Larry Taylor and The Taylor Family
Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy
Arguably, no single family has been more important to the blues than the Taylor family, headed by Jimmy Reed’s renowned guitarist and bandleader in his own right, Eddie Taylor, Sr. and his wife, singer Vera Taylor, part of the Great Migration that settled on Chicago’s West Side in the early ‘50s. Five of their eight children grew up to be professional musicians. The eldest son Larry Taylor, a vocalist and drummer, assembled his brothers and sisters in 2015 to pay tribute to their father with ten tracks. Two more were added in 2017 and the third just this past May. This collection is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth in 1923. Even casual blues fans are likely familiar with Eddie Taylor Sr.’s most enduring songs – “Big Town Playboy,” “Bad Boy,” and “Ride “Em Down.”
Larry has his own acclaimed 2004 They Were In This House (AV/Wolf). Brenda Taylor has her 3021 Buggy Ride (Wolf) and her younger sister, Demetria Taylor, has both 2011’s Bad Girl and 2022’s Doin’ What I’m Supposed to Do on Delmark. Prior to his passing in 2019, vocalist. Guitarist Eddie Taylor Jr. had released half a dozen albums on the Wolf label, beginning with 1998’s Lookin’ for Trouble. Drummer Tim Taylor has appeared on over 40 blues albums and toured with the bands of Maurice John Vaughan and Eddie Shaw. This legacy now extends to Larry’s teenaged son, the rapper Liljet2x, represented on the track recorded in 2023. These artists all appear on Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy backed by the Soul Blues Healers, among whom is harmonicist Matthew Skoller to contribute the Jimmy Reed-like sound. Two of them, Sleepy Riley and Killer Ray Allison have since passed.
Larry Taylor kicks off with his “She Treats Me Just the Same,” singing, playing drums and getting support in part from guitarist Joe B. Brinson and pianist Barrelhouse Bonni. These three appear again on a grittier vocal from Larry, “I Paid My Dues.” Larry teams with his guitarist brother, Eddie Jr., on their dad’s Jimmy Reed styled “Take Your Hand Down,” colored by Skoller’s blues harp. Demetria then steps in for the gender transformed “Bad Girl,’ with Eddie Jr. and Jerry O Mansfield on guitars, Duke Harris pounding the piano, brother Tim on drums, Riley on bass, along with Ronnie G. on sax and B.J. Emery on trombone shining as they frame her sassy vocal. Demetria encores with Magic Sam’s “You Belong to Me,” with the same backing cast. Brenda Taylor honors her mom’s tune, “I Found Out” with the same ensemble that backed Demetria, a feature for Harris on organ; and again on JB. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Son” where she belts it out, holding nothing back. (another gender transformed tune, aka “Mama, Talk to Your Daughter”)
Larry and Eddie Jr. team again on Eddie’s fast-paced shuffle “I Feel So Bad,” with Skoller ably filling the spaces with his wailing harp. Eddie Jr., who seldom sings, takes to the mic, sounding authentic and convincing on dad’s “Big Town Playboy, yet another feature not only for the guitarist but for Skoller, one of the finest harp players in the city today. Larry has several others here including the classic sounding (we’ve heard this riff thousands of times) “Penitentiary Blues,” the James Brown-like “Jump Down American Queen,” and his drumming track with Eddie Jr., the closing instrumental “Larry & Eddie Groove (Blues In the Rain)” that features some of Eddie’s best guitar, Riley’s bass, Stanley Bank’s piano and Skoller’s stellar harp. The outlier here is obviously the rap from Liljet2x “No Shine,” an adaptation of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but it’s all part of the family gathering that extends the legacy into another Black music form.
Yes, it’s a bit eclectic and uneven but important nonetheless to hear these blues artists honor their parents and those who pioneered the electric blues in Chicago. Along the way, we hear authentic blues from the next generation who are thankfully carrying the torch.