Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen will join forces as the Dukes of September this summer when they hit the road for the 15-date (and growing) Rhythm Revue tour, starting Aug 19 in Danbury, Conn.
The jaunt is an outgrowth of all three men's involved in the New York Rock and Soul Revue, which was produced by Fagen's wife, Libby Titus, and went on the road in 1992 and, as a by-product, led Fagen and Walter Becker to reactivate Steely Dan. Fagen tells Billboard.com "we decided it needed a new name" in this incarnation, though the musical premise will remain the same, mixing their own material with favorite R&B and blues songs.
"I still love playing the music from the late 50s through the 60s, soul music and R&B, and this is really a chance for me to play it" notes Fagen, who's been an occasional member of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble Band both in Woodstock and on the road. "It's just so much fun to play that music. And for me it's a total no-stress thing because the focus isn't so much on me. I just get to play without it being so much of a job in a certain way. It's a lot of fun."
McDonald adds that "for us it's like a great escape. It's kind of a luxurious opportunity to do what we would have the most fun doing. We all have fun going out as Steely Dan or Boz or Michael McDonald...but it largely consists of our own records being reproduced live. This is more fun for us, in a way, and hopefully not too self-indulgent. I think the audience enjoys it, too."
The newly christened Dukes plan to get together for rehearsals later this month in New York, with a band that includes several members from Steely Dan's regular touring troupe. Repertoire discussions are already under way, and the trio is planning a medley of songs from The Band while Fagen is planning a rendition of the Grateful Dead's "Shakedown Street" as well as material from his three solo albums. "There'll be some blues, some Stax-type material," Fagen says. "Boz has got a Chuck Berry thing he wants to do, too." McDonald, meanwhile, expects to play some Motown songs -- though not necessarily ones from his pair of "Motown" releases -- as well as "some Ray Charles things."
"We always wind up doing a Beach Boys thing here and there; that's another favorite of all of ours," adds McDonald, a former adjunct Steely Dan member who also plans to perform Doobie Brothers hits such as "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' It To the Streets" as well as his own "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." "We want to put our best foot forward with our own songs because we're doing so many great old songs that all of a sudden the bar gets raised. You don't want to get up there and do something too obscure that is a dimmer moment in the evening."
Scaggs, meanwhile, predicts that the show will go "a little farther afield" than the Rock and Soul Revue, mentioning songs such as Little Anthony & the Imperial's "Hurt So Bad," David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended" and Mink deVille's "Cadillac Walk." "Out of hundreds of songs we've picked out of a hat," he says, "what are the gems and how can we fit it all into a two hour show?...What I know for sure is that I'll have the best seat in the house."
Steely Dan is currently off duty until a November tour of Australia, but Becker was a late addition to the 1992 Rock and Soul Revue tour. Would he do it again for the Rhythm Revue? "He hasn't mentioned it yet," says Fagen, who's currently working on his next solo album. "I think he wanted to take the summer off. I know he's working on some material of his own, but you never know with him. You can't pin him down."
The dates so far for the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue tour include:
Aug 19 Danbury, CT (Charles Ives Center)
Aug 20 Atlantic City, NJ (The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa)
Aug 22 Loudon, VA (Belmont Country Club)
Aug 25 Charlotte, NC (Roadrunner Mobile Amphitheatre)
Aug 26 Atlanta, GA (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park)
Aug 28 Raleigh, NC (Raleigh Amphitheatre)
Aug 29 Richmond, VA (Innsbrook Pavilion)
Aug 31 Boston, MA (Wang Theatre)
Sept 2 Holmdel, NJ (PNC Bank Arts Center)
Sept 3 Wantagh, NY (Jones Beach Theatre)
Sept 6 St. Paul, MN (Minnesota State Fair)
Sept 8 Detroit, MI (Fox Theatre)
Sept 10 Cincinnati, OH (PNC Pavilion)
Sept 11 Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre)
Sept 14 Council Bluffs, IA (Mid-America Center)
Sept 27 Denver, CO (Red Rocks Amphitheatre)
Sept 29 Los Angeles, CA (Greek Theatre)
Oct 2 Las Vegas, NV (The Joint)