Menu

Larry Taylor Calls for Change in Music Biz

Get rid of Racism, Favoritism, Islamophobia

March 21st, 2019 12:30 PM

Larry Taylor in his West Austin neighborhood

By Bonni McKeown

2:03 am. Thurs. March 21, 2019

Message from Larry Taylor
Blues Legend, Singer and Drummer
Songwriter and Producer

To the people who run the blues business:

For 42 years I have been a a bluesman. The Taylor family have been a big part of the blues, you know this too if you respect our talent.

Yet mostly we have been viewed as side people, making lead acts sound good. All these years not one Grammy or Handy award was given to Eddie Taylor Sr, our mother Vera Taylor or any of our talented musical family who are all professionals: Eddie Jr. on guitar and vocals, who we have just tragically lost; Tim on drums, myself on drums and vocals, Demetria and Brenda on vocals.

When I came out as a singer and bandleader in 2003, I immediately found people were against me because I wanted to have my own career and prosper. I am blessed with talent, and i am committed to carry the blues on, so why the opposition?  I am "keeping the blues alive."

I am speaking here to Chicago club owners, promoters around the world; booking agents; festival owners; record companies who have locked me out. For years I've asked to work with you.  Plenty of excuses every time I ask for a gig.

I know fans around the world love my music, they love all the Taylors.  But no one in the business is promoting my records. I applied to 120 blues festivals this year, and all the downtown clubs, and was turned down.  We have yet to hear from the 2019 Chicago blues fest. Carlos said he would think about it. Why should he have to think any longer? The fans liked my acts in 2008. I have professional quality recordings—one that includes the entire Taylor family— that have been turned down by blues record companies. Why?

Being the oldest in the Taylor family, I was out here playing music before my other other brothers and sisters. I played with Eddie Taylor Sr., John Lee Hooker and many other  blues legends. My music is rooted, but my energy appeals to younger people of all ethnic groups. It has the potential to revive the blues. Ignoring my talent is a disservice to the legacy of our parents and Eddie Jr.  Let's ask the fans what they think!

I've got a few ideas why some business people oppose me:

1. I represent the West Side and politically, the city has been trying to ignore the West Side.  

2. I don't play blues guitar like my little brother Eddie Taylor Jr. and some don't respect my talents of singing, drumming, bandleading, producing and arranging.

3. People don't want to recognize that I learned personally from the masters and I play traditional blues. People in the business have actually said they don't want to offer traditional blues like what Muddy, Wolf and our mom and dad did. But the business has made lots of money on traditional blues. Blues media refuse to write about me. Dick Waterman actually told me on Blues-L that my heritage means nothing.  But he himself collected awards for writing about blues men and women, and got in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  Don't you see something wrong here?
 
4. Is it because of Islamophobia? I wrote a piece on Blues L about Ramadan in 2004, trying to educate people about Islam as a peaceful religion and giving greetings to Muslims around the world. In spring 2005, my brother Eddie Jr. flew overseas to play music in Lebanon. He told me he was detained in Tel Aviv for 10 hours and interrogated. He had his contracts to prove he was there on business. He said they had paperwork with MY name on it. They kept asking him the same questions, including was he a Muslim. I'm the only Muslim in the family, and they were using MY religion against HIM.  When he got back to O'Hare and brought his guitar home to 4117 W. Wilcox, and opened the case, he found that they'd broken the neck on the guitar.  I thank Dave Katzman for fixing it.  All this is because of religious discrimination. My brother was threatened because of Islamophobia. And it is ruining my career.  I live in poverty. I've had to struggle to get every gig. Bonni has helped me, but her resources are gone and her influence is limited. Our movie The Rhythm and the Blues, featuring Leon as Eddie Taylor Sr., has had trouble getting funding to finish.  

5. Is racism in the blues business worse than we think? Malcolm X called the American dream "the American nightmare" for Black people, and I'm afraid this is still going on. I'm a non-racist person. I look at the content of your character, like Martin Luther King said.  I do appreciate white musicians and fans. But racism is systematic. It has a lot to do with wealth inequality.  Black people have great potential but we are not treated like American citizens. We are being kept down.  Why are so-called blues festivals around the country not featuring Black artists?  Why is channel 49 not showing hardly any Black blues music these days? Why is Europe no longer hiring many American Black blues artists? When it comes to booking, I am sick of having Black people, even family members, played off against each other.

Like my little brother said, all I want is to play music. When I'm on the stage, I'm not about religion or any conflict; it's all about the music.  Music is supposed to bring musicians and people together, not divide us. My music brings people together.

I ask you to promote me, give me more give me more work, major festivals. A lot has happened but I'm willing to work with people if they are willing to work with me.  It's ok if promoters want to make money, just as long as I'm making money too. Music is my livelihood. I have to make a living wage. I'm not now.  Don't you want to be on the right side of history and support blues musicians instead of taking from them?

Many people haven't had the chance to really know me.  ]They have not tried to work with me.  If I have said something in the past against you, please forgive me. I promise you this, I am a different person—I understand other people's viewpoints better now.

I am still here, thank God. I had lots of time to think when Lil Brother Eddie Taylor Jr. passed away.  I'm open to dialog and talk about how to resolve some of these things.

My talented brother Eddie is dead at age 47. It's never too late to do the right thing by me and others in the family. Please stop acting like I am not around. I'm 63. I want to play my music, be who I am, and live my life in peace. Give me the respect and you will get it back from me in return. Give me my flowers while I am still alive cause when I am dead it does no good.

Respectfully yours,
Larry Taylor

Thank you.