MELVIN TAYLOR

L1010246_3bwWHAT WAS THE FIRST GUITAR YOU EVER OWNED AND WHAT WAS THE BEST THING YOU RECALL ABOUT IT?  

My very first guitar was given to me by my teacher, Father Duffacy at Saint Francis Cabrini.  I was 13. It was a white Kingston and he also gave me an amplifier. I couldn’t believe it – my family could not afford to buy me one.  What a wonderful, generous man.  I loved that guitar.  I polished it, slept with it… The best part about the guitar was that it was my very own.

ANY GUITARS YOU’VE HAD OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU WISH YOU STILL HAD NOW?

One guitar I wish I had now was a cherry red Gretch Country Gentleman. It was a reissue of 1967 Chet Adkins model.  I lost it when my basement flooded in 1998. I was on the road, out of town at the time.  It was completely ruined by the time home.

IN TERMS OF PLAIN OLD FEELING GOOD, DO YOU PREFER PLAYING GUITAR AT HOME ALONE, IN THE STUDIO OR LIVE ON STAGE?

For me there is nothing like performing live on stage.  I feed off of the energy the audience puts out and I throw it right back to them.

WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO MAKING NEW RECORDS? DOES THERE NEED TO BE A MUSICAL THEME FOR A GIVEN RELEASE OR DO YOU PREFER THE FREEDOM TO CHANGE IT UP THROUGHOUT?

When I started out I recorded for a label – my first 6 CD’s were done that way;  the producer sets the approach and theme for a release. The music turned out great but financially it did not work well for me.

melvinMy most recent CD’s, Beyond the Burning Guitar (2010), Sweet Taste of Guitar (2011), and Taylor Made (2013) I composed, recorded and produced on my own.  It gave me the freedom to record and present the music the way I want.  It had been almost 10 years since my last CD so there was lots of discussion with my management about how to proceed.  BTBG is all instrumental, 23 original songs plus my arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth (Melvin Meets Beethoven).  The CD covers several styles of music including, jazz, latin, blues and classical. The idea was to feature my guitar playing.  I love ALL kinds of music and I’ve been blessed with my talent. I’ve never had a guitar lesson, no one taught me how to play; I would just hear a song and could play it.

Throughout my career I constantly heard producers, music critics, other musicians say, “pick one style, just one, and stay with That”.  I thought the idea was absurd and could get very boring. I did not want to limit myself.

Basically I created my own sound by combining elements from many areas of music and I think I have done it well. Once again with my latest release, Taylor Made (2013), the theme is exactly that.  The title explains the music on the CD – All kinds of music is who I am.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO PLAY GUITAR FOR A LIVING AND THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK?

Around age 11 or 12 I began performing on Maxwell Street in Chicago.  I would play with my Uncle Floyd and his friends. I did not even have my own guitar so I would play my uncle’s Fender Mustang. When people started crowding around us and throwing money in the tip jar – I knew right then there was no turning back.

WHAT’S THE BEST BLUES GUITAR SHOWDOWN YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN OR WITNESSED LIVE ON STAGE?

I think this answer will surprise you – the late 1980’s – I believe 1987, George Benson and Earl Klugh at Carnegie Hall of all places.  Fabulous blues by two exceptionally talented guitarists.

HOW DID THE HABIT OF TURNING YOUR AMP BACKWARDS ‘TO THE WALL’ COME ABOUT?

Good music and sound levels go hand in hand.  Lots of people think the louder the music the better – not true! Inexperience with sound engineering can ruin a show.  Sound levels of each band member need to blend.  Whether it’s a 3 piece band or a symphony orchestra.  When playing in a smaller club I often turn my amp to face backwards or away from the audience.  I don’t want to shatter their eardrums.

MelvinTaylorWHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE GUITAR(S) FOR THE CLEANER, MORE JAZZ INFLUENCED MATERIAL VERSES THE BLUESIER, MORE ROCKIN’ BONZO BLUES STUFF?

My personal favorite guitar is my Ibanez SA200.  I can play everything on this guitar – jazz, blues, rock. Now let me add that I modify ALL of my guitars, amps and pedals.  If someone goes out and buys the same brand names of equipment they will not get the same sound that I do.  Recently I’ve been beta testing ceramic wire for a company in Japan. Some day I hope to market my own line of guitars and equipment.

WHAT EARLY BLUES RECORDS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU AS A YOUNGSTER AND DO YOU STILL LISTEN TO THEM TODAY?

Freddie King –  Hide Away. Jimmy Reed Shuffle. These 2 are at the top of my list. Remember I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s – EVERYTHING was going on. Motown, James Brown, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder.   It was funk/soul, rock, jazz – an absolutely amazing time to be growing up and soaking in all this music especially for a young guitar player.

DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE BLUES TO PLAY THEM OR IS IT MORE A WAY OF LIFE THAN A STATE OF MIND?

When I think of guys who put blues on the map I would have to name Albert King, Pinetop, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) and Willie Dixon as major forces. The blues is a “feeling”.  Broken and in pain, sadness and misery. Unfortunately it WAS a way of life for these people. Many people have come to me to teach them to play the blues – I can teach them blues chords and blues licks but the real blues comes from deep within….MELVIN TAYLOR

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WEBB WILDER


1.0 – Your most recent record was titled “More Like Me”, is that an admission or an affirmation? Both.  I wrote the song “More Like Me” first.   After the album was complete, I thought that best described it, as there were some pretty personal songs there, more of my own writing than ever before plus I co-produced the record. In life, everyone’s always telling you, that you should “Just be yourself.”  If that’s true, it’s an affirmation. It IS more like me, so, it’s an admission as well.

2.0 – Do you have a favorite track on the record? I’m pretty happy with all or most of it.  I do especially like the way “Changing Colors” came out, though.

3.0 – Where did it all start for you musically? My aunt, Montressa Wilder, said that I sang before I talked.  Maybe I did.  I don’t know but, I was always dreaming of show business, watching TV, listening and paying attention to songs and singers when I was a kid.  A coupla my friends were a little older than me when I was about 11 or 12.   They both had guitars and were learning to play.  My mother asked me if I would like a guitar for Christmas.  I said, YES!”  It was kind of all over after that.

4.0 – Do you have a philosophy on touring? Ya gotta do it.  Some of it is fun.  The best part is playing and singing.  It’s a lot of fun to hang out with the other guys in the band, go places, etc. but, it’ll wear you out pretty fast.  I guess I feel like ya gotta do it but, ya gotta find a way to have some balance, know your limits, etc.  Either way, ya gotta do it.  If you love to play music, it really helps!

5.0 – Has it changed over the years? Well, it has.  In many ways, it’s still the same but,(sadly) there are fewer places to play, fewer nights of the week that you can count on  to be financially practical (fiscally feasible?) to be out and about in the world away from home on with expenses rolling on your tab.  A lot about the country has changed.  I call it “the disappearing America” Everything (almost) is “Bed, Bath and… Bye Bye” to all the stuff you used to see.”  There’s a lot more traffic now.  It also seems that older people tend to support live music more than young ones on the whole.  Maybe it’s just my audience.  I will say that, when young people hear us, a fair percentage of them dig it but, baby boomers tend to be the ones who grew up thinking that music really mattered, could change the world, whatever you want to say… and I’m impressed that a whole lot of them still come out to live shows.

6.0 – On stage, is eye contact with the audience important or just another occupational hazard? Both!  The great entertainers really do that eye contact thing.  I can’t always do it.  When I think about it (and I do), I realize that it’s that or take a “Pete Townshend/look at ME” approach.  Eye contact is an entertainer thing.  You don’t have to have it to be a performance artist.

7.0 – Your lyrics usually tell a story, what is your literary background if any? I don’t consider myself well read.  I like to read but, gravitate toward pretty low brow stuff: music bios, crime fiction, Western stuff.  I have a non-teaching BS degree in English so, I kinda know who Ben Johnson was and stuff but, I really just paid enough attention to get a diploma.

8.0 – Is “Meet Your New Landlord” about a personal experience, that of a friend, or is it pure fiction? I don’t know. It’s a Sonny Landreth song.

9.0 – What is your favorite song to perform live and why? Different songs on different nights.  It’s not so much a specific song as it is the one that is groovin’ and “hittin’ on all eights” with me, the band, my voice, tuning, the sound onstage, the audience or whatever it may be on any given night.  It’s (to quote Boston) “more than a feelin'”.

10.0 – You’re standing at the Pearly Gates and, to your surprise, you are greeted first by Johnny Cash, what do you have to say for yourself? For myself?  I don’t know.  To him? “I’ve always wanted to meet you!” I might figure I have to get and hold his attention quick so, I might apply the same “logic” on the situation that I used upon meeting Ry Cooder.   Ry didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would suffer a fool gladly.  He’s a slide guitarist so, I said “My aunt recorded the original Elmore James version of “Dust My Broom!”. True. ~ WEBB WILDER: http://www.webbwilder.com/