Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Back to Being Linwood Taylor
Whenever musicians need a strong, reliable guitar, they frequently turn to the D.C. area’s Linwood Taylor.
The Virginia-based, Prince George’s County reared guitarist has guest-starred on albums by Bad Brains leader H.R. and Prince George's County, Maryland harmonica player Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark. He has shared the stage with Johnny Winter and opened for Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack and Rory Gallagher.
But a two-year stint with Joe Louis Walker made Taylor re-evaluate who he is as a musician. Specifically, his long-standing determination to be known for his own accomplishments—rather than for his association with other musicians—was prodded back to life in February, 2010 when Walker called him to tell him he was dropping him from his tour. “I’m like ‘really?’ I said ‘okay, whatever,’ “said Taylor, who had just soloed on Walker’s album, Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. ”What was I going to do, you know?”
Taylor decided to focus his energies on being a bandleader, drawing from a pool of friends to staff a new--though apparently in flux--incarnation of the Linwood Taylor Band, a touring group he has helmed for decades.
"Right now I got Tommy Lepson who plays the keyboards when I can afford him," he said."I got Charles "Red" Adkins playing bass for me when I can get him. And then I got this guy Rodney Dunton playing drums with me. It's a pretty loose crew at the moment. It's who's available. It's the mercenary nature of my business right now."
In addition to performing, Taylor has started work on a new album that will ultimately consist of ten to twelve original songs. “You know we’re trying to do as many as we can and then we’re going to see which ones do well together and which ones don’t,” he said.
A bluesman who unabashedly leans toward the rock side, Taylor promises an album that will steer away somewhat from the traditional structures of the blues genre. “There’s always an element of rock because I like that guitar sound,” he said.
Born in Fort Lee, Virginia, Taylor first came to the D.C. area in 1958, when he was two years old. He took up the guitar as a youth, and, influenced by players like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and groups like Led Zeppelin, began playing in garage bands.
As an up-and-coming professional musician, he caught the ears of members of bands led by the D.C. area’s musical royalty: Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and the Nighthawks, among others. Those bands' members wanted to play with him, he said.
“The best guys in town, as soon as they found out you were hiring and doing gigs, they all gave me their numbers,” he recalled. “I mean these are guys that I would go and see them perform somewhere but they are like going, “Oh no, man, here’s my card. If you ever need somebody, call me.
He has already recorded three albums, all self-produced. The first, Live at Colonial Seafood, was a live recording of a show he had given at a Fredericksburg, Virginia restaurant in 1991 or 1992, he recalled. He recently started reissuing the album, which had been out of print.
He recorded his second album, Take This and Stay Out of Trouble, live in the mid-90's at various locations around the D.C. area, he said.
Recorded in a studio ten years after his second album, his third album, Make Room for the Paying Customer, started to break the ground he plans to explore with his new album, deviating from the standard structural patterns normally associated with the blues.
An informal but knowledgeable musical historian, he frequently contributes videos from a variety of blues and rock musicians to Facebook.
Taylor started his Beldon’s Blues Point interview by recalling that, when he was ten years old, an accordion salesman tried to turn him in a musical direction he just did not want to go. I figured that since we were about the same age—and grew up in the same area—the salesman might have been the same one who sold my mother an accordion for me to use. Like him, I never used it, and she has never let me forget it….
BBP: How did you get started in music? It must have been when you were like five or six years old, right?
Taylor: (laughs) Actually, I wanted to play guitar since I was about ten and I wound up starting on accordion, which I didn’t want to do, but some guy came selling them door-to-door and, you know, there you go. And sold my parents, but not me, but I went along. He said it would be easier than playing guitar. And…total salesman…of course it wasn’t. And of course I had no interest in it because it wasn’t guitar.
BBP: I think the same guy came to my house. Because I did the same thing.
Taylor: You know, it’s just one of those things. And then I got an acoustic guitar a couple of years later. And it wasn’t really what I wanted and I started playing, you know, and I started to play, and I had actually started playing left-handed and then I injured my finger playing sports. And while it was healing, I switched over and sort of fiddled around with the right-hand. And then about a year later I started playing pretty much in earnest right-handed, and haven’t looked back.
BBP: Are you naturally left-handed?
Taylor: Um, I’m mixed up. They say I’m ambidextrous but some things I do left-handed, some things I do right-handed.
BBP: How old were you when you started playing electric guitar?
Taylor: About 14 or so.
BBP: Okay. And who were you listening to back in those days? I mean what music?
Taylor: Back then, you know, I mean what really prompted me was actually seeing a video of Jimi Hendrix playing “Foxy Lady,” and I said “Oh wow, check this out.” And so obviously Hendrix, but you know Cream, Clapton, Zeppelin, you know some R and B stuff. Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” that whole thing was happening at that time.
BBP: Were you more oriented towards the rock?
Taylor: Yeah, definitely the rock, because, well, let’s face it, back then R and B music, the guitar was pretty much subjugated. Given the recordings back then, it was hard to hear some of the guitar parts. I mean, they were buried in the mix and you’d hear a little chinga, chinga, chinga and that would be about it. You know, there were notable exceptions. You know, like “Soulfinger,” or the thing by the Bar-Kays, “Soulfinger” by the Bar-Kays, or “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave, or, of course, “Green Onions” by Booker T and the M.G.’s., which was a favorite group pretty much until Hendrix came out.
BBP: Do you remember the first time you played in a band that you felt was really making a dent?
Taylor: Well, the first band that I actually did that in was one of the early versions of the Linwood Taylor band. We got a gig opening for Johnny Clyde Copeland and I actually had Phil Wiggins of Cephas & Wiggins playing harp with me. And Cesar Diaz was playing guitar with me as well. Of Diaz amplifiers, who played guitar and built amplifiers for Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Rolling Stones. You name them, he’s done guitars for them, he’s done amplifiers for them.
BBP: Was this a guy from Pennsylvania? Because I remember someone was telling me about him. It might have been you.
Taylor: It was probably me. It was probably me because I’m the guitar freak and Cesar, you know, Cesar and I wound up being friends eventually. And he hipped me to a lot of different cool sounds. How to get them, and you know, the kind of things you needed to do to get a good tone, that kind of thing. It’s definitely one of the most overlooked things of many, many guitar players, even today.
BBP: They’re getting a bad tone because of the equipment they use?
Taylor: It’s mostly….I would say part of it is that. You can make almost anything sound good enough, because most of your sound is going to come from your hands. But the thing is that, if you don’t know how to set your amp and your guitar, you’re just not going to get a good sound.
BBP: Was Cesar playing in your band?
Taylor: Yeah, he actually did. And this was a little bit before—meeting him was before he actually played with me. We had already been friends, before I got my first gig as the Linwood Taylor band. And in fact, I always told him, you know, to this day I’m grateful for him making me—and I mean literally making me—call it the Linwood Taylor band.
BBP: Why are you grateful for that?
Taylor: Well that’s just it. I didn’t want to call it that. I mean, I had some guys who had many more years of experience and were way better than I was. He insisted that I call it the Linwood Taylor Band and in fact when the guy came out and said, “Well, what do you want to call it, what’s the name of your band,” and I went to call it something else, my man put his hand over my mouth and said “The Linwood Taylor Band.”
BBP: Who did you find yourself opening for during those periods?
Taylor: Let’s see, Lonnie Mack. Johnny Copeland. Rory Gallagher. A lot of guys would come through town. Those are the ones that popped into my head right away, you know.
BBP: What was Johnny Copeland like?
Taylor: Hey, to me he was great. I always enjoyed him and he was always very encouraging to me.
BBP: Did they ever show you stuff? I mean, on the guitar. Did you ever show them stuff?
Taylor: I kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open. And basically I kind of just did a thing where—I opened for Albert Collins too, how could I forget that, jeez—the thing was, I would just keep my eyes and ears open. My mouth shut. And I would learn something. And I would see some things and then I would try to emulate them, but I—my first inclination was to let them show me—and then I said “Nah, don’t show me. Let me try to do it on my own. And if I mess it up and don’t quite get it, that’s fine, because then it’s what I do. You know, it’s much more of me, than me trying to copy them.
Taylor then talked about how blues venues have dried up. He agreed that the economy might play a role:
Taylor: You know the economy, changing tastes, the sort of thing like, if you’re playing blues, they want you to play a certain thing. You’re not able to bring in the new people because the people who are doing the hiring, doing the talent buying, they tend to want you to play the same old, same old and it’s like, “Well gee.” The kids here, it’s like the same old, same old and they’re not as interested in that kind of a thing. So you’re fighting that battle. I will say it’s much more open than it was a few years ago.
BBP: What do you mean it’s “more open?”
Taylor: Well, I mean, I’m seeing like younger kids come up, and they’re actually being called blues, but they’re playing some things that, a few years ago, they would not have considered blues. And it’s basically what I consider simple things. Maybe they’re using a little different chord progression or a little different turn-around or a little, you know, some slight little thing, you know that to me, is like “yeah, it’s blues, it’s blues, the subject matter is blues.” But if you had done that before, you’re not considered blues. So it’s like wow, you know? I can tell you I was doing a pick-up gig behind somebody at Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia and the manager came in on the second night. It was funny because my back was to him in the dressing room, and he said “Well, you all play some blues.” And I could see the look on everyone’s face and they’re looking at me, and I just kept a stone face until the manager left. And once he left I peeked around the corner to make sure he was gone and they looked at me like “I thought we were playing blues!” Yeah, we were, but what he was talking about was he wanted the same old, same old thing and we were doing something a little fancier that he could not relate to..the management wasn’t ready for what we were doing and I’m thinking, “Yeah, it was blues but this guy wasn’t ready for it and I tried to explain it to everyone else and it’s just like, well…”That’s where he’s coming from, but don’t be offended. It’s just that you went over his head.”
BBP: You’re working on a new album now, right?
Taylor: Right now, we’re taking all of the original songs that myself and a couple of other buddies have been able to come up with and we’re playing them. You know we’re trying to do as many as we can and then we’re going to see which ones did well together and which ones don’t. I would have to say that this is all modern blues and I say “modern blues.” But with me, it’s always…there’s always an element of rock because I like that guitar sound.
BBP: Who are some of the people that you’ve enlisted on the project?
Taylor: Um, (keyboardist) Tommy Lepson is on it, (drummer) El Toro Gamble is on it. I’m probably going to get (harmonica player Anthony) Swamp Dog (Clark) on it because I played on Swamp Dog’s album and I’m going to try to get my buddy (singer/guitarist) Memphis Gold to play on it too, because I played on his album.
BBP: Where are things now in the production? Are you self-producing?
Taylor: We’re still recording. We got a couple of things done and we’ve been listening to it and we just have to go back. I’m probably going to try a different vocal approach and the drums are going to play a different…play a little bit differently. We played very conservatively on the original track because we’re building these tracks.
BBP: You said the album will be modern blues. How would you define “modern blues?” Well you mentioned there’s a rock element to it, but would the rock element make it “modern blues?”
Taylor: When I say modern blues, think of like, if you looked into Albert King’s early 50’s kind of stuff, or mid-fifties stuff, it borders on big band swing kind of stuff. And then you hear what he did on “Born Under a Bad Sign,” you know that first thing he did on Stax, and then the next things he did where he had the Bar-Kays backing him up. It was blues, but there was definitely a funk element on those recordings. In addition to “Born Under A Bad Sign,” there was also Booker T and the M.G.’s backing him up. And the chord progressions, they weren’t in the 12-bar, which is cool. There were arrangements and that kind of thing.
BBP: So you’re looking to get away from the 1-4-5 pattern?
Taylor: Exactly. I mean I actually started to do that a little bit on Make Room for the Paying Customer. Just harder to do that. I opted for more of a sonic approach to get away from the straight thing. Then I did the harmonic approach. But this thing, I’m just going for broke. I figure, what the heck?
BBP: I looked you up on the Internet and you did this concert for the Diamond State Blues Society at some point up in Delaware and you’ve been touring with Joe Louis Walker, and I think at some point you were with Bad Brains for a while, right? Did you do something with them?
Taylor: Not Bad Brains, but H.R. the lead singer. I played on his first solo album. That was a long time ago, too.
BBP: How did that come about?
Taylor: I just got a call, you know? I was still working at Wheaton music and I got a call and I said “Yeah, I can be there.” So I showed up at two recording studios, which is where I recorded with Memphis Gold this past summer, last summer and I actually wound up playing a show with them, and all I can say is the reason I didn’t go on the road with them was it was simply business, you know? Some people’s business is tighter than others is all I’ve got to say.
BBP: You thought it would have been a bad decision to go on the road with them? And would that have been with the whole band or just with him?
Taylor: I wouldn’t have been with the Bad Brains, it would have been with him. His band. The gig that I did was one of those deals. It’s just like, hey, I got a call to come sit in and I’m thinking “okay, I’ll sit in for a couple of songs. I wound up playing the whole show, playing songs that I never knew, only soloed over them like six months earlier, so I’ve got my little cheat sheet. It was chaotic, it was magical, but all I can say is, the business wasn’t right. Let’s just put it this way: I’m not like guys who sit down, waiting for somebody to call, you know. I’m hustling. And back then, I was hustling even more, so, you know I had the open schedule and I did the thing, but they were expecting me to come up to New York and I’m like “you didn’t say nothing about that.” I’m like, “I’ve got gigs here.” It’s that kind of a thing, you know. I mean you don’t just—you don’t just leave people in the lurch, you know. I guess a lot of people do and that’s fine, but that stuff always comes back.
BBP: Yeah, for sure. When exactly were you guys collaborating?
Taylor: I probably recorded it back in the late eighties, ’89, and I did the gig with him in ’90. It was that long ago. I saw them when they first came out and I told H.R. This, I said “Man, I saw you up at Oddfellows in Baltimore,” and he was stunned. He said “Man! You were there at the beginning. He was blown away that I actually knew about that place and had seen him that far back.
BBP: Wow. So that struck a nerve with him.
Taylor: Yeah, it did.
BBP: You mentioned Albert Collins. You said you played behind him at some point or you toured with him?
Taylor: Uh, well, I sat in with him a few times. He kicked me some money for my performances (laughs). I figured that was good.
BBP: And Johnny Winter too? I understand you opened for him one time?
Taylor: Now that was a year ago. Oh, I forgot…I did open for him at Jack’s over here. And this past year I played with Johnny in Joe’s band. Johnny came in and sat in with Joe and I was in Joe’s band and got to play with Johnny.
BBP: Joe being….
Taylor: Joe Louis Walker
BBP: He’s done the album “Blues Conspiracy.” Oh, and that reminds me. There’s also a youtube of me with Ronnie Earl.
BBP: Okay, you were tending to hang out with Stony Plain Records artists?
Taylor: Well, that’s because Joe’s on that label. Joe’s on that label, so that’s sort of the association. And a lot of those guys, you know my guess is, you know they have something to do with the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, that kind of thing.
BBP: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. That thing that Deanna Bogart was on.
Taylor: Oh, Deanna Bogart. I know Deanna. I’ve known her for years.
BBP: Have you ever done any gigs with her?
Taylor: Yeah, in fact right after 9-11 we did some kind of benefit for the firefighters or whatever in Virginia. It was Deanna Bogart, Tom Principato and myself. We were sort of fronting this all-star band kind of thing.
BBP: What musicians do you like playing with the most?
Taylor: The ones I’m playing with at the moment (laughs). I mean, it’s kind of like, everybody’s good. You play on people’s strengths, that kind of thing. It’s just like any other thing. Some guys are good at this, some guys are good at that, depending on who’s good at what. You play to those strengths and you take it from there because that way everybody sounds good. As opposed to, you try to force somebody to do something and be what they are not, that kind of thing.
BBP: Tell me about playing with Joe Louis Walker. You’d been touring with him for a while: two years. How did that come about?
Taylor: I worked with Joe for two years. It was fine. I got to see a lot, do a lot, play a lot.
BBP: Okay, but how did you meet him? How did you hook up with Joe?
Taylor: I met Joe when he was first coming around back in the—I guess—mid, late eighties. I know I met him around ’89 or so. I’d heard about him, but I met him around ’89.
BBP: So how did the tour come together?
Taylor: Joe had been out of the country for a while about a year before I started playing with him. I guess this was ’06 or something like that. I ran into him again and I sat in with him in front of Johnny Winter up there in Delaware. Which is pretty funny. Did that. And about a year later, he asked me to join. So I did.
BBP: Tell me what it was like playing with the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. I mean, I’ve heard so much about that.
Taylor: If you can afford it and you can get on it, or you can get a gig on it, go. It’s well worth it. That’s how I would describe it.
BBP: Tell me why it’s well worth it. What happened?
Taylor: It’s about 16 hours of music. And actually, depending if you go in a piano bar it could be darn near 24 hours of music! Or at least 20 hours of music. I mean there’s something happening from late morning to just before noon all the way until well past midnight. There’s some kind of music going on. There’s different artists, you know, playing different places. There’s pro jams, I mean I got to play with Cyril Neville (from the Neville Brothers) on this one. There’s just all kinds of things that’s happening. There’s a pro and amateur jam kind of a thing. Just all kinds of stuff. You get to hang out with people, you get to talk with people and the thing is you get to hang out with people, which I thought was cool. Like Kenny Neal and his family, we see those guys, we used to see them on the road all of the time. But we very rarely got to hang out with them.
BBP: Tell me a little more about the tour with Joe.
Taylor: When I was with them, we went to Canada, Europe, and in Europe we went to France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece and Denmark. Those are the places I’ve been, and it’s like multiple times in those countries.
BBP: So you say you’re back to being Linwood Taylor and back to having your own band. Where are you touring with that?
Taylor: I’m working round the region, Delaware to Southern Virginia. You know I’m basically planning to fill up the calendar until I get my C.D. completed. I really need something to pitch before I try and go…really, really, really get out there hard and heavy. It just took me a long time to set the things up, to get the situation to where I could do the recording first. If I can’t do the recording, what’s the point?
BBP: Right. And how many people are in your new band? What is your new band comprised of?
Taylor: Well, it basically depends on the economic reality. If they’re paying minimum wage, I do a trio. If they’re paying enough, I do a quartet. If they’re really paying enough, I do a quintet. I just do what I can, you know?
BBP: The trio would be bass, guitar and drums, right?
BBP: And what would the quartet be?
Taylor: I’d add keyboards. And if I could get a quintet, I would need a second guitar player.
BBP: Because you need someone to play rhythm…
Taylor: Well, no. Somebody that…a foil, not just rhythm. I don’t need a rhythm guitar, I need someone to play with me, you know. I mean a lot of guys—“I want a rhythm guitar player to back me up.” No, no, no. I want you to play too. In fact, I need you to play because I’m working off you as much as anything else. It’s like you’re playing because you’re different but our styles blend together type of a thing, you know? And all of my favorite blues and rock ensembles basically, they were a two-guitar type of thing.
BBP: When you go out on tour your band is going to play all original stuff? I know you said you have a strategy where you bring them in with stuff that they’re familiar with, then you take them in a different place. But what would a Linwood Taylor band show be like, out on the road?
Taylor: I would just try to be entertaining and yes, do some original in addition to some covers, you know, but my version of the covers. No point in trying to be the record because I’m not those guys!
BBP: Tell me a little bit of your philosophy about that because I remember we talked about that before.
Taylor: Well, I don’t know. It’s sort of like what I’ve learned from other guys. It’s simply that some people are able to mimic people, and I’ve always been terrible at mimicking. Maybe I didn’t work hard enough, but it’s just the kind of thing I always knew and was told you can’t be that guy. And not only can you not be that guy, on your best day and on that guy’s worst day, they’re always going to be better than you because they’re being themselves and you’re trying to be somebody else. So why try to be somebody else?
BBP: Be yourself.
Taylor: Exactly. You’ll always have more success being yourself than someone else. You can take information from somebody. You can take an idea from somebody. I mean, you know “Black Magic Woman” is something that Peter Green took from Otis Rush. And most people don’t even know that’s a Peter Green song. They think it’s Carlos Santana.
BBP: (laughs) I did. I have to admit that.
Taylor: But it’s the original Fleetwood Mac Peter Green. It used to be Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac but he took that from All Your Love I Miss Loving by Otis Rush.
BBP: Which guitar player has influenced you the most. Are there other instrumentalists besides guitar players who have influenced you?
Taylor: Well, I mean I like organ players, you know, but I would have to say, it’s definitely mostly guitar players, although I learned some things from Paul Butterfield. And then I listened to Cannonball Adderly much later afterwards but there’s all kinds of guitar players, obscure, famous, cult figures, I mean basically everyone I’ve heard. I mean Jimi Hendrix to me is probably one of the more obvious guys, but there’s more than that. There’s Jeff Beck, there’s Albert Collins, there’s Freddie King. Everyone thinks of that song “Goin’ Down” as being a Jeff Beck song. But the first person I heard play that was Freddie King. And it was a live version. So I love Muddy Waters. I even like Hound Dog Taylor.
BBP: Who do you like that’s out now? The younger guys?
Taylor: I’ve no idea. You know I like Bernard Allison and Lonnie Brooks’ kids.
BBP: Do you think guitar has changed, that blues guitar has changed since you started playing?
Taylor: Oh sure! Of course, it’s had to have changed. Like I said, there’s guys doing stuff now that they considered blues, but not too long ago they would have said that was rock!
BBP: Do you think blues music overall has changed? Do you think blues is alive? You hear all of this talk that blues is dying. Do you think blues is dying?
Taylor: I don’t think it’s dying. And most of the people who said blues is dying to me are the ones who are the reasons why it’s dying. It’s because blues is evolving in the same way every style of music that is a living, breathing form of music evolves. I mean, for instance, people said that Miles wasn’t playing jazz when Miles went electric, but no, Miles changed! He was still playing jazz, he just changed sonically. And he changed a little bit of what he was doing, and people weren’t ready for that, so they tried to say it wasn’t jazz. Well, maybe it wasn’t traditional jazz but he changed, he had to change in order to remain viable and relevant. And that’s all any longstanding artist wants to do is remain relevant. Cause what’s the point? If you’re not relevant, you’re not relevant, you know.
BBP: Can I ask you a question? Did you and Joe Louis Walker have an amicable parting? Because I sense a little tension, there…
Taylor: I will simply say that it was abrupt. I mean, it’s one of those things. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed, but I’m not mad. I don’t have time for that kind of thing.
BBP: And this is basically the time that you stepped out and Murali Coryell hooked up with him?
BBP: Do you think it was because of the Coryell name?
Taylor: That might be part of it. But most people….I’ve heard through my informants that most people have no clue as to who Murali’s father is (he’s noted guitarist Larry Coryell). Let alone Murali, you know. I know who Murali (We have an interview with Murali in a Sept. 22, 2010 post)is. I knew who he was because he’d been out there. Like I say, I don’t worry about those kinds of things. That’s for the pundits, you know. I’m involved in playing music and doing my thing. And I learned a lot. I’m grateful for the experience, I’ll take what I’ve learned and do my thing.
BBP: Did you ever feel like you were clashing with him musically?
Taylor: No. No. In my mind we were just getting tight, but, in the end, those are questions I cannot answer. I can only go on the fact that “hey, I got somebody else.”
BBP: Huh. Wow. (Taylor laughs). It was like that. He said “I got somebody else” and that was it? He just came and told you one day?
Taylor: Preeeetty much!
BBP: Was this at a show or before a show?
Taylor: This was about three days after a show.
BBP: But was there going to be another show that day?
Taylor: No. No. No. There was a lapse, there was a three-week lapse in shows and so I came home Monday after doing a weekend with him in New England and, you know, on Thursday I got the call. I’m like, “Really?” I said “Okay, whatever.” What was I going to do, you know? And here’s the thing: nothing I could do, would have changed it. And it’s like, if you don’t want me, for whatever reason, why be there?
BBP: Did he at any point seem dissatisfied? Usually when somebody…
Taylor: No. No. Look. Those are all questions you got to ask him. This is all….I don’t know. I don’t know. Okay? And, you know, I just got the call and had to roll with it. Like that.
BBP: How critical is the new C.D. to your current plans?
Taylor: In order for me to really do what I want to do, the new CD is critical. And that’s the whole thing. It’s just that we had a lot of things hit us all at once in January and so forth so it kind of slowed us down. But we’re going to pick it up. We’re not going to take as much time with the other songs, I think. Well, I’m hoping anyway.
BBP: What kind of stuff has slowed you down?
Taylor: You know, schedules, timing, doing this, doing that, I mean we’re all playing in different bands. So we’re doing this during the week, when we’re not so busy. But even then we got different things and sometimes we can’t do something during the week because my man has other things and you know has some other projects he’s trying to squeeze out, you know recording projects. It’s just one of those things, you know.
BBP: Do you have a title for it yet?
Taylor: No. No. Usually I’m a real focused kind of a person: I get the whole thing finished, then I think of a title, know what I’m saying?
BBP: Are you working with a particular studio?
Taylor: Yeah, Tommy Lepson. He’s got a studio. And that’s the thing, he’s doing other people’s projects too.
BBP: You have a relationship with the Diamond State (Delaware) Blues Society now?
Taylor: Let’s put it this way, I met them by playing with Joe. Because they just got me to open for Devon Allman (son of Greg Allman ) and Honeytribe. That’s in March.
BBP: Do you have any advice for someone playing guitar?
Taylor: Well, in my mind, this is a very, very individualistic pursuit. So however you learn is the best way. Do it yourself. Get some books. Get an instructor. All of the above. You know, have somebody teach you. I mean, what I’m doing is the kind of thing that you learn yourself or someone teaches you because this is a—this is a folk art, and as Bobby Rush said, somebody like me has to show this to you because it’s hard to. No book is truly going to give it to you. They can give you the basic mechanics, but, I’ve got to show this to you. Because it’s a hand-me-down type of art.
BBP: Are you talking about the guitar or the blues?
Taylor: Both. I mean, you can learn to play guitar. I mean, the thing about it, you watch that old movie “Crossroads” with Ralph Macchio. It’s like, you know, he could play guitar, but could he really play some blues? That guy had to teach him. You know he had to take him to those juke joints so he could really learn something. I mean, granted, that’s a Hollywood movie. It’s stylized and all of that. I know Ry Cooder was playing his parts and Steve Vai was playing both the guitar parts showdown. But the point is somebody had to show him the real deal of what playing blues was about. I know if he kept trying to find the last Robert Johnson song, the guy told him what time it was. Do what Robert would have done. He wrote it himself. So I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been inches from Muddy Waters in the dressing room. I’ve seen Luther “Guitar” Jr. Johnson, Bob Margolin. I mean I’ve known Bob since I was a teen-ager, okay? And then I’ve seen Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland. I saw Coco Montoya and Walter Trout when they were both playing for John Mayall. So the thing is, you think about all of those guys, they’re all unique. You know they’re all totally unique in how they play. Especially a guy like Albert Collins and Albert King. They use open tunings..crazy, all kinds of stuff. So it’s a very individual thing. You just got to… you almost find your own way. And that’s how you find your own style.
BBP: You mentioned Bob Margolin. How do you know him?
Taylor: He was playing with Muddy. The college I went to Muddy Waters was playing and I met him when I was 18.
BBP: Did you ever jam with Margolin?
Taylor: I have jammed with Bob Margolin In Memphis, in fact. But I’ve known Bob since 1974. And Luther “Guitar” Junior Johnson, I’ve known him since 1974. They were both playing with Muddy Waters. That legendary ‘70’s band, I saw Matt “Guitar” Murphy, I opened for him a little later on in the early ‘80’s and I saw Matt when he was playing with James Cotton and they opened for Steve Miller, and everybody asked me who this James Cotton fellow was, and I said “Check it out. Check it out. Check it out.” And they’re like “okay.” And then, the funny thing that I remembered was that James Cotton wore the place out and then Steve Miller came on and he started—I don’t know what he thought he was doing—but he started with some stuff. Man, people started booing him! People booed and said “Bring back James Cotton.” And even Steve Miller talked about that tour. Because this was the beginning of the tour, and he’s like “This is serious.” He told me he had to break out with “Space Cowboy” by the third song to try to bring the crowd back to him. He was riding high on “Gangster of Love…..” not “Gangster of Love,” “The Joker.” He was riding high on “The Joker” then.
BBP: That was ‘70’s. I remember that song.
Taylor: And “Fly Like An Eagle” wasn’t out yet, and he was doing it almost like an Allman Brothers thing, with harmony guitar parts.
BBP: And you were there and you saw that?
Taylor: I saw that. I saw Billy Preston when the Brothers Johnson were his back-up band.