January 18, 2015 – Dallas Taylor Jr. was born April 7th 1948 in Denver, Colorado, and grew up mostly in San Antonio and Phoenix. His father, a pilot who had flown in World War II, was later killed performing stunts in an air show. His parents had been divorced years earlier. It was his mother, the former Violet Cantu, who set him on his career path: When he was 10, she took him to see the movie “The Gene Krupa Story,” about the legendary drummer. She died of a heart attack when he was 13.
He dropped out of high school to become a musician and moved to Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in the rock subculture. In the pre-Woodstock 1960s, he played with John Sebastian, and he recorded an album with the short-lived psychedelic band Clear Light one of the better-remembered psychedelic one-shots of the ’60s. Clear Light recorded one album on Elektra before splitting up. Their California psychedelia was very much in the mold of fellow Elektra artists Love, Tim Buckley, and especially the Doors.
Then he caught on with a trio of folk-rock singers known for their songwriting and their vocal harmonies. Their 1969 album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” was a colossal hit that soon became acknowledged as a rock classic, and after adding Neil Young to the mix, they went on tour, playing one of their first concerts together at the Woodstock festival.
Taylor also played on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s first album, “Déjà Vu” (1970); he and the bass player Greg Reeves are shown in a group portrait on the album cover, and both their names appear prominently there, too.
By then, however, Taylor’s drinking and drug use had become dangerous and disruptive, and he was tossed from the band. He continued on as a session drummer — he played with Van Morrison and Paul Butterfield, among others — and he was a member of Stills’s own band, Manassas.
As Taylor grew increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs, including cocaine and heroin, his mental and physical health declined. In 1984, he made an attempt at suicide, stabbing himself in the stomach with a butcher knife. That was when he committed to sobriety.
“I was more famous as a junkie than a drummer,” he said in an interview with People magazine in 1990 as he waited for a liver transplant made necessary by his years of substance abuse.
Though Taylor continued to play after his recovery, touring with the Bandaloo Doctors, a group that also included the former Aerosmith guitarist Jimmy Crespo and the vocalist Bonnie Bramlett, he devoted much of his time to a new career as a drug and alcohol counselor, working with treatment centers in the Los Angeles area and conducting interventions with families and individuals.
Taylor was married six times. Four of his marriages ended in divorce and one in an annulment, according to his wife, whom he met through friends in Alcoholics Anonymous and married in 2000. She donated a kidney to her husband in 2007. In addition to her, he is survived by a son, Dallas Troy Taylor, two daughters, Sharlotte Birkland Taylor and Lisa Carter, and six grandchildren.
In an introduction to Mr. Taylor’s 1994 memoir, “Prisoner of Woodstock,” David Crosby, who also survived drug addiction, wrote about the pitfalls for a young musician arriving in Los Angeles for the first time.
“There are a whole list of mistakes, peripheral traps that pull you away from the central and only important concern — music,” he wrote. “Money, glory, fame, sex, adulation, peer group approval, competition and one’s own emotional baggage all distract you from your original purpose. As far as I know, Dallas didn’t miss any of these mistakes. They crept up on him, and jerked the rug out from under him, and derailed him and almost killed him.”
Crosby also wrote: “I use Dallas as an example when I’m speaking to people about surviving the drug experience. I think he has wound up being a hell of a good example.”
Taylor died of complications from viral pneumonia and kidney disease at age 66 on 18 January 2015.