In the Chicago music community,WestSide singer and drummer Larry Hill Taylor is a crowned prince, the son of noted blues singer VeraTaylor and stepson of guitarist Eddie Taylor. In Stepson of the Blues, Taylor (with blues pianist Bonni McKeown) tells his story of strife and survival in Lawndale during the wild 1950s and 60s. A must-read for anyone, anywhere, who has a love and appreciation for the Chicago blues scene. --Zondra Hughes, Editor, NDigo, Sept. 2010
I just finished stepson of the blues. What a remarkable, sensitive, and important book. --John Hagedorn,Author, World of Gangs
Stepson of the Blues: A Chicago Song of Survival, by Larry Hill Taylor with Bonni McKeown, showcases the history of the Blues in Chicago and of Chicago s West Side in the last half of the 20th century through Taylor's personal story. Taylor was a grassroots part of much of the history he recounts, as a member of the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and the Blues community. Taylor s voice (and McKeown s, as she is also a musician) shines in describing how musicians think about their craft, learn different styles playing with other musicians, read and please crowds, and feel the music and the energy in a room. Taylor was steeped in music and Blues traditions in his family from the start and fashioned his own homemade drum set as a child after seeing Coot Venson play on Maxwell Street. Taylor s memories of growing up with his grandparents and his mother, singer Vera Taylor and stepfather, guitarist Eddie Taylor are evocative and compelling. Even though there was love in the family, the reader is privy to the neglect and abuse Taylor suffered as a young person and disturbing events he witnessed in the family and neighborhood. There is an unresolved gut-wrenching incident that leads to his incarceration, but he joins a prison band and after his release begins his career as a musician. He plays with Blues elders, recounting highlights of a career of more than 30 years, and reveals some of the difficulties in making a living as a working musician. Some of Taylor s assertions tinge on the paranoid, and he seems unwilling to take responsibility for the ramifications of some of his actions. But circumstances like the racism towards and neglect of the black community in that era, surveillance and sabotage by the FBI s COINTELPRO program, the lack of compensation to musicians in those decades, and the politics and biases of the music business have warranted suspicion and scrutiny, and justify speaking out from this unique perspective. The book is valuable as a rich account of Blues history in Chicago and of the controversies in the Blues community about race and compensation, presenting a strong point of view that keeping Blues music alive is about paying living wages to musicians. The authors close with their hope that the book has helped bring out truth and has helped give readers energy to survive, enjoy life, and correct any wrongs. Sounds like a challenge for all of us, especially those who love the city and its music. --Laura Kamedulski in Big City Blues Magazine Dec 2010
About the Author
LARRY HILL TAYLOR Larry Hill Taylor, blues singer and drummer, grew up in North Lawndale on the West Side of Chicago, surrounded by family conflict, gangs, drugs, prison, and some of the greatest music in the world including that of his mother, Vera Taylor, a blues singer; and stepfather Eddie Taylor, guitarist. Since the late 1970s, Larry has played on stage locally, nationally and internationally with many of the blues and soul greats. He has led his own band since the millennium. He appears on several Delmark and Wolf records plus his own CD, They Were in This House. He aims to pass his music and his life story on to new generations.
BONNI MCKEOWN Bonni McKeown, lifelong writer, activist, and blues piano player, is Larry s as-told-to co-author. A West Virginian who came to the Windy City to learn the blues, she is the author of one previous biography of a West Virginia conscientious objector who served in Vietnam as a medic: Peaceful Patriot: The Story of Tom Bennett (Mountain State Press 1980). She profiled southern West Virginia s under-promoted African American musicians in 2007 for Metro Valley magazine in Charleston, the state s capital. She wrote a cover story about Chicago s West Side blues men and women in 2006 for Detroit s Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine.