Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bill "Boz" Scaggs

If you were a student at UW-Madison in the early 1960s, you may have been lucky enough to hear Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs jamming on the patio of the Memorial Union Terrace on the shores of Lake Mendota.

In 1959, when they both attended the same high school in Dallas, Texas, Boz Scaggs had joined Steve Miller's band, the Marksmen, as a singer and sometime harmonica player. The band's name was derived from the name of their private high school, St. Mark's School.

When Miller came to Madison to pursue university studies, Scaggs would follow him a year later after he graduated from high school. Steve Miller says, "When I left to go to college, Boz (Scaggs) came up to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I taught him how to play rhythm guitar real quick that summer, and we became The Ardells."

According to Jos Davidson's blog, Miller formed The Ardells shortly after arriving and would include Scaggs and Ben Sidran, both of whom had also studied at UW-Madison. "The band played mostly the university party circuit, plus a few gigs in Madison and local clubs and a couple of concerts and the Dane County Fairgrounds," said Jos Davidson.
"Back in the early 60’s it wasn’t unusual to find Boz jamming on the Union patio which overlooked a serene Lake Mendota, or gigging at some fraternity party with several other musicians.... 'It was a great scene back in those pre-Beatle days in Madison', Boz commented. “People were just starting to come out with frizzies and earrings. Steve and I, all of us, could still consider ourselves the “elite” musically, although things were happening a lot faster in San Francisco and New York. We wanted to escape all that mess. Madison was a conducive place for all of us degenerates to thrive and grow in.'” - Boz Scaggs' interview with Lynn Kellermann
They would both subsequently pledge the Chi Psi fraternity and live in Chi Psi Lodge on fraternity row near Langdon Street. The Chi Psi Lodge, referred to as "The Lodge," located on Lake Mendota is one of the oldest fraternity houses on campus.

In an interview with GRAMMY Museum's A Conversation With series, Scaggs describes Miller as a "real afficianado" and a very smart and very focused, individualistic-minded guy, who does things well. He states that they were best friends and that they were intensely focused on music.

Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio, and his father was a travelling salesman. His family would later move to Oklahoma and then to a small town outside of Dallas, Texas. He would meet Miller when he attended a private high school, St. Mark's School, in Dallas. It was also there that a classmate gave him the nickname, Bosley, which was later shortened to Boz.

The Ardells would all go their separate ways. Scaggs would leave Madison in 1963 without completing a degree and return to Texas to start his own R&B band, the Wigs. Miller would leave for Chicago where he immersed himself in the blues scene and played and jammed with Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Leo Sidran would finish a degree at UW-Madison. Drummer Ron Boyer would eventually open a restaurant, The Village Green, in Middleton, WI, which he still owns today.

Scaggs would eventually head to London to play in the rhythm and blues scene there, and subsequently to Sweden for a time, before rejoining Steve Miller in the Steve Miller Band in California to perform on the band's first two albums.

He would ultimately secure his own recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1968 and become a solo artist. Today, he still plays music from time to time, and he and his wife also operate vineyards, Skaggs Vineyards, in California.

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