British music fan Tony Moore, currently in Indianapolis, interviews Larry Taylor and Barrelhouse Bonni about the history and sounds of Chicago blues.
Have you heard? The Rolling Stones this month released an all-blues album, Blue and Lonesome,covering tunes by masters of Chicago blues such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Jimmy Reed. It's topping the Billboard charts in Great Britain and Australia and hitting #4 in the USA.
On the record is "Ride 'em on Down," a song by VeeJay guitar master Eddie Taylor Sr, whose oldest son, Larry Taylor, a West Side singer and drummer, is the bluesman I've worked with since 2004 when I stayed in Austin. Like many blues performers today, Larry helps keep the music going in small neighborhood clubs and occasional tourist spots. As Chicagoans know— most of these blues men and women are now in their 60s. If they are not suitably honored and rewarded, younger generations are unlikely to take up this American roots music. And the world would lose the healing music our kids desperately need right now...
Blues musician Larry Taylor grew up in Lawndale during the '60s, with a strong appreciation for the community's value despite its hardscrabble exterior. (Photo: Larry in Douglas Park, 2004)
His stepfather, Eddie Taylor, was a legendary blues guitarist, and Larry was encouraged and supported by community members and fellow musicians.
“The thing that I loved about the era was a sense of black pride,” Larry Taylor said of his youth.
He hung out at Eddie Newell's barber shop on Kedzie, where Newell blew his harp between haircuts, and other local blues players gathered and swapped musician tales and wise words with young Larry...
From Austin Talks:
When Larry Taylor, the stepson of blues musician great Eddie “Playboy” Taylor, learned a feature film would be made about his Mississippi-born family of performers, he wasn’t surprised.
“It was no shock to me,” said Taylor, who was born and raised on Chicago’s Westside.
Coming up in a family of musicians – his mother Vera Taylor was a blues singer, and stepfather Eddie a guitarist – he was no stranger to the entertainment industry, he said.
And through the film “The Rhythm and the Blues,” he hopes not only to show his life as a blues musician, but also reflect what it was like for him coming up in an era when blacks struggled socially and economically.
“I come up in the hard struggles here in Chicago, on the West Side,” Taylor said. “I went through many things. Experiencing gangs, drugs (and) the Civil Rights movement.”
It takes courage to display your whole life on screen, Taylor said, but he wants audiences to be inspired by his story.
Support Party for The Rhythm and the Blues movie Features Leon, producer Darryl Pitts, and Larry's band
Right: Larry with producers Bonni McKeown, Darryl Pitts
Larry's Taylor brothers and sisters with Leon:From left: Larry, Demetria,Leon, Brenda, Eddie Jr., Tim
..."Taylor's rich voice soars above the band, and if you close your eyes there are moments when you'd swear the late, great Lou Rawls was at the mic..."
In the Chicago music community,WestSide singer and drummer Larry Hill Taylor is a crowned prince, the son of noted blues singer VeraTaylor and stepson of guitarist Eddie Taylor. In Stepson of the Blues, Taylor (with blues pianist Bonni McKeown) tells his story of strife and survival in Lawndale during the wild 1950s and 60s. A must-read for anyone, anywhere, who has a love and appreciation for the Chicago blues scene.
..." an expressive, convincing vocalist who has no problem getting his emotional points across on either hardcore electric Chicago blues or hardcore soul."
.."Taylor's own "Blues, Hard Luck & Trouble" has a Wolfish lope that showcases his rhythmic sense and quivering down-home vibrato, but he's most interesting on modern fare; while many soul and blues singers today smooth the edges off their songs, Taylor revels in the aggression and unbridled sensuality that infuses classic R & B and soul..."
We are still hearing good things about the Blues and the Spirit Symposium and your wonderful performance at the opening reception on Thursday, May 21 as well as your appropriate and cogent remarks about the state of the music business at the Lived Experience Panel. Thanks for helping us set the tone and thanks for bringing in all the Chicago musicians who gave us one of the best jams of the summer.
Long live the blues!
Dr. Janice Monti - Blues & Spirit Symposium 2008 (Aug 19, 2008) http://www.dom.edu/blues-and-spirit-iv
"Larry Taylor is the real deal... deep blues...able to go into the blues landscape people associate with Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James...timing is impeccable...clear, passionate and persuasive."
--Chicago African American poet and essayist Sterling D. Plumpp, 2013, after hearing Larry Taylor's album They Were in This House
Larry served on a panel of Chicago blues and soul musicians moderated by critic David Whiteis at the first Dominican University Blues and the Spirit Symposium in 2008. He was the first to express inconvenient truths about Black musicians in the business. Other panelists contributed their opinions and history as well: Billy Boy Arnold, harmonica; Sharon Lewis and Stan Mosely, singers.
Co-produced by Taylor, keyboardist Barrelhouse Bonni, and Steve Wagner of Delmark Records, They Were in This House is one of the best-sounding blues albums of the year. And the material is well-chosen, particularly “Jody Got Your Girl and Gone,” a funked-up military cadence, and “Last $2,”, both by Johnnie Taylor (no relation). Taylor covers Howlin’ Wolf as well, and his no-nonsense original tunes sound like they, too, could be taken from the Wolf’s songbook..."
"This is one of those CD's that is so good, so loaded with the real deal blues and so well done that it is so hard to only pick out a few tracks to mention."
Living Blues magazine
It’s refreshing to see a new Chicago band that neither approaches blues via a funk/modern R&B sensibility, nor is consciously retro.”
"Larry Taylor is a strong vocalist who is at home covering Johnnie Taylor’s “Jody Got Your Girl and Gone” (in 2 parts) as he is reviving Howlin’Wolf…Taylor’s originals, “Blues, Hard Luck & Trouble,” and “Green Line Blues” (inspired by Chicago’s mass transit) are solid songs and like the rest of the album, nicely played… He sings with plenty of soul which is matched by his backing band. This is well worth checking out and giving a listen to."
Big City Rhythm n Blues magazine
"Expect really great songs, fine arrangements, some tasty horns, genuine West /Side Chicago electric guitar licks and perfect vocal execution. They Were in This House has a spirit and personality that are 100% for real."
Get down and get inspired with the Larry Taylor Blues and Soul Band--the best of the West Side,free concert at 7p.m. Friday Oct. 8 at the Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., all ages and communities welcome. Soul music brought people together in the 60s--let's do it again!
“Blues is a great way for the youth to connect with the elders in our community,” said Larry Taylor. “We can learn from each other and our African American culture will never be lost. All these popular musics like jazz, hiphop, rap, r&b, they’re all family and the root is the blues. The kids won’t forget it, cause we’re gonna rock the house!”
“We want to give the young people a chance to see a live professional band of their neighbors play the type of music they’ll be working on after school,” said Jeanette Stovall, Central Region Park Supervisor at the Austin Town Hall. “Chicago blues music is famous around the world, and a lot of it started right here on the West Side.”
Bio of Larry Taylor in Karen Hanson's 2007 book about the city's current traditional blues artists.
...Just two days after the feast of St. Patrick, some folks will be stealing away to the Horse Thief Hollow Brewery for a night of blues/soul music.
The music on the night of March 19th comes by way of the Larry Taylor Blues and Soul Band. Taylor brings an impressive musical pedigree to the brewery as he is the eldest son of Eddie “Playboy” Taylor. The senior Taylor made his mark at Vee-Jay records as none other than Jimmy Reed’s musical partner, guitarist and sounding board.
The musical lineage doesn’t stop there as Taylor’s mother was blues singer, Vera Taylor. His uncle is esteemed guitarist Jimmy Burns, who recently released the highly-regarded “It Ain't Right” via Chicago’s Denmark record label.
A musical family reunion will be in the works as well. Taylor’s manager, Bonni “Barrelhouse” McKeown said that Burns will be appearing with Taylor at the Saturday music series. She noted that, “this is the first time they’ve played together since Larry was part of the band in 2003."