Loan Me A Dime: ‘Boz Scaggs’ at 50

In 1969, the Grammy winning singer/songwriter delivered his landmark second album…and still manages to remain mostly unnoticed

Boz Scaggs Boz Scaggs, Atlantic Records 1969

It seems absurd now, but even after Boz Scaggs released his landmark Boz Scaggs album in August 1969, he continued to suffer from a lack of wider recognition.

It’s not that he hadn’t flirted with success; after meeting Steve Miller early on when the two attended the same private school in Dallas, Texas, he went on to collaborate with Miller in a series of seminal bands after the two reconnected at the University of Wisconsin. Later, when Miller formed his namesake Steve Miller Band after being lured to San Francisco during the halcyon days of love and psychedelia in 1967, Scaggs teamed up with him once more, appearing on the Steve Miller Band’s first two recordings — Children of the Future and Sailor — a year later. That later association didn’t last long however; by 1969, Scaggs was off on his own and his eponymous effort was born.

It’s not that Scaggs hadn’t aspired to a solo career before; in 1965, he made his way to Sweden where he recorded his one-off debut album, appropriately titled Boz. To this day, even his staunchest devotees mistakenly believe Boz Scaggs was his debut. Needless to say, the ultra-rare Boz could be considered the holy grail for both archivists and collectors. 

Boz Scaggs’ 1965 debut Boz

A collaboration between Scaggs and then-neighbor, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, Boz Scaggs didn’t fare nearly as well as it deserved to. Wenner was tapped to produce the album by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records as part of deal to secure additional funding for Rolling Stone, and give Scaggs an opportunity to record the demos Wenner had heard and subsequently shared with Atlantic. In retrospect, Wenner did a competent job as co-producer, having persuaded Scaggs to record in Muscle Shoals with the studio’s exceptional crew of studio musicians — among them, guitarists Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson, keyboardist Barry Beckett, bassist David Hood, drummer Roger Hawkins, and a young fledgling, but still much-admired, guitar player named Duane Allman. At the time, Allman was at a crossroads in his early career. He had recently returned to Macon, Georgia to assemble the first incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band,  but was coaxed back to Alabama to play on Scaggs’ album.

Inside cover of Boz Scaggs

Sadly, even with this ace session band at his disposal, Boz Scaggs fared poorly, selling less than 20,000 copies and going all but ignored by an unknowing public as a whole. Fortunately, it was an entirely different story as far as the critics were concerned. Pundits praised the variety of the material, which ran the gamut from the soulful stylings of “I’m Easy” and “I’ll Be Long Gone” (both of which prefigured the blue-eyed R&B he’d find success with later on), to the classic country trappings of “Finding Here,” “Now You’re Gone” and a cover of the Jimmy Rodgers classic “Waiting for a Train.” Scaggs’ early reverence for the blues is evident as well, most notably in the remake of “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” (refashioned here as a 12 and a half minute long showcase for Allman’s riffing under the abbreviated title  “Loan Me a Dime”). 

Despite Scaggs’ decision to sign with Columbia for his successive efforts, it would be another seven years before he struck pay dirt with the mega-selling album that assured his stardom and spawned a series of top 40 hits, 1976‘s Silk Degrees. By that point, Boz Scaggs was little more than a footnote in his ever-evolving career. Not surprisingly, in retrospect, the album has gained renewed respect and it’s now widely viewed as a worthy point of reference and an early indication of the exceptional efforts that were yet to come.  Even now, a half century on, Scaggs’ skills remain unabated. 

 

AUDIO: Boz Scaggs (full album)

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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