There was music in the house at 1131 S. Mozart during the heyday of Chicago blues. Guitarist Eddie Taylor lived there with his wife, Vera Hill, a singer from a musically gifted family, and it was there they raised Larry, Vera''s firstborn from an earlier marriage. Eventually they would move to a succession of West Side Chicago residences and bring up eight children.
The house on Mozart where Larry spent his early years was a gathering place for now-legendary musicians of Chicago blues. Muddy Waters, Howlin'' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James were among the frequent houseguests who came to eat Vera''s soul food cooking and make music with Eddie Taylor, who had come to Chicago from Mississippi and had become a respected bandleader and accompanist to Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and others. Larry Hill Taylor, born December 13, 1955 in Chicago, literally grew up at the feet of such legends of the blues.
As a little boy Larry beat on boxes and pots and pans and took up the drums when his birth father, Frank Burton, gave him a child''s set. His earliest mentors included drummers Willie "Winehead" Williams, Chicken House Shorty, S.P. Leary and Cassell Burrow, who would leave his drums at the house after rehearsals. Young Larry was once caught setting up and playing them, but Burrow interceded with his stepfather to make sure he wasn''t punished for it.
As a youngster Larry saw his stepfather, Eddie Taylor, play on Maxwell Street with John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Johnnie Mae Dunson and others, and also attended at least one Vee-Jay recording session on which his stepfather accompanied Jimmy Reed. For a time the family lived above the Blue Flame on West Madison where Larry would watch performances by Howlin'' Wolf, Smokey Smothers, Sunnyland Slim and others through a hole in the roof.
Larry himself played on Maxwell Street with Pat Rushing, Willie James and others, and guitarist Magic Sam, who''d come to the house for Eddie Taylor''s help, was one of the first to let Larry sit in while still underage. He kept his eyes and ears open to the blues and all the other musical influences coming at him, keeping in mind that blues was the ticket.
"I can recall a time," says Larry, "if you couldn''t play the blues, there wasn''t no need of you tryin to go around the legendarys."
"S.P. Leary...he knew me from a kid. And [Fred] Below. And Odie [Payne]...all of ''em knew me. These guys were blues masters. You want to be a master, you got to watch a master. So that''s what I did."
His first big break came at the age of 21 in 1977 when he toured Europe with other young blues musicians as "The Next Generation of Chicago Blues."
He spent thirty years behind the kit, contributing his impeccable timekeeping and bludgeoning backbeat behind some of the greatest blues, soul and jazz artists of all time. Larry Taylor has now chosen to step out from the shadows of the stage to take the microphone and enter a new phase of his musical career, fronting a band that plays genuine, homegrown blues and soul.
Produced by Taylor, Barrelhouse Bonni and Delmark/Riverside engineer Steve Wagner, They Were in This House presents a set of unusual, yet satisfying traditional and original compositions. Taylor''s choices of less well-known numbers, such as Howlin'' Wolf''s "I Didn''t Mean to Hurt Your Feelings" and Jimmy Reed''s "Signals of Love," reminds the listener of how deep the wellspring of blues is. And his take on some are pleasantly surprising: on Elmore James'' "Knocking at Your Door," Larry chooses to downplay the guitar and focus on the vocals, singing it as if it were a Bobby Bland ballad.
Original compositions include "Green Line Blues" (co-written with Barrelhouse Bonni), which refers to the CTA''s West Side elevated line, "Blues, Hard Luck and Trouble," and "Tell Me," the latter two written in the style of Howlin'' Wolf, and performed with the indefatigable groove associated with Wolf''s historic band.
Larry also pays tribute to the soul artists who have inspired him. In his hands Z.Z. Hill''s "Don''t Make Me Pay for His Mistake," sounds like an autobiographical tale from the neighborhood. And he''s chosen two from Johnnie Taylor: "Jody Got Your Girl and Gone," for which he jacks up the beat at the core of this one-time military cadence call, and "Last $2" from which Larry wrests the last ounce of emotion in a beautiful ensemble performance.
Pleading for understanding, Larry Taylor digs deep on these tracks, always reaching for more. He feeds off guitarist Willie Davis and the rest of the band for ever greater emotional depth. In performance he jerks his head and arms on the beat at all the points of emphasis, marking time with the heart of the song like a cubist artist''s rendering of a deeply soulful singer.
The guests on this disc include Osee Anderson on the bass, Ronnie G on sax and Roosevelt "Mad Hatter" Purifoy who handles keyboards and arrangements. Rounding out the band are regular bandmembers West Side Wes on drums (James Carter also drums on gigs), Michael "Sleepy" Riley on bass, Lawrence Fields on saxophone (absent on CD), Barrelhouse Bonni on piano and vocals, and of course sizzlin'' Willie Davis, who spent many years playing guitar with Willie Kent and the Gents. Davis is an unsung master of West Side blues guitar who knows how to toss in edgy fills and lay a solid rhythmic foundation, knows when to lay back and hold the groove and when to leap in with tempo-slashing bursts of anguished notes. Never does Davis make himself the center of attention and yet he is constantly a restless and propulsive force in the music.
Backed by this tight ensemble, Taylor''s choice selections and original material emphasize the rhythm and the groove in the blues and soul. This is culturally-rooted music that will get you up on your feet. There''ll be some serious dancing in any house that spins this disc.
- Excerpts From Liner Notes by Justin O''Brien, contributor to Living Blues magazine
Larry''s Schedule and electronic press kit:View Larry Taylor''s EPK
View Larry Taylor''s EPK
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