Initially, Silk Degrees received a lukewarm commercial response and, similarly, the first single released from the album, "It's Over" just barely cracked the top 40 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, peaking at #38. One day, however, a Cleveland R&B radio DJ began playing "Lowdown" straight off the album. This was during a time period when DJs had much more say in what got played. Public response was very positive and soon Scaggs' record label, Columbia, sent the song to other R&B-oriented radio stations for airplay. It began receiving airplay on Top 40Pop stations as well, and when it was officially released as a single in June 1976, it went on to become Scaggs' first major hit, eventually peaking at number three on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. It was also successful on the R&B and Disco Singles charts, peaking at number five on both. The song was also a major hit in Canada, peaking at number two. It was a minor hit in the UK, reaching #28. Scaggs is quoted as saying that the success of "Lowdown" was 'an accident' and that, even though it was their favorite from Silk Degrees, he and the others involved in the making of the song thought there 'wasn't a chance in hell' that the song would have been released as a single. The single was certified gold by the RIAA for sales of one million copies and would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best R&B song of 1976.
Also, this song was used in the David Fincher movie Zodiac in a scene depicting real life character Robert "Bob" Graysmith telling Inspector Dave Toschi what he knew about the Zodiac Killer.
The song was also used in the episode "Gimme an O!" of the J.J. Abrams television series Felicity, where Noel (Scott Foley) is doing sit-ups in preparation for his date with Felicity (thinking that they're going to have sex afterwards), and "Lowdown" is playing on his little stereo.