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Scaggs wrote this song with the keyboard player David Paich, who would later form the band Toto and write many of their hits. "Lowdown" was the first song that Scaggs and Paich wrote together; it was Silk Degrees
producer Joe Wissert who put them together.
In our interview with Boz Scaggs
, he explained: "We took off for a weekend to this getaway outside of LA where there was a piano and stayed up all night banging around ideas. We hit on 'Lowdown,' and then we brought it back to the band and recorded it. We were just thrilled with that one. That was the first song that we attempted, and it had a magic to it."
This was the second single released from Silk Degrees. The first was "It's Over," which charted at a modest #38 in May, 1976. Scaggs had little name recognition at the time, and sales were stagnant for the album until an R&B radio station in Cleveland started playing "Lowdown." Other stations followed suit, and it quickly became clear that the song had crossover appeal and hit potential. Scaggs' label, CBS, released it as a single and it climbed to #3 on the Hot 100 in October, spurring sales of the album along the way.
The song is about a girl who doesn't appreciate what her man gives her. The "dirty lowdown" is the honest truth - what Scaggs is encouraging this poor sap to face.
The word "Lowdown" was popular slang meaning a summary of what's going on for real. The first Hot 100 entry with the term in the title came in 1969 with the instrumental "Lowdown Popcorn" by James Brown (#41, 1969). Next came Chicago's song "Lowdown" (#35, 1971).
Along with keyboard player David Paich, two other future Toto members also played on this track: drummer Jeff Porcaro and bass player David Hungate. The Silk Degrees marked the first time that Scaggs used these studio pros, and it was also his first album produced by Joe Wissert, who was a staff producer at Columbia Records who had previously worked with Earth, Wind & Fire.
The crew for the album found just the right sound, a Disco-blend that could play in dance clubs and pool halls. Scaggs credits Wissert for giving him and the other musicians plenty of freedom in the studio, resulting in one of the most successful albums of the '70s - Silk Degrees went on to sell over five million copies.
This won the Grammy for Best R&B Song of 1976, making Scaggs the first white artist to win the award (Leo Sayer was the second, taking the trophy the next year for "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
The producers of Saturday Night Fever asked to use this in their movie, but Scaggs' manager turned them down and instead used it in the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Not a good move - Saturday Night Fever became one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.
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