Always "The Man" : Sam Taylor ©2003JCMarion


Sam Taylor was born in July of 1916 in Lexington, Tennessee. Having an ear for music he began to learn the clarinet at a young age and by his teens had changed over to first the alto sax and then the tenor. By the time Taylor had reached twenty he had started to play in and around Nashville and was soon well thought of enough to get an audition with the Sunset Royal Orchestra. He soon became a member of that band and hooked up with singer-dancer-comedian Scat Man Crothers. In the early forties he was in the sax section of the band of trumpeter Cootie Williams for a time and then joined Lucky Millinder. In late 1943 Taylor became part of the orchestra of Cab Calloway and remained for six years. The experience gave Taylor a view of the world from endless touring both in this country and overseas, and he began to fine tune his tenor sax style. After leaving Cab, he had a small group called The Be-Boppers and played a lot of club dates in the Northeast.

Taylor began to get work as a session musician in 1952 and did work for Atlantic, Savoy, and Apollo Records. In November of that year he was signed by former MGM record man Joe Davis who has a stable of labels including Beacon, Joe Davis, and Jay-Dee . Nothing much became of that contract but Taylor was becoming a much in demand session tenor saxophonist now with Mercury and Decca Records in 1953. The following year he records for MGM Records releases #11758 as by The Cat Men. The songs are "Please Be Kind" and "This Can't Be Love" both featuring the lead tenor sax of Sam Taylor. In late July MGM releases 11791 and the label reads The Cat Men featuring Sam (The Man) Taylor. The songs are "My Reverie" and "S'Posin". Late in the year MGM releases two movie themes as by The Sam Taylor Orchestra - "The High And Mighty" and "Tara's Theme (from "Gone With The Wind")". At this time Taylor also records in the orchestra of Claude Cloud for MGM on the tunes "Beginner's Mambo" and "If I Can Live To See The Day" on #11847.

In early 1955, Sam "The Man" Taylor now became a known commodity in the rock 'n roll age. It came from a MGM release by Claude Cloud and his band (sometime called The Thunderclaps). The song was called "Cloudburst" (the forgotten flip side was "One Bone"), and it was a song for the time. It was a frantic sax led screamer with hooks galore and it caught the ear of every teenager listening to Moondog (and led to a wonderful "vocalese version of the sax solo by Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross), and Alan Freed made sure they all knew that it was Taylor who owned that blasting tenor sax lead. In April of that year Freed promoted Sam Taylor to be the director of his big band at his first stage show at the Brooklyn Paramount. At the time of the Paramount show, Freed signs a deal with Coral Records to feature his big rock band on that label.

After fronting the band for the Alan Freed Easter Jubilee show at the Brooklyn Paramount, Sam Taylor plays a number of club dates in the New York area with a small combo.In May MGM releases "Harlem Nocturne" and "Red Sails In The Sunset" by Sam (The Man) on #11977. Taylor leads the orchestra during Alan Freed's Labor Day Week show at the Brooklyn Paramount which breaks all box office records. Soon after the show MGM releases #12065 with the tunes "Don't Take Your Love From Me" and "As Time Goes By". At year's end Taylor is on stage again fronting the Alan Freed band at (this time) the New York Paramount for the big Christmas Show. Freed also is working on a recording deal for his band with Coral Records. And - MGM releases "Taylor Made" and "Hit The Road" on #12131.

Sam Taylor is set as the band leader for a series of R & B shows in New Jersey with radio dj Ramon Bruce. In February Sam records "Oo Wee" and "Look Out" on MGM #12186. After the Jersey shows MGM releases #12197 - "To A Wild Rose" and an interesting version of "Blue Suede Shoes". Box office records fall again at the Easter 1956 rock 'n roll revue at the Brooklyn Paramount as Taylor once again conducts the big band for the week long show. In an ill advised move, the Count Basie band is signed for Alan Freed's network radio show for CBS. Soon Basie is out and the regular Freed show band is on stage with Sam (The Man) Taylor in his customary conductor's spot. In June MGM releases "The Beat" and "Real Gone" on #12278. In November a CBS TV discussion on the merits of rock 'n roll featured Sam Taylor as one of the panelists and he was solidly in favor of the music. His MGM recording of "Blues In My Heart" is his best seller ever for the label. In December Taylor joins Claude Cloud in the recording studio and the result is "Flip And Skip" and "Close Out" on MGM #12386.

Along with his MGM records under his own name, Taylor records a number of tunes with the Alan Freed band for Coral such as "The Boss Is Home", "Teen Rock" and the soon to be theme song for Freed "Right Now Right Now". He continues to be the band director for all of Alan Freed's stage shows in New York and New England. In April of 1957 Taylor is part of the Alan Freed band for a series of television shows for ABC. He is also at the helm of the band for an Easter week show with Freed at the Brooklyn Paramount. In August MGM Records releases "Tanganyika" and "A Touch Of The Blues" on #12529. By January of 1958 Sam Taylor is still at it on MGM with "The Big Guitar" and "Cherokee" on #12613. In the spring of 1958 Taylor joins the Alan Freed big touring show that will criss cross the country for two and a half months. In August as Taylor readies another Freed revue this time at the Brooklyn Fox, MGM releases #12696 - "The Very Thought Of You" and "Man That's Choice". At year's end MGM releases "Let's Go Dancing" and "The Organ Grinder's Swing" on #12729.

In February of 1959 "Bucks County Bounce" and "Body And Soul" are paired by MGM on #12756. Late in the year MGM releases "Pop Pop De Poppa" and "That's How I Feel About You" on #12831. In November Sam "The Man" Taylor takes part in a big cross promotion by MGM Records and Woolworth's with an appearance at the chain's midtown Manhattan flagship store. By now the end was in sight for the first wave of R & B influenced music as the teen idols took over, and the payola investigation caused the downfall of Alan Freed. Sam Taylor turned to a more serious brand of music as he did session work for Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, and Sy Oliver. Into the 1960s he began to record jazz styled albums and modern stylings of old standards. He played with a small combo again, called The Blues Chasers. The albums beginning in the late 50s included "Blue Mist", the interestingly named "Jazz For Commuters", "More Blue Mist", "The Bad And The Beautiful", "Misty Mood", and "It's A Blue World". Sam Taylor is also on all versions of the recordings of the Alan Freed radio broadcasts from CBS in 1956. In 1990 a re-issue of "Weary Blues" which featured Langston Hughes reading his poetry over jazz played by a combo that included Sam Taylor. This set was originally recorded in 1958. There are also the albums in the 1950s recorded for Coral under Alan Freed's name, and a compilation called "The Groove Story" , mid 50s releases on that RCA Victor R & B label. Finally there is the 1999 CD called "Swingsation" which features Sam (The Man) Taylor fronting a combo and playing new versions of some of his better known tunes such as "Cloudburst", "The Big Beat", "Oo-Wee" and "The Boss Is Home"

For close to an incredible sixty five years Sam Taylor has been indeed "The Man" providing American music with a sound that revolutionized this art form for all time. He remains one of the true giants of rock 'n roll.

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