sam taylor, RIP

Kevin Kiley
Tue Jan 6 00:30:00 EST 2009

 From a member of the Long Island Blues Society

Sam Taylor Jr. 1935-2009

LI and the world have lost a giant.  Bluzman has passed yet he will  
live forever.  Sam came home to LI after years in LA and Tucson and it  
was here that he started.  A humble man, you wouldn’t know he was a  
legend unless you specifically asked and then Sam would tell you tales  
taller than the Moon.  He was born in Alabama and was raised by family  
in Brooklyn.  Boxing was his first love and he was good, Golden Gloves  
good.  So good that he left when bookies started to hassle him to  
throw fights to make bigger bets on the next fight.  Inducted into the  
USAF, Sam was stationed at the old Westhampton AFB and was soon a  
fixture in the rough and ready world of blues in the none too genteel  
black neighborhoods around Riverhead.  You played good or you got a  
chair upside your head he once told me.  From The Bluebird Lounge, Sam  
took the stage at Harlem’s Apollo where he made his debut leading  
Maxine Brown’s band.  He took that roadshow all around the Chitlin  
circuit until fate would have it that Sam was lead guitar in the first  
integrated band, Joey Dee and the Starlighters.  He hit big time with  
them as “Peppermint Twist” stormed the national airwaves.  He later  
played with Sam and Dave, the Isley Brothers and Otis Redding and  
Taylor was a stable writer in the Brill Building but left music when  
the royalties went elsewhere and he got the goose egg.  No stranger to  
hard work, Sam was an electrician at the Brooklyn Naval Yard and  
narrowly avoided a fatal fire on one of the ships.  The siren call of  
music kept whispering and Sam again took on the world as The BT  
Express rode the disco wave to hit city with Sam’s “Do It ‘til you’re  
satisfied.” LA turned into a nightmare that Sam narrowly escaped,  
scarred by drugs and the now nearly lethal heart disease.  His life  
came back in Tucson where a warm, loving community took Sam on as its  
own and clean living rebuilt his health.  A big voice in the sand, Sam  
released many records there but something was missing and only Long  
Island with his family and friends could fill that void.  Rediscovered  
by his minions at Funky Phish jams, Taylor was home and bathed in the  
adulation that he deserved.  The Sam Taylor Band took their rightful  
place on top of the bluesworld first from the stage of Paula Jeans and  
later at Bobbique. In demand, European tours and Western jaunts filled  
in the time but he was home here.  A staple of blues festivals, a  
prolific writer and mentor to many in the burgeoning blues scene of  
the 90s, Sam left his mark wherever he went and used many medias to do  
it.  His book Caught In the Jaw of the Blues is a stream of  
consciousness piece of history that you should read and Sam was a  
staple on Friday mornings from his seat in the DJ booth on WUSB’s  
Blues With A Feeling radio show with his partners in crime Mario  
Staiano and Rich L’Hommedieu. Sam acted in “Tapeheads” with Tim  
Robbins and Jon Cusack, was a featured teacher of the blues in the AMC  
show “Into Character” and was biographied in the DVD film “Unscrubbed- 
the story of Sam Bluzman Taylor.” Late in life, the accolades finally  
started with his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995, his  
well deserved honor as a member of the LI Music Hall of Fame’s first  
class of inductees in 2006 and a lifetime achievement award from the  
LI Blues Society. Sam made the Riverhead Blues Festival his own party  
as his yearly sets brought Bluebird pals like Big Al, Little Curtis  
and Maxine Brown to the east end for some down home and his sets at  
Cedar Beach Blues Fest were jams of renown on the Sound.  The ravages  
of a bluesman’s life, diabetes and heart problems took their toll but  
Sam kept it going with his Wednesday regular gigs and like a mighty  
oak, his acorn mentorees will keep the flame burning.  We’ll miss you  
Bluzman but you keep the jam hot up there and we’ll keep you in our  
hearts down here.-Doc 
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