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Tim: Mick Taylor

the author with Mick Taylor, Long Beach CA, 1993
Listening to the blues with Mick Taylor - Long Beach, CA 1993.
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Memories of a Rock and Roller:
Mick Taylor
By T.E. Mattox

t's not everyday you run into a man who was both a Bluesbreaker with John Mayall and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist with the Rolling Stones. But I did just that, turning around to face Mick Taylor a few years ago, backstage at the Long Beach Blues Festival. When I was finally able to wipe the idiotic 'big-fan' grin off my face, our conversation started with the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson...

"I never knew him," Mick admitted, "But I did see him play in England once…at a Folk Blues Festival."

Noting that influential players seem to have no borders or limitations, I was curious if he felt that his playing may have influenced others?

"Me, personally? I hope, well maybe. I think perhaps a few guitar players, yea. I've certainly been influenced by a lot of guitar players."

Mick Taylor

Who were you listening to when you were growing up?

"Anything and everything I could possibly buy. I mean I used to listen to jazz guitar players, Wes Montgomery. I used to listen to Charlie Christian, but mostly blues guitar players. B.B.King especially. Freddie King, Albert King. But I would say that my favorite guitar player was Jimi Hendrix."

Hendrix, as most know, moved to the United Kingdom in the mid-60's and found instant recognition from a much more progressive European audience. Not only were they more receptive to his music and flamboyant style of play but readily accepted him as the imaginative guitar virtuoso he was becoming.

"Yea, he had to go to London," Mick agreed. "He was too freaky for American audiences."

Did you ever have the opportunity to play with Jimi?

"I did. I played with him quite a few times. In fact John Mayall, who I played with at the time, used to have a tape of me and him playing together, but it got lost."

I read John's house burned years ago.

"That's how it was lost, yea."

Has it always been blues for` you?

"I used to like all kinds of music. In fact, I started playing guitar when I was about ten years old. I would say, for at least three years I just more or less learned to play songs and learned to play chords. It wasn't until I heard Chuck Berry and rhythm and blues, American rhythm and blues that I got interested in playing lead guitar. And I guess the best exponent of that in England at the time, when I was about 14, was Eric Clapton. He was the only one that could sound like that, so he was a big influence."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"I'd like to write a book….what it was like to grow up in England in the '60's….and be a professional musician from the age of 17."
----Mick Taylor

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Tell us about your first band?

"The first real band was, I guess, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. (Mick replaced Peter Green in the Bluesbreakers, when Green left to form Fleetwood Mac) John Mayall, myself, a drummer called Keef Hartley, John McVie and we had a horn section too…a trumpet and tenor sax. The first record I did with John was 'Crusade.' And I was with him about four years."

It was after leaving the Bluesbreakers following an American Tour, that Mick Taylor's life would change…seriously change.

"I went straight back to England and about two weeks later, I joined the Rolling Stones."

Mick Taylor had stepped out of one legendary band right into another, replacing Stones co-founder Brian Jones. How long did you play with the Stones?

"Too long!" (laughing) "No, not really. About five maybe six years, actually. I joined them in May of 1969. The first record I did with them was 'Let It Bleed.'"

So the question has to be…Can you give us a few special memories or a favorite moment from those days?

"Well, I remember the sex, I think. (laughing) No listen, we had good times. The good thing about those days was that being from England and admiring American music so much…you all say that we influenced you (British Invasion) but in actual fact we couldn't wait to get to America and hear people like B.B. King. It was great to go to places like Chicago and go to clubs on the Southside and sit in and play with those people."

a young Mick Taylor with guitar and amp

Did you have many of those opportunities?

"Tours weren't like they are today. We used to stay in New York for maybe two weeks and play in the same club for a week or ten days. Then we'd go to Chicago and then we'd go somewhere else. Then probably end up in Los Angeles for three weeks, then San Francisco. We used to play at the Whiskey (A-Go-Go on Sunset in L.A.) and the Ash Grove (also in L.A.) on Melrose. I saw Taj Mahal there once."

After you left the Stones what was your follow up project?

"I formed a band with Jack Bruce. (Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann, Cream) It was just a band and we played very well together, but it never really jelled in a kind of permanent thing."

Do ever see him or any of your band mates from those years?

"Well Jack Bruce, I actually did a show with him in Italy about a month ago. San Remo."

Have you ever felt there was a cultural difference between American and International audiences or fans?

"Well if you're doing a blues festival, they're pretty much the same everywhere. It's a pretty international thing these days. It seems to have a universal appeal. I think European audiences are a bit more civilized."

By civilized, you mean they show more appreciation for the genre? More recognition and respect for the musicians?

"They do actually, I'm not just being facetious, they do, yea."

After your work with Jack Bruce, what were you doing?

"Nothing!" (laughing) "I did quite a bit of session work, all kinds of different stuff. I did a sort of, jazz fusion group called, 'Gong.' I did stuff mostly with friends; I didn't really do a lot for about two or three years. I did work with Bob Dylan for a couple of years, from 1983 until 1984."

You worked on an album with the late Gerry Groom called, 'Once In a Blue Moon.'

"I play on it, yea. I met Gerry Groom about ten years ago in New York. He passed away unfortunately, about a year ago in a scuba diving accident in Florida. But he's a great blues singer and he plays… he's special, he was playing dobro. So I basically just play an electric guitar on the album."

album cover of Once in a Blue Moon
Album cover of "Once In A Blue Moon"

Do you listen to a lot of music? Radio?

"I don't listen to the radio, except for when I'm in the car. I used to listen to the radio; I used to listen to all kinds of music. A lot more than I do now. I used to be a record collector. I think the more you get into playing music and the older you get, it's not that you become less interested, it's just that you've heard so much. You get more self- absorbed, is what I'm saying."

What do you think about some of the contemporary or popular bands playing today? (Remember this was 1993) Just as an example, a band like, 'Crowded House.'

"I'm glad you picked that…I like some of the stuff they've done, they're good, yea. They're melodic, aren't they? But I like all kinds of music"

Are you a classical music fan?

"I never used to like classical music, but I do now. But it depends on what kind of mood you're in, you know? I mean, I went to a Guns N' Roses concert last year and really enjoyed it. But I wouldn't sit at home and listen to it. It was great, because I was part of the event and the atmosphere was great and they played great. In fact, they actually played better than you would think, from just listening to their records. I mean, the two guitar players did some great, great stuff together. Instrumental solos and they did an instrumental version of 'Wild Horses' and 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.' It was just a great show."

Mick Taylor in concert

Do you feel you've done your best work or is it still to come?

"Probably my most well-known work might be behind me because I'm most well-known for my period with the Rolling Stones and probably always will be, but on a musical level, no. I've done better stuff…well; I'm talking as a musician, not as a listener, I think even people interested in guitar. I've done stuff since I left the Rolling Stones that hasn't been released yet, that I'm very proud of that I'd like to release. I've got an album that's three-quarters finished and I've got a song of Bob Dylan's on it that hasn't been released yet. A song that I co-wrote with Keith Richards and the rest is just original stuff."

Do you ever run into John Mayall?

"I did when I lived in Los Angeles, but I moved to Miami about a year ago."

The road you've travelled, the body of work to date, and the life you've led, seems incredible.

"It has been interesting. I'd like to write a book about it. I'm going to do it, but it's not just going to be about the Rolling Stones. It's going to be about; I don't know…memories of a Rock and Roller, just an autobiography about what it was like to grow up in England in the 60's. During that whole scene and be involved and be a professional musician from the age of 17."

Speaking of England back in the early 60's…not long ago I spoke with John Mayall about his musical influences (Josh White, Django Rheinhardt) and the fact skiffle music was the prevalent music in Britain at the time….

"Yea, skiffle. There are always people who…there are always exceptions, you know? People sometimes say, what is it, 'people are ahead of their time.' I don't think so; most people are just behind theirs, that's all."

At the time of this conversation, Mayall had just released a new record with Buddy Guy.

"I played on that record too. On a track called, 'Wake Up Call.' It's a good record, very good. I think it's actually one of the best records he's made in a long time."

Let's go back a little, there must be something you CAN talk about concerning those earlier 'crazy' days…?

"They were never as crazy as…well, they still ARE." (laughing)

Okay then, tell me some things you did with your clothes ON. (laughing)

"Oh well, NOW you're talking! I don't know, I guess one of the musical highlights of my career up-to-date, was working with Bob Dylan for a couple of years. I was involved in making the 'Infidels' album with him. And then we sort of put a band together and toured Europe for about eight weeks in '84. They put out another album which was made up of outtakes from the 'Infidels' sessions. I really enjoyed playing with him because he's been an idol of mine since I was 14 or 15. I think his songs are brilliant, you know? He's written so many great songs."

Dylan's poetry and music definitely electrified the folk era of the 1960's.

"Well, I think he started off in the folk genre, as you put it. But I think he's created his own genre."

Are you still up for touring, you still like the road?

"I do. I do, but I don't want to play in bars for the rest of my life. That sounds…let me put it another way. I want to play in places where people come to hear music, not where they just come to drink and have a good time. I mean there's a place for that, too. It's all down to me sort of making a record, because I haven't done that for a long time, so we'll see what happens."

If you can, tell us a little about your latest project, the Mick Taylor Band. Who's playing with you?

"I have another guitar player who plays with Bruce Springsteen. His name is Shane Fontayne (formerly with Lone Justice). A bass player called Wilbur Bascomb, from New York who's played with B.B. King. And a drummer called Bernard Purdie who used to play with King Curtis and Aretha Franklin. And a keyboard player from England who's name is Max Middleton. Very good musicians."

During our conversation, John Hammond Jr. was onstage performing and I was curious if Mick had ever met him?

"Yea, I've met him before; I met his father once too. His father was the one who actually discovered Robert Johnson." (John Hammond, Sr. is also credited with discovering Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen…and of course, Bob Dylan).

"In fact, that's where I met his father, backstage at a Dylan concert. And John's (John Jr.) great, actually. When you think about it, it's interesting really. Because blues music is more and more popular than it's ever been…like internationally. There are blues festivals all over the world and yet the classic blues artist, like from Chicago, people like Muddy Waters, Albert King are all dying off. But I think there's a whole new generation of people growing up, taking their place. I don't think you can really say it's an exclusively American black music anymore, you know what I mean, though? I mean, Christ, Eric Clapton is great blues player. There are festivals all over the world and there's more every year."

The fact that Mick Taylor is still touring today gives blues and rock and roll fans an opportunity like none other. You should never pass up the chance to catch him live. The guy loves what he does and you get the feeling it wouldn't make any difference if he was booked into a festival or playing on a street corner. And he gladly admits, "I enjoy playing in big places and small places….I'll play anywhere really."

As we shook hands and I told him how much I appreciated his taking the time, it dawned on me that for Mick Taylor, it wasn't about the fame, the money, the women or the bands; it was simply about the music.

Okay, I'm not even buying that….It was the MUSIC and SOME of the women.

How about....the MUSIC, some of the women and a modest pile of money…….!!??


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Let Tim know what you think about his traveling adventure.

I was there at the Shrine to see Bob come in riding on a baby elephant. He says in the interview it was either '68 or 69: it was both – it was New Year's Eve (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Debbie Hollier, Nevada City, CA

* * * *

Who else played with Canned Heat and Deep Purple at the Shrine in '68?

Bill, LA

I think the Shrine show on New Years in '68, where Bob Hite rode out on the elephant, also featured Poco, Lee Michaels, Black Pearl, Love Army and Sweetwater. Don't know that Deep Purple was booked on that evening.

Bill, maybe you're thinking about the International Pop Fest in San Francisco a few months earlier that featured these fine folks... Procol Harum, Iron Butterfly, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grass Roots, The Chambers Brothers, Deep Purple, Fraternity of Man & Canned Heat or possibly the following year in Jan of 1970 when Deep Purple appeared with Canned Heat and Renaissance on a triple-bill in London at the Royal Albert Hall.

One final note: The current Johnny Otis piece didn't mention it, but it was Mr. Otis that took Canned Heat into the studio the very first time to record in 1966. Small world, ain't it?

Tim

* * * *

Thank u for posting it! Bob is still boogin' around!! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Stefano Di Leonardo, Fisciano (Salerno, Italy)

* * * *

Great Read! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite) I will post it on Bob "THE BEAR" Hite Official Facebook Page,

Dave Tohill, Brandon, UK

* * * *

Hello Tim, thank you so much for letting a huge Canned Heat fan check out this
interview with the Bear. I really enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Rick Caldwell, Fairfield, Ohio

* * * *

I knew Bob Hite in the 60's. Canned Heat played at our high school prom 1966 Rexford High. The Family Dog, Chet Helms, Skip Taylor.

Max Kalik, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tim,

I just discovered you from an email I received from Preston Smith disclosing his next event. I wanted to tap into his website Prestonsmithmusic but it would not link from your site for some reason. I have to say Preston really is a genius and I met him in Glendale at a jazz club about three years ago, after a fatal accident. By chance, I was invited to spend time hanging out with Preston and some friends after his gig. He is everything you say and I will never forget his amazing creativity and his positive influence in my life.

Janelle, Palm Springs, CA

Love the article! (on Lowell George) Lowell was my father.

Forrest George, Warren, Vermont

This Bob Hite interview is the most interesting thing I have read concerning Canned Heat. I have Fito's book, but I always was interested in learning more about Bob Hite. You did it here my friend...great interview!!!!!

Tony Musto - Pittston, PA

Hey Tim, Great article on Preston! I really enjoyed it and you did your homework. I'll probably catch PS this weekend.

Best,

Dave - Northridge, CA

* * * *

Hello, what a great article on Preston Smith! I actually met Preston one evening after an Acoustic set of my own at the Prestigeous Carlton Hotel here in Atascadero, Ca. We were loading up and he happened to be walking down the sidewalk and stop to say hello. I must say that he is a truly interesting and talented man that NEVER forgets to let me know when he is playing around the Central Coast where I live. It was so fun to read about who he truly is...(as if you don't know him the first time you meet him)! My adventures have only just begun as I recently returned from Nashville recording my self titled debut EP. I can only hope that my adventures down the road are as enlightening as Preston's and that I have the honor of a great writer such as yourself to share them with the world. Thank you for doing just that, sharing "Preston Smith" with the world.

Sincerely,

Amy Estrada - Atascadero, CA

Hi Tim,

My name is Bert, I'm from Italy and I'm a blues harmonica player...I read your article and it reminded me of the two trips I made in the Delta, in 2008 and 2009. I love Frank's music and I think it's a shame people don't really know his work. It's important that people like you write about him. Thank you! In the Delta I was only a "stupid" tourist, but it was a great, unique experience I consider one of the most important in my life: driving on the highways, Listening to the blues everywhere, jamming in places like Red's and ground Zero in Clarksdale or the Blues Bar in Greenville... are priceless things, something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life. I met a beautiful, lovely woman there too (named Hope), but I behaved like a stupid kid and I lost her... Alas! I will never forget that days and the chance I had to find happiness...Well, I also wrote something about Frank on a website, but it's in Italian... I give you the link of the first part (the second will be published in the next weeks) anyway if you know some Italian or somebody who can understand it... Even if I'm thinking of making a translation ...www.bluessummit.com

Cheers,

Bert - Pavia, Italy

I wanna be Tim!

Brent, Seattle, WA

* * *

Those pictures give you an idea of what the Rockin' Pneumonia actually looks like and it looks BAD! But the man can still play! Enjoyed the article - give us more TRAVELING BLUES BOY!

Steve Thomas - NA, INDIANA

* * *

Good Stuff, Tim. Having been a Johnny Winter fan since the first time I heard Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, it was great hearing his take on some his highlight moments that defined his blues career. His affiliation with Muddy Waters was particularly interesting. Kudos for bringing that out. Thanks to your dedication to covering the blues scene, this "one of a kind" music still lives for servicemen & women around the world. Keep it Up!

Brandon Williams, Moreno Valley, CA

* * *

Impressive! What a legend and how cool that you got so much time with him, Tim.

Don, Louisville, KY

Tim - Great article, enjoyed Little Feat/Lowell George story, really brought me back in time. Did not know he was a fishin' man! Wonder what surfaces out of the abyss of your memory next?

Steve Thomas, New Albany, IN

* * * *

Tim,

I really liked your travel back in time with Lowell and Little Feat. As a long time Feat fan (mostly the stuff with Lowell) it was cool to read. I learned several of their songs back in the day and they still stand up today when played live. Another singer I really liked from back then is TimBuckley. Thanks for the article.

Chet Hogoboom, Arroyo Grande, CA

Loved your last issue of TB, especially the Mayall piece. I want that guy's job!

Brent, Seattle, WA

Tim,

This is a great write up. Has it been printed in any magazines? It's better than a lot of things I read in my guitar magazines, so props for that.

Caejar, Moreno Valley, CA

Tim,

I can tell that you have this passion for jazz. I wonder if you yourself play any instrument. Or are you just a groupie like most of us?

I talked with a mid-aged flute jazz artist a few weeks ago and he lamented that despite his talents (and he is extremely talented) he says that the industry hasn't been kind to him. He said jobs are few and far between. He said the music industry is combating piracy and competition due to technology being readily available to private homes and that they are not as profitable as before. So they are replacing live talent for synthesized or digital instruments.

Do you see the same trend in your relationships with your music network?

Bob, Pasadena, CA



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