BRITISH BLUES ARCHIVE

Eddie Taylor

 

Eddie Taylor Big Town Playboy Charly CRB 1015

 

"New face Eddie may steal the blues concert"* proclaimed the Melody Maker headline in 1968 in anticipation of Eddie Taylor's first UK visit. A new face in Britain - certainly. A new name - as implied - definitely not.

Born January, 1923 in the cotton town of Benoit, Mississippi, Eddie Taylor's childhood idols were Charlie Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson. Their intense Delta blues styling inspired Eddie to teach himself blues guitar. Leaving home at an early age, he travelled through Mississippi during his teens, playing guitar at country suppers and getting acquainted with many of the recorded bluesmen of the day.

When he was 25, Eddie Taylor moved to Chicago where he formed a small combo which performed at the clubs and night spots of the city. In 1953 he auditioned for Vee Jay Records, a Chicago independent, along with his back-up guitarist, Jimmy Reed. Ironically, fate deemed that Vee Jay would prefer Jimmy's style to that of Eddie and the roles were reversed. However, this unforeseen setback proved to be a most fortuitous beginning, rather than a drastic end, to the career of Eddie Taylor.

Two years later he recorded in his own right for Vee Jay and in 1955 scored with "Big Town Playboy," which reputedly sold 37,000 copies. This success earned him the nickname 'Playboy Taylor' which stuck for many year's. In all he recorded 16 titles over a nine year period, of which only 10 were issued. But his main source of work and income, was as Vee Jay house musician, primarily for Jimmy Reed sessions but also on those of John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Sunnyland Slim.

This compilation contains all of Eddie Taylor's Vee Jay recordings bar one. Search as we may, "Good Hearted," the missing title, was untraceable. Nevertheless, the 15 tracks on this album gives the best representation of Eddie's Vee Jay career blues fans have yet had.

Although greatly influenced a teenager by the Delta giants, his first recordings demonstrate little of this and, surprisingly, show a debt to that enigmatic Tommy McClennan stylist, Robert Petway with "Stroll Out West '' and '' Ride 'Em On Down." More readily recognisable as Catfish Blues, "Stroll Out West" is a masterpiece of infectious simplicity. Why Vee Jay chose not to release it will, for me, be one of those eternal blues question marks.

Perhaps less surprising are some of the echoes of Eddies fifties contemporaries: the Jimmy Reed approach to "Bad Boy", his first side; the tune and guitar figure of Jr. Parker's Feelin' Good in ''I'm Gonna Love You"; the Elmore James Dust My Broom effect on "Leave This Neighborhood," a song sadly marred by inconsistent harmonica from Jimmy Reed. Eddie's best seller, "Big Town Playboy", was inspired by the 1950Aristocrat recording by pianist Johnny Jones who, incidentally, is present on the last four tracks on this album, boasting an all star Chicago line-up of Taylor, Jones, Hubert Sumlin and Jimmy Reed.

Outside of his recording contract,Eddie was prolific on the Chicago club scene. In 1968 he toured Europe with label-mates Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker. Following this there was a period of sporadic studio work until 1972when he cut an album for Frank Scott's Advent label on the West Coast. The critical acclaim this album received brought offers of European tours and in 1973/4 he toured Europe again under the aegis of Big Bear Promotions for whom he cut his second album in London.

The past five or six years have been uncharacteristically quiet for Eddie. This compilation of his excellent early recordings will give those of us familiar with his music the chance to re-evaluate this underrated Chicago bluesman. And for new fans of a 'new face,' the chance to discover 15 original and dynamic performances.

 

Alan Balfour December 1980

 

 

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