggs with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
1969: Boz Scaggs
Scaggs released his second solo album, Boz Scaggs, in August 1969 on Atlantic. It features two co-writes with Muscle Shoals keyboardist Barry Beckett (“I’m Easy,” “Sweet Release”) and four self-penned originals, including “I’ll Be Long Gone” and “Finding Her.” The album also features three covers, including a lengthy (12:30) rendition of bluesman Fenton Robinson’s signature “Somebody Loan Me a Dime,” here titled “Loan Me a Dime.”
Sessions took place at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, where Scaggs co-produced the album with Wenner and engineer Marlin Greene, a soundman for Percy Sledge and French singer Eddy Mitchell. This would be Wenner’s only involvement in an album production.
Boz Scaggs features a core backing band composed of Beckett and five additional Muscle Shoals players: bassist David Hood, drummer Roger Hawkins, fiddlist Al Lester, and guitarists Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson. Hawkins and Johnson both played on recent albums by Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Etta James, and Wilson Pickett. Four tracks (“Finding Her” and the three covers) feature dobro and slide guitar by Duane Allman, who was then between stints in Hour Glass and the Allman Brothers. “I’m Easy” features three-piece brass by tenor saxophonist Charles Chalmers (The Mar-Keys), baritone saxist Floyd Newman, and trumpeter Ben Cauley, the sole-surviving member of the original Bar-Kays lineup.
Boz Scaggs is housed in a brownish monochrome gatefold with inner-gate studio picks of the musicians involved, plus a nude outdoor pic of Allman.
Boz Scaggs released his third album, Moments, in February 1971 on Columbia (US, Canada) and CBS (UK, Australia, Netherlands). It features seven originals, including “Downright Women,” “Near You,” “Moments,” and the instrumental “Can I Make It Last (Or Will It Just Be Over).” Side two opens with “I Will Forever Sing (The Blues),” written by Powell St. John of Mother Earth.
Moments features musical backing by guitarist Doug Simril and keyboardist Joachim Young (Shades of Joy), both retained for the next album with bassist David Brown (31st of February, Betty Wright) and drummer George Rains (Mother Earth), who back Scaggs on two subsequent albums. On Moments, Brown contributes two songs: “Alone, Alone” and “We Been Away.” Scaggs’ onetime Ardells and Miller Band colleague, keyboardist and vibraphonist Ben Sidran, also appears on Moments. His concurrent solo debut, Feel Your Groove, features Scaggs, Brown, and Rains on “That Fine Day” and the title track.
Moments also features percussionist brothers Coke and Pete Escovedo (father of Sheila E.), sidemen of Cal Tjader and co-founders of Azteca. Additional musicians include Sidran guitarist James “Curley” Cooke (AB Skhy) and steel guitarist John McFee (Clover). Trombonist (ex-Loading Zone) leads the three-piece brass section comprised of himself, trumpeter Tom Poole, and saxophonist Mel Martin. All three later joined Cold Blood. The backing singers on Moments are collectively dubbed the Rita Coolidge Ladies Vocal Ensemble.
Sessions took place in late 1970 at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. British soundman Glyn Johns produced and engineered Moments in succession with Feel Your Groove and albums by Coolidge, Faces, Family, McGuinness Flint, The Rolling Stones, The Who (Who’s Next), and Humble Pie, whose guitarist (Peter Frampton) and bassist (Greg Ridley) appear elsewhere on Sidran’s album. Moments was mixed at Island Studios in London, where conductor Brian Rogers (McGuinness, Fresh Maggots) arranged strings on select passages.
Columbia visual artist Anne Blackford designed the Moments cover: an enhanced photo of Scaggs staring out to a lakeside sunset (front) and his band positioned along a rocky slope (back). The photographer, George Conger, also took the back cover shot on the 1970 Grateful Dead album American Beauty.
“Near You” and “We Were Always Sweethearts” both reached the Billboard Hot 100; the latter peaked inside the Canadian Top 40.
Boz Scaggs & Band
Boz Scaggs released his fourth album, Boz Scaggs & Band, in November 1971 on Columbia (North America) and CBS (abroad). It features four Scaggs originals (“Love Anyway,” “Here to Stay,” “Nothing Will Take Your Place,” “Your So Good”) and co-writes with O’Hara (“Runnin’ Blue”) and Miller Band colleague Tim Davis (“Why Why”).
Scaggs co-wrote three songs (“Monkey Time,” “Up to You,” “Flames of Love”) with Welshman Clive Arrowsmith, a fashion and album photographer (Rumplestiltskin, Jeff Beck Group) who took the eight-man group shot on Boz Scaggs & Band.
Boz’s band features Simril, Young, Brown, Rains, O’Hara, Martin, and trumpeter Tom Poole (Malo, Aura). “Flames of Love” features Coolidge (billed under the Ensemble moniker), soul singer Dorothy Morrison, and Santana percussionists Chepito Areas and Michael Carabello. “Here to Stay” features harpist and saw player Lee Charleton.
Sessions occurred in mid-1971 at Recorded at Olympic Sound Studios in London. Johns produced and engineered Boz Scaggs & Band apart from “Nothing Will Take Your Place” and “Here to Stay,” which Scaggs self-produced at CBS Studios in San Francisco with soundman Roy Segal (Chase, Copperhead, Laura Nyro, Sons of Champlin). An additional session at CBS, New York City, produced “Love Anyway,” recorded by Tim Geelan (Al Kooper, Dreams, Hampton Grease Band, Labelle).
1972: My Time
Boz Scaggs released his fifth album, My Time, in August 1972 on Columbia and CBS. It features ten songs material from two separate sessions: four recorded at CBS, San Francisco, with Boz Scaggs & Band players; and six recorded with house musicians at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
My Time features six Scaggs originals, including “Dinah Flo,” “Might Have to Cry,” “Full-Lock Power Slide,” and the title track. Brown submitted “Slowly In the West,” which Boz recorded without him in Sheffield. The album also features covers of Al Green‘s recent “Old Time Lovin'” and two songs by Allen Toussaint, “Hello My Lover” and “Freedom for the Stallion.”
Scaggs self-produced the Alabama sessions, which reunited him with personnel from his 1969 album, including Beckett, Hood, Hawkins, and saxist Chalmers, who sings backing vocals along with his wife Sandra. They recorded “Dinah Flo,” “Slowly In the West,” “Might Have to Cry,” “Hello My Lover,” “He’s a Fool for You,” and “My Time.” Additional contributors from the Muscle Shoals milieu include acoustic guitarist Eddie Hinton, organist Clayton Ivey, and guitarists Pete Carr and Jimmy Johnson. (The last three partook in the Shoals Sound sessions for Smokestack Lightning, the 1972 debut album by Spooky Tooth frontman Mike Harrison.)
Scaggs co-produced the CBS sessions with Roy Halee, a soundman for Blood Sweat & Tears, Laura Nyro (New York Tendaberry), Sagittarius, Snow, and Simon & Garfunkel. The core of Scaggs ongoing band (Young, Brown, Rains) partook in these sessions with backing singers Morrison and Linda Tillery. They recorded one track (“We’re Gonna Roll”) with saxophonists Jack Scherer and Jules Broussard, both of Van Morrison‘s backing band. Two other CBS recordings (“Old Time Lovin’,” “Freedom for the Stallion”) feature a four-piece brass section of Martin, clarinetist Jim Rothermel, and two Azteca players: tenor saxophonist Bob Ferreira and trumpeter Tom Harrell. The fourth track (“Full-Lock Power Slide”) is a core-group recording.
My Time is housed in a simple sleeve with a dark profile shot of Scaggs before an open window that overlooks a painted river valley. The photographer, Ethan Russell, also photographed the box-set package to the London Symphony Orchestra version of The Who’s 1969 rock opera Tommy. He subsequently photographed the gatefold and booklet imagery for their second rock opera: the 1973 double-album Quadrophenia.
“Dinah Flo” reached the Billboard Hot 100. Around this time, Smith frontwoman Gayle McCormick covered the Moments track “Near You” on her 1972 MCA solo album Flesh & Blood. Boz — along with Sidran, Cooke, Martin, and the Escovedo brothers — plays on the 1972 Metromedia Records release Take Me As I Am (Without Silver Without Gold) by ex-Steve Miller Band drummer Tim Davis.
1974: Slow Dancer
Boz Scaggs released his sixth album, Slow Dancer, in March 1974 on Columbia. It features three self-penned numbers and two co-writes with soul singer Johnny Bristol, who submitted three songs and produced the album.
Scaggs composed “You Make It So Hard (to Say No),” “There Is Someone Else,” and the closing ballad “Take It for Granted.” He co-wrote “Angel Lady (Come Just in Time)” and “Let It Happen” with Bristol, who wrote “Pain of Love,” “Sail on White Moon,” and co-wrote “I Got Your Number” with outside musician Greg Reeves (a session bassist for Crosby Stills & Nash). Scaggs co-wrote the title-track to Slow Dancer with musician George Daly, then a member of Nils Lofgren’s Grin. Side one closes with a gritty take on Toussaint‘s “Hercules,” a song cut the prior year by Aaron Neville.
Sessions took place in late 1973 at Devonshire Studios in North Hollywood, where Bristol produced Slow Dancer in succession with titles by Buddy Miles, Isley Brothers, Jerry Butler, Tavares, and Johnny’s 1974 MGM release Hang On in There Baby, which has his own rendition of “I Got Your Number.” Bristol’s engineer on these recordings, Greg Venable, subsequently worked with Johnny Hammond, Nancy Wilson, The Nights, Paul Kelly, and Stanley Turrentine.
Slow Dancer features more than thirty West Coast session musicians, including seven prominent guitarists: David Cohen (Fever Tree, Elephant’s Memory), David T. Walker (Billy Preston, The Crusaders), Dennis Coffey (Rodriguez, Ruth Copeland, Undisputed Truth), Greg Poree (Bobby Hutton, Eddie Kendricks), Jay Graydon (George Duke, Joe Cocker), Wah Wah Watson (Bohannon, Etta James, Marvin Gaye), and Red Rhodes (Harry Nilsson, Rod Taylor, Van Dyke Parks).
Slow Dancer lists five keyboardists: Clarence McDonald (Cheryl Dilcher, D.J. Rogers), Jerry Peters (Bobbi Humphrey, Gene Harris), Mike Melvoin (Lalo Schifrin, Lenny Williams), Russell Turner (Smokey Robinson), and Crusader Joe Sample (Kenny Young, Hodges, James & Smith).
Scaggs’ rhythm section veers between two bassists: Jim Hughart (Gato Barbieri, Joni Mitchell, Lori Lieberman) and What’s Going On sessionist James Jamerson (Creative Source, Valerie Simpson, Yvonne Fair); and two drummers: Ed Greene (Michael Franks, Shawn Phillips) and Watts 103rd Street Band alumni James Gadson (Bill Withers, Stu Gardner, Popcorn Wylie).
Slow Dancer features nine brass players, including Wrecking Crew trumpeter Chuck Findley (Wings) and three saxophonists: , , and Scaggs is also backed by percussionist King Errisson and five backing singers, including Carolyn Willis (ex-Honey Cone) and Julia Tillman of the The Waters clan. Conductor H.B. Barnum, an arranger for 5th Dimension and Gladys Night & the Pips, handled string and brass.
The musical cast on Slow Dancer largely overlaps with those found on 1972–74 albums by Donald Byrd (Ethiopian Knights), Edwin Starr (Hell Up In Harlem OST), The Temptations (1990), Willie Hutch (The Mack OST), and Zulema (Ms. Z).
Famed portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz took the green-tinted cover images of Scaggs on the original 1974 pressing of Slow Dancer. It portrays the singer walking toward the camera in beach trunks (front, full shot) and lying on his side on the sand (back, close-up). The cover designer, Ron Coro, did numerous packing visuals for sixties Columbia acts (Aorta, Electric Flag).
In 1977, after Scaggs’ commercial breakthrough, Columbia–CBS reissued Slow Dancer with a new cover photographed by Edwin Russell and designed by Tony Lane (Abel, Argent, Flow, Freddie Hubbard). This version has a yellow-framed monochrome shot of Scaggs (tuxedo-clad) face-planted in his dancing partner’s bosom.
Scaggs promoted Slow Dancer with spring–summer 1974 North American concert dates supporting Steve Miller, who catapulted to stardom with his 1973 eighth studio album The Joker. On select night, Boz played on bills opposite Golden Earring (5/1/74: Warner Theater, Washington, DC), Climax Blues Band (5/13: Masonic Auditorium, Detroit, with Sutherland Brothers & Quiver), Little Feat (5/?: UC Field House, Cincinnati), Tower of Power (8/?: 1974 Sacramento Fair Grounds, Sacramento), Weather Report (8/17: County Bowl, Santa Barbara), Allman Brothers (9/21: Sports Arena, San Diego), and Minnie Riperton (12/29–31: Paramount Theatre, Oakland).
1976: Silk Degrees
Boz Scaggs released his seventh album, Silk Degrees, in February 1976 on Columbia. It features two self-penned ballads and five uptempo co-writes with keyboardist David Paich, a recent Steely Dan sideman who handles this album’s arrangements.
Scaggs and Paich co-wrote two Motown pastiches (“What Can I Say,” “It’s Over”), one raunchy R&B number (“Jump Street”) and the album’s two breakout hits: the slick soul-funk jam “Lowdown” and the swelling, anthemic “Lido Shuffle.” Paich contributed “Love Me Tomorrow,” a reggae serenade over hi-hat slide. Silk Degrees also contains Boz’s fourth Toussaint cover, “What Do You Want the Girl to Do,” a song Allen cut on his 1975 Reprise Records release Southern Nights.
Scaggs himself wrote “Georgia,” a Trammps-style Philly tune about an illicit love. Each side closes with a ballad: “Harbor Lights,” which builds to a climactic samba-tinged Findley solo; and “We’re All Alone,” a candlelight ode to one-on-one intimacy (“Close the window, calm the light, and it will be all right”).
Paich played on prior albums by Elkie Brooks, Loggins & Messina, Rita Jean Bodine, and the 1974–75 Steely Dan titles Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied. He plays piano and Fender Rhodes across Silk Degrees, which also features him on Hohner clavinet (“Georgia”), Moog synthesizer (“Harbor Lights,” “Love Me Tomorrow”), Minimoog and Hammond organ (“Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle”), Wurlitzer and harpsichord (“It’s Over”). The following year, Paich formed Toto with the Silk Degrees rhythm section: bassist David Hungate and drummer Jeff Porcaro.
Silk Degrees features three guitarists: Jimmy Webb sideman Fred Tackett, A&M–Bell sessionist Louis Shelton, and recent Miller Band auxiliary Les Dudek, who plays slide guitar on “Jump Street.” Boz, in a return gesture, produced Dudek’s concurrent Columbia debut, which features most of Silk‘s personnel.
Wrecking Crew conductor Sid Sharp serves as concertmaster on Silk Degrees, which features eight horn players, including saxophonist Tom Scott (LA Express) and trumpeter Paul Hubinon (Pressure Cooker). “What Can I Say” and “Love Me Tomorrow” feature tenor sax soloist
. On the inner-sleeve, Scaggs stands before a silhouetted palm tree in a black leisure suit with white spread collar. also photographed the covers to 1976 albums by Al Jarreau, Alice Coltrane, Electric Light Orchestra, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Michael Quatro, Mr. Big (Photographic Smile), Robert Palmer, and Roderick Falconer (New Nation).
Columbia first plugged Silk Degrees with “It’s Over” (b/w “Harbor Light”), which peaked within the Billboard Top 40. However, “Lowdown” caught on as a deep cut with radio programmers, prompting its June 1976 release as an a-side. “Lowdown” shot to No. 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 (No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100) and No. 2 in Canada.
Boz Scaggs promoted Silk Degrees with a spring–summer 1976 US tour that included stops in Detroit (5/2/76: Fisher Theatre), Seattle (5/29: Paramount Northwest), Portland (5/30), and Philadelphia (7/27–28: Spectrum). He played double-bills with America (4/24: Boston Gardens), Fleetwood Mac (7/25: Schaeffer Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.), Maxine Nightingale (7/31: Wollman Rink, Central Park, NYC), and Ashford & Simpson (Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD). On August 7, Scaggs and John Miles opened for Elton John at Rich Stadium in Buffalo.
On September 25, 1976, Scaggs appeared as the musical guest on the NBC late-night comedy-sketch program Saturday Night Live (Season 2, Episode 2, hosted by Norman Lear), on which he performed “Lowdown” and “What Can I Say.” In November, Columbia lifted “What Can I Say” (b/w “We’re All Alone”), which just missed the US Top 40 but reached No. 2 in Australia and No. 10 on the UK Singles Chart.
Silk Degrees reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and the Canadian album chart. In Oceania, the album reached No. 1 in Australia and No. 3 in New Zealand. In February 1977, Columbia lifted “Lido Shuffle,” a hit in Canada (No. 5), Australia (No. 2), and the US (No. 11), where Silk Degrees was eventually certified quintuple Platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of 5 million copies.
“Lowdown” won the Grammy for Best R&B Song at the 19th Annual Grammy Awards, where it fended off competition by Diana Ross (“Love Hangover”), Dorothy Moore (“Misty Blue”), Johnnie Taylor (“Disco Lady”), and KC & the Sunshine Band (“(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty”).
Scaggs’ onetime backing vocalist Rita Coolidge covered the Silk Degrees deep cut “We’re All Alone.” Her version, lifted off her 1977 album Anytime…Anywhere, reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart.
On June 13, 1977, Scaggs was forced to reschedule his show at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City after a power outage caused by the city-wide blackout: an event referenced in the song “What a Week” by Liverpool showtune popsters Deaf School, who were also in town that evening.
1977: Down Two Then Left
Boz Scaggs released his eighth album, Down Two Then Left, in November 1977 on Columbia. He collaborated here with keyboardist and arranger Michael Omartian, who co-wrote five of the album’s ten songs.
Scaggs composed the opening trifecta — “Still Falling for You,” “Hard Times,” and “A Clue” — and the lucid, misty closing number “Tomorrow Never Came.” Omartian co-wrote “We’re Waiting,” the album’s lengthiest track (6:19) with a spacey middle jam. They collaborated on the balance of side two, including the marquee-laden “Hollywood” and the futurist big-band shuffle “1993.”
Musically, Down Two Then Left hears Boz belt rough (“Hard Times,” “Gimme the Goods”) and croon romantic (“A Clue,” “Then She Walked Away”) and fuse R&B with jazz-rock and art-rock on the side-closing numbers — a balance also explored in the concurrent works of Hall & Oates and Gino Vannelli. “1993” lifts its piano intro from “A Trick of the Tail” by Genesis before assuming its own stately romp. Scaggs collaborated with pianist Jai Winding on “Whatcha Gonna Tell Your Man,” the flowing, swelling penultimate track on side one.
Omartian, who arranged the horns and strings, plays keyboards and synthesizer across the album and adds accordion and marimba on “Still Falling for You,” the one track with Hungate. The main band consists of Jeff Porcaro, bassist Scott Edwards, and guitarists Jay Graydon and Ray Parker Jr. (Raydio). Another Toto co-founder, guitarist Steve Lukather, solos on “A Clue” and “Gimme the Goods.” Select passages feature percussionists Alan Estes, Bobbye Hall, and Victor Feldman, who plays vibraphone on “Hollywood.”
, which did the theme to the 1975–76 crime-action drama S.W.A.T. The backing vocalists on Down Two Then Left include Gilstrap, Willis, and (on “Hollywood”) and .
Down Two Then Left is Scaggs’ second of two albums produced by Joe Wissert and engineered by Tom Perry, who subsequently worked on albums by The Emotions, Earth, Wind & Fire (I Am), Ren Woods, and Roger Voudouris. The cover — designed by Columbia art director Nancy Donald with photos by French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin — shows Boz walking from a stairway (the entrance to Romanoff’s restaurant in Beverly Hills) where three ice figurines melt behind him. Donald also designed 1977—78 covers for the Bliss Band (Dinner With Raoul), Kimiko Kasai, Marlena Shaw, Russ Ballard, Valerie Carter (Wild Child), and Weather Report (Heavy Weather).
Columbia lifted “Hard Times” as the lead-off single (b/w “We’re Waiting”). In January 1978, “Hollywood” appeared as the second single (b/w “A Clue”) and reached No. 7 on the New Zealand singles chart.
Down Two Then Left reached No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 4 in Australia, and No. 11 on the Billboard 200. Scaggs consolidated his cross-Pacific fame with a February–March 1978 tour of Japan and Oceania, where he headlined over Kiwi sensation Dragon. In June, he toured the US with Aussie rockers the Little River Band.
1980: Middle Man
Boz Scaggs released his ninth album, Middle Man, in March 1980 on Columbia. He collaborates here with keyboardist and arranger David Foster, who co-wrote six of the album’s songs.
Musically, Middle Man encompasses soul-pop (“Simone”), funky R&B (“Jojo,” “Do Like You Do in New York”), lavish balladry (“You Can Have Me Anytime,” “Isn’t It Time”), and melodic rockers that range from tough guitar-based tracks (“Middle Man,” “You Got Some Imagination”) to fluid keyboard-driven cuts (“Breakdown Dead Ahead,” “Angel You”).
Scaggs self-penned “Do Like You Do in New York” and “Isn’t It Time.” He co-wrote “You Got Some Imagination” with Lukather and producer Bill Schnee.
Lukather plays lead guitar across Middle Man apart from “You Can Have Me Anytime,” which features a solo by Carlos Santana and strings by Marty Paich. Toto bandmates Hungate and Jeff Porcaro play on two-thirds of the album, where Silk Degrees architect David Paich (Marty’s son) reappears with synthesizer on “Simone” and “Do Like You Do in New York,” which features James Newton Howard on clavinet.
Ray Parker Jr. plays rhythm guitar on eight songs (everything but “You Got Some Imagination”), plus bass on “Do Like You Do in New York,” which features Barnstorm drummer Joe Vitale. The two other tracks without Porcaro (“Breakdown Dead Ahead,” “Isn’t It Time”) feature Hall & Oates drummer Rick Marotta. Jeff’s brother, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, is credited with “synthesizer programming” along with Larry Fast (Synergy) and Michael Boddicker, who also plays on 1979– albums by Airto Moreira, Danny O’Keefe, Manhattan Transfer, Midnight Star, Noel Pointer, and Terry Callier.
Middle Man features vocals on five tracks by Paulette Brown, ex-Ikettes Venetta Fields, and Disciples singer . Select tracks feature Sharon Redd (“Jojo”), Bill Champlin (“Do Like You Do in New York”), and the Waters siblings (“You Got Some Imagination”).
Sessions took place in late 1979 at Studio 55 (Los Angeles), Cherokee, and Sunset Sound Studios (both Hollywood). Schnee produced Middle Man in succession with albums by Brick, Firefall, Steely Dan, and the Pointer Sisters. He gives Boz a high-end sheen similar to David Foster’s production work on 1980–81 albums by Champlin (Runaway), Average White Band, Dwayne Ford (Needless Freaking), Ray Kennedy, The Tubes (The Completion Backward Principle), and Airplay — Foster’s studio project with Jay Graydon.
Middle Man sports a Donald–Bourdin cover on which a smoke-exhaling Boz reclines on the fishnetted thigh (front) of an unrevealed woman in a red leather bodysuit (back). The record is housed in a red inner-sleeve with billowing smoke on the text-less side.
“Breakdown Dead Ahead” appeared as the lead-off single (b/w “Isn’t It Time”). The song features Steps pianist Don Grolick, a presence on mid-seventies albums by Brecker Brothers, Henry Gaffney, Idris Muhammad, Libby Titus, Mike Mainieri, Roberta Flack, Steve Khan, and recent titles by Carly Simon, Roy Harper, and Stephen Bishop. In the “Breakdown” video, Boz (grey suit) and his backing band (white stage suits) mime in a sound studio while a disco girl (white jump suit) and a new wave guy (spiky orange quiff) dance in and out among the musicians. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” reached No. 12 on the Cash Box Top 100 (No. 15 on Billboard) and No. 8 in Canada.
“Jojo” appeared in June 1980 as the second single (b/w “Do Like You Do In New York”). Saxophonist Adrian Tapia carries the solo — the only appearance of horn on Middle Man. In the video, Boz (white leisure suit, orange shirt) mimes amid his backing players (plain clothed) in a dark studio with glow lights and aluminum fixtures. “Jojo” reached No. 17 on the Hot 100 and the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts.
Middle Man reached No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and No. 11 in Australia. “You Can Have Me Anytime” appeared as a third single in March 1981, backed with the Silk Degrees cut “Georgia.” In the video, Boz (white leisure suit) slits plaintively and walks slowly around his backing players (semi-formal attired) in a white–gray studio.
“Look What You’ve Done to Me”, Hits!
In August 1980, Columbia issued the Scaggs–Foster ballad “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” their contribution to the Paramount Western drama Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta and Debra Winger. The song plays during a scene where Bud (Travolta’s character) has an extramarital affair in the bedroom of Pam, a woman he picks up at a bar in front of Sissy (Winger).
Scaggs and Foster wrote “Look What You’ve Done to Me” in one evening at the request of the film’s producers, who contacted the pair on the eve of filming the scene. They recorded the song with Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, and Jeff’s bassist brother Mike Porcaro (who eventually replaced Hungate in Toto). The song also features Eagles guitarist Don Felder and backing vocals by this bandmates Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Timothy B. Schmidt — replaced in the film version by Paulette, Venetta, and the Waters.
The film version (female backing vocals) appears on the 1980 Asylum–Full Moon release Urban Cowboy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) along with cuts by The Eagles, Joe Walsh, , Bonnie Raitt, Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt, and Charlie Daniels.
The main version of “Look What You’ve Done to Me” (Eagles backing) appears on the November 1980 release Hits!, a ten-track Scaggs compilation with songs dating back to My Time (“Dinah Flo”) and another new number, the Paich composition “Miss Sun.” On the cover, Boz sports quiffed hair and a pink V-line jacket.
“Look What You’ve Done to Me” reached No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (No. 13 on the Cash Box) and No. 3 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.
Columbia accompanied Hits! with a 7″ release of “Miss Sun” (b/w “Dinah Flo”). Paich originally demoed the song with the nucleus of Toto and Jeff Porcaro’s then-girlfriend, Canadian singer Lisa Dal Bello. In 1980, Scaggs cut the song with Schnee. (Months earlier, the Average White Band recorded the song with Foster during sessions for Shine, but it was left off the album.) Scaggs’ is backed on “Miss Sun” by four-sixths of Toto (Lukather, Paich, Jeff and Steve Porcaro) and Dalbello. The song, which features Paich on Moog bass, reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1988: Other Roads
Boz Scaggs released his tenth album, Other Roads, in May 1988 on Columbia.
- Boz (1965)
- Boz Scaggs (1969)
- Moments (1971)
- Boz Scaggs & Band (1971)
- My Time (1972)
- Slow Dancer (1974)
- Silk Degrees (1976)
- Down Two Then Left (1977)
- Middle Man (1980)
- Other Roads (1988)
- Some Change (1994)
- Fade Into Light (1996)
- Come On Home (1997)
- Dig (2001)
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