January 5, 2009 – Sam “Bluzman” Taylor was born Sam Willis Taylor Jr. on October 25th 1934 in Crichton, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Taylor began singing gospel at the age of three. His Long Island connection began in 1957, during his service in the Air Force.
Widely known as a jump blues songwriter and performer, he wrote songs that have been recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley and Son Seals to DMX and EPMD. He was part of Joey Dee & The Starlighters when they had their hit “Peppermint Twist” in 1962. Jump blues is an up-tempo blues usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments.
The songwriter of hundreds of songs, many of them hits such as “Peace Pipe”, performed by the B.T. Express, Taylor’s efforts were recorded by Freddie King, Chubby Checker, Son Seals, Jimmy Witherspoon, Brook Benton, Jay and the Americans, Joey Dee, Maxine Brown, and Joe Tex. Taylor also was the bandleader and/or guitarist for Big Joe Turner, The Isley Brothers, Tracy Nelson, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave.
Taylor and his songwriting partner, Bennie Earl, mentored young Florida duo Sam & Dave and wrote two of their early hits “People in Love” and “Listening For My Name”. Taylor was also an original member and guitarist/songwriter for Joey Dee and the Starliters. With fellow Starliter Dave Brigatti, Taylor had a strong influence on The Rascals, which included Brigati’s younger brother Eddie. He also wrote some of the first songs for The Vagrants which included Leslie West who would later go on to form Mountain. After recording and appearing in two films with the Starliters including Two Tickets to Paris, Taylor took his friend Jimi Hendrix with him to tell Joey Dee and Morris Levy to let the young upstart take his place in the group.
At the start of the 1970s, Taylor and Earl were hired as staff songwriters for The Beach Boys record label, Brother Records, until Brian Wilson burned the studio with Taylor and Earl’s demos for the group going up in flames. At that time, Taylor released his first solo album Tunnels Of My Mind. He was later hired by Roadshow Records as an A&R/songwriter for the acts they were signing. He was told by the record producer Jeff Lane that, in exchange for helping them build up the company, he would be granted a solo deal for three albums. The most notable of these artists was King David House Rockers who becameB.T. Express. Taylor played rhythm guitar on all tracks of the group’s first five albums, with the first three being million sellers, “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)”, “Non-Stop”, and “Energy to Burn”. He also played the organ on the group’s million seller, “Do It ’till Your Satisfied”. Taylor’s song “Peace Pipe” became one of the group’s biggest hits.
In the 1970s he get afflicted with the rock and roll disease of drug addiction and by the late 70s he moved to Tucson, Arizona to get away from it and became a prime figure in Arizona’s heavy music scene, where he hosted his own television program, Down To Earth and a popular radio show called “The Blues According To Sam” On KXCI. It was also in Arizona that Taylor began a modest acting career appearing movies and television withLou Gossett Jr, Mario Van Peebles, and Barbara Eden. He also appeared in the cult classic music film, Tape Heads which starred Tim Robbins, Michael Nesmith Of The Monkees, Junior Walker, & Sam’s long time friend Sam Moore Of Sam & Dave. Sam also saw two of his compositions used in the film. Sam would also reboot his artist album career by releasing 3 albums that he recorded in Arizona: “Signature”, “Voice Of The Blues”, & “Bluzman”.
After Bobby Taylor, Sam’s son, who was the leader of The Real Deal, a popular blues band, died Monday, July 21, 1997 from a heart attack at age 39, Bluzman moved back to Long Island to be with family.
Even though he was the whistle on Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” as he played guitar with Otis, Joey Dee, Sam and Dave and many more, Taylor was best known for his own blues work – more than 12 albums, including “I Came from Dirt” and 2004’s “Voice of the Blues” – and his regular appearances at Long Island blues clubs.
Sam Taylor was inducted into the Arizona Blue Hall of Fame in 1997. He received the Long Island Music Hall of Fame recognition in 2006. Just before his death, he released his autobiography “Caught In The Jaws Of The Blues”.
He died of heart disease on Jan 5, 2009 at the age of 74.