Nationwide — Blues singer and bandleader Larry Taylor intends to share his Chicago West Side legacy everywhere in 2024—by recording, film and live shows in your community. Originally a drummer, Taylor moves audiences onto the dance floor with raw soul singing and precise sounds of his band, the Soul Blues Healers. They bring the glory of Black music history to life.
Taylor, age 68, is the oldest in a family of musicians headed by the late guitarist Eddie Taylor Sr. (heard on VeeJay Records) and singer Vera Hill Taylor, who joined the Great Migration to Chicago from Mississippi in the 1950s. Larry produced a CD featuring his musical brothers and sisters Brenda, Tim, Demetria, and the late Eddie Jr. Larry’s son Liljet 2x adds a heart-gripping positive rap backed by the band. Generations of Blues was released by Nola-Blue Records in 2023, receiving worldwide airplay and critical acclaim.
“This is Chicago Blues as you would expect it to be – straight ahead, no nonsense and authentic… a very comprehensive legacy piece and a wonderful tribute to a monumental blues family,” raved Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine.
“Blues is the greatest music in the world. We want to keep it going,” declares Taylor. “I feel like our ancestors are inspiring musicians of today to keep their songs alive.”
Blues was crafted by African Americans from the 19th century, woven from everyday stories and feelings shared in Southern cotton fields and lumber camps. Like spirituals, this simple, powerful music helped keep the community together in the face of poverty and injustice. Blues combined African rhythms with Celtic melodies to form the root of American popular music. Blues is part of jazz, R&B, rock, country, and even hip-hop – a form that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Larry Taylor grew up in a house visited by Chicago blues giants like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James. For nearly 30 years before forming his own band in 2004, he drummed with Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker, A.C. Reed, Johnnie Taylor, and many more icons of blues and soul.
But during Larry’s lifetime, many Black venue proprietors and promoters have aged out. Few traditional small lounges remain in the hood for young musicians to hone their chops.
Because blues is the root of rock music, many white fans have been drawn to it, including some who wanted to take control. Today many national “blues” festivals feature mostly white-led acts that claim the top slots.
The issue of blues exploitation comes to the Los Angeles movie screen in time for Black History Month 2024, when The Rhythm and the Blues, a feature film by Darryl Pitts based on Larry Taylor’s family story, appears at the Feb. 6-19 Pan African Film and Arts Festival. Actor Leon Robinson (The Temptations; Five Heartbeats) stars as Eddie Taylor Sr., and Guy Davis, son of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, plays Jimmy Reed, complete with racked harmonica. The soundtrack includes music by Larry and Eddie Taylor Jr.
For Taylor and his partner-manager, Barrelhouse Bonni, the best alternative to culture appropriation is to offer their own shows in the hood. For the past two years, they have teamed with local nonprofits and the Chicago Department of Culture and Special Events for free concerts in public parks and churches.
“It took a while to get going after the pandemic, but soon we had people coming out of senior buildings to hear us,“ Taylor said. “They remember how great this music was: blues, soul, funk, doo-wop, and old-school R&B.” Young people standing around had a chance to hear it too—some for the first time. “Blues and soul music needs to feel like the 1950s, 60s and 70s and earlier. It’s an old tradition. If it sounds right, it will reach people in their hearts.”
Taylor urges promoters to use arts funding to bring heritage blues to towns big and small for festivals, clubs, and community programs. “We pay our musicians decent money. We’re happy to do history interviews and educational workshops to make our trips more valuable. This classic Black music can be a focus to rebuild Black Main Streets all over the country. Plus, our blues is so groovy, it brings people of all ethnic groups together.”
GET THE BLUES!
To book live shows and programs with West Side bluesman Larry Taylor:
Nola-Blue Records is offering a 20% discount on Larry Taylor’s family album Generations of Blues during Black History Month, February 2024. Visit https://bit.ly/TaylorGOB and use discount code gobcd for CD purchases and gobdigi for digital downloads.
U.S. Premiere The Rhythm and the Blues in the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, Los Angeles, Feb. 6-19, 2024: https://paff2024.eventive.org/films/659bbad8041a39007c3d5744
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