“The real blues goes back to slavery time. You been treated wrong, you got to do something, sing something, to keep going,” Eddie Taylor told an interviewer from Japan in a 1983 documentary  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZU0VNNa-L8  The film shows the feeling of the West Side that year: an outdoor blues band, Harold Washington campaigners, and the Delta Fish Market. Two years later, Eddie Taylor passed–another giant of Great Migration music.

“When you’re talking about the patented Jimmy Reed laconic shuffle sound, you’re talking about Eddie Taylor just as much as Reed himself. Taylor was the glue that kept Reed‘s lowdown grooves from falling into serious disrepair,” writes critic Bill Dahl in the All-Music Guide.

Born in Benoit, MS in 1923, Eddie had little book-learning but a lot of talent and common sense. His babysitter was Memphis Minnie, an extraordinary singer, songwriter and guitar player who moved, like many of the musicians of the time, from the Delta to Memphis to Chicago.  Learning to play along with his friend Jimmy Reed, he followed guitar heroes Robert Johnson, Charley Patton and Son House.  

After a stop in Memphis, he hit Chicago in 1949, playing on Maxwell Street and gigging in the West and South Side clubs, first with Jimmie Lee Robinson, then with harpist Snooky Pryor, guitarist Floyd Jones, and his old homey Reed.  VeeJay Records tried recording Jimmy Reed without Eddie, but found that even Reed’s sweet endearing voice and distinguished harmonica squeal couldn’t get across  as well without Eddie’s backup groove. He stayed with Reed off and on through the 1950s, 60s and 70s til Reed died in 1976. 

Labeled as a backup artist in the music industry, Eddie Taylor was a capable singer and band leader who toured Europe and Japan and recorded for VeeJay, Testament, Advent, Big Bear, and L&R  Records.  Here’s Eddie  on the hypnotic “Peach Tree Blues” (original by Yank Rachell) on the Testament Masters of Modern Blues album featuring Floyd Jones on bass, Big Walter Horton harmonica,    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jV-SL4ggtY

Taylor’s wife Vera, a singer, was the niece of blues singers, the late Eddie “Guitar” Burns of Detroit and Jimmy Burns of Chicago. The Taylors raised a family of professional West Side Chicago blues musicians still active today: Eddie Taylor Jr., blues guitarist and singer;  Tim, a drummer; Larry Taylor, blues and soul singer and drummer (this blog’s author has promoted Larry and helped write his autobiography www.stepsonoftheblues.com ); Demetria, blues vocalist; Brenda, hiphop vocalist. Wolf Records issued Vera’s CD You Better Be Careful, the year after she died in 1999, with her three musician sons playing behind her. 

Bonni McKeown

"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years. www.barrelhousebonni.com  She has led classes for young and old on...