Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jo Jo dig those spinning lights, way out games and dizzy heights below him. It’s all below him

Quick Hit

“Jo Jo” by Boz Scaggs (1980)

I was on vacation last week and started to frequent this coffee shop called ‘Jo-Jo’s Cafe”. It reminded me of the Boz Scaggs song “Jo Jo”. Very strangely (yes this really did happen!) when I snapped on the radio to drive to the restaurant for dinner they were playing “Jo Jo” on the radio. Just days before that I had purchased some great Boz Scaggs at the Fillmore posters.  These combined events had me thinking that the universe was implying something and I decided I better do a blog on Boz before I am struck down by lightening or something.

 Born in Ohio and raised in Oklahoma and Texas, Boz met Steve Miller while there were still in school. They went on to university together and Boz sang in their band the Marksmen, the Ardells and then the Fabulous Knight Trains.

Trying to make a go of it Boz went to Dallas to front ‘The Wigs’ but it soon broke up while on tour of England. Boz stayed on and ended up recording his first album in Sweden call “Boz”. It did next to nothing so he went back to the U.S. to catch up with his buddy Steve Miller. They recorded “Children of the Future” and “Sailor”, early Steve Miller Band efforts, but Boz again left to go solo.

Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine got Boz a contract with Atlantic records. He recorded several albums but never hit the big time. His “Boz Scaggs”, “Moments”, “Boz Scaggs & Band”, “My Time” and even “Slow Dancer” had some good critical success but were never popular. His 1971 “Moments” has been described as Boz’ “Moondance” Van Morrison equivalent.

Then it finally happened in 1976 this song that seemed to play in the background everywhere you went – “Low Down”, with its seductive double drum beat and cymbal intro. This was the work of session drummer Jeff Porcaro who would later provide the phenomenal drumming for a little band called “Toto”. The next thing you knew this unique voice was telling you that ‘baby’s into runnin round, hangin with the crowd.......I swear she must believe it’s all heaven-sent.” The sultry backup singers kick in and ‘bam’ the formula is complete – the song is a huge hit and would be the Grammy R&B song of 1976 (It has sold some 5 million copies now). This was all thanks to a Cleveland DJ who started playing it. What is it that is magic about Cleveland anyway?

Success was then a string of songs and albums steeped in R&B with jazz and rock influence starting with “Silk Degrees” a strong album with songs “Harbour Lights”, “It’s Over” and one of my favourite songs “Lido Shuffle”. This is the song that really sold me on Boz. I used to sit in this room the guys used to fondly refer to as the “Black Lung” in the U, before it actually became the “Black Lung” and played songs on this great juke box they had there – 25 cents each, 3 for 50 and 5 for $1.  I actually listened to a lot of songs for the first time on that old juke box – but played the crap out of that particular 45 as it was an old school jukebox.

Anyway... 1977’s ‘Down Two and then Left” was not as great a follow-up but a solid effort. It was not till Boz put out “Middle Man” in 1980 that he captured my full attention again with singles “Break Down Dead Ahead” and “Jo Jo” – great songs! His ballads are o.k. but when he picks it up he blows it out.

After this the trail goes a bit cold. The funky soul of Boz would endure but his commercial success would linger. He kind of disappeared in the 80’s and finally came out of hiding in 1988 with “Other Roads” but for “Heart of Mine” was pretty mechanical and flopped out. He has done a number of other albums including ‘Dig’ in 2001 that is pretty good.

Boz has always surrounded himself with good musicians in and out of the studio and when I saw him a few years ago he was still very good; albeit very laid back. I guess I would be too after a run that is much better than most guys have.

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