Michael Taylor – Biography / Work Experience ( a condensed version )
Early Days – Mississippi
I was born in Greenwood, Mississippi – May 8, 1958. Greenwood lies about two hours due South of Memphis, TN in a region known as the Delta.
I was surrounded by music growing up. My grandmother Ann played piano and some of my earliest music memories are of playing piano at her house on the farm on Quiver River. Church choirs, parents who both played instruments ( Dad – Cornet, Mom – Tenor Sax ), a sister who tickled the ivories, an uncle who had a band, neighbors who played electric guitars really loud, participation in the high school band playing trombone, and a band director that let me borrow an acoustic guitar, all conspired to influence my direction toward a life of creating and performing music.
I was a business man from early on. I mowed yards and delivered newspapers for The Greenwood Commonwealth. I learned about capitalism beginning at age eleven. When I left the newspaper business at the end of high school I was delivering over 750 papers a day (155 houses and numerous rack stops and business locations). I made enough money to buy my first car (a Ford Maverick), my main ax for many years, (a Gibson ES335) and to pay for a trip to Europe. The newspaper business was good for me.
Around the time I was in High School 72-76, the Greenwood Arts Festival gave me opportunities to perform and see big time show business up close. The festival happened one weekend a year – maybe my favorite weekend. My dad got me the position of spotlight operator for the big shows. I ran spotlight for Jose’ Feliciano, Roger Miller, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Roger Williams, The Coasters and Vince Vance and the Valiants. I had to be there for rehearsal so I got to see how things worked behind the curtains. The festival also had a Coffee House where local performers could showcase their talents. I performed there for the first time on Acoustic guitar and did a little singing – great memories.
To earn extra income in high school I worked as a disc jockey in almost every radio station in Greenwood: WGRM – Easy Listening (Big Band Jazz), WSWG – Top 40 and an occasional Soul shift, and WABG – Country. It was in these control rooms where I was introduced to a wide variety of musical styles as well as recording, production, and advertising. I also learned to play guitar at work by picking along with the discs that turned.
After high school graduation in 1976, I toured Europe with the “USA School Band and Chorus“. It was the bicentennial celebration for the United States and the band was welcomed everywhere. 19 performances in 21 days with a band that was assembled in New York from students from 42 different states. I played trombone, bass guitar, and acted as equipment manager for the PA and electronic gear. Experiencing life outside the United States was very eye opening and changed my perspective of the world greatly. I can think of few things in life that have affected me so much. Every one should travel to other countries.
After Europe, I spent a year the “University of Southern MS” learning about real life outside of the hometown. I was enrolled in the music program and stuck to the curriculum for a couple of quarters learning theory and playing trombone and basic keyboard, but I wasn’t learning what I wanted, guitar. In the 1970’s there were few guitar programs available in universities, USM was no exception. I left the music department to pursue my own course of study in guitar and “Popular” music. I maintained my elective courses.
When I started running low on money I got a part time job at a country music station nearby, WCJU – Columbia, MS. I even had a fan club which had one member. I further honed my recording and guitar skills there on many a lonely shift. It was there at WCJU that I was really got into the music of Chet Atkins. The station had a copy of his “Alone” record – still one of my favorites.
After the first year at the university I decided to move back to Greenwood. I got a job at WABG, the country music radio station, where I ended up becoming the program director. I had the most seniority after only three months – it was a high turnover operation.
When my high school sweet heart moved to Illinois in 1977, I decided my fortunes might lie somewhere above the Mason-Dixon line. I packed up my guitars and moved from the middle of a cotton field into the middle of a corn field in the winter of 1978. Yes, the same year as the ice storm.
Adult Years – Illinois
After working a variety of retail and service occupations, including music retail, I decided that being my own boss might work out better than working for someone else. I began performing regularly in bands and teaching guitar lessons to make the ends meet. I bought a 4-track cassette recorder and began recording my own compositions and songs. My girlfriend became my first wife. We lived in an old house that had been converted into two apartments. We had the upstairs. There was a finished attic which we rented after a fashion and this became my first studio space. It was fairly quiet but it was not fun getting equipment up there, good exercise though.
In an effort to continue my education, I took music and general courses at a Lincoln Land Community College receiving an Associate Degree in General Education. I played in the trombone and guitar in the jazz band at LLCC, directed by Gene Haas. I also became involved with a jazz ensemble at nearby Sangamon State University (University of Illinois Springfield now) under the direction of jazz composer/arranger Jerry Troxel. I played bass for Jerry’s group.
In 1982 I attended Full Sail Recording Workshop in Orlando, Florida. At the time it was only a month long experience. I got to meet quite a few professionals working in the music industry. I returned to Illinois with fresh knowledge of the business and “State of the Art” recording technologies.
Shortly after returning from Florida I got unmarried and struck out on a solo career.
In the early 1980’s I was attracted to the video and film industry, MTV was just starting up. There was an upstart production company located locally, MPG – Midwest Production Group. I contracted SFX and music production services for advertising commercials and various other forms of video presentations including a couple of feature length films. The first audio selection under Demos features selections from this era.
Beginning in the 1980’s to bring in rent and car payments I managed a Top 40 / Variety Band. For over 20 years “Change of Pace” entertained a wide range of audiences. I performed as a sideman on guitar in numerous other groups and ensembles, I also performed solo. Being a Bass player that could read music, I was hired by a number of local jazz groups to provide low rumbling noises. I worked a great deal.
Songwriting has been an emotional outlet that I began to indulge in around 1976. All of my other activities allowed me to pursue my bad song writing habit and over the years I have written many bad songs and maybe one or two good ones.
I released my fist cassette single in 1994 Hannah Baby/Papa’s Bounce – my mom even liked this one.
I released my first CD in 2000: Bounces, Ballads, Blues, and a Stomp. It is a collection of original Fingerstyle acoustic guitar compositions.
My second CD was released in 2007 Born in Bluesland is a collection some of my original Blues compositions and a some of my favorite Classic blues.
Taylor Music has been doing business in central Illinois for over 40 years. As a veteran of a wide range of productions, I continue to beat my head against the wall of digital mayhem that exists in today’s incessantly changing media production environment.
Professionally (I did the work and got paid), I have worked as a guitarist, producer, composer, songwriter, singer, bassist, engineer, soundesigner, music programmer, video producer, website designer, and teacher – but not necessarily in that order.
From the early 1970’s on, Guitar has been the main focus for me professionally and personally. It seems everything else I’ve had to do professionally to survive financially was just that – a way to survive, so I could play the guitar. I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun without the guitar, it’s always been there for me, a friend, a comforter, a provider, and a challenge. The guitar always made life interesting. It never ceases to surprise me.
In 1988 I met the person who would be strong enough to endure the ups and downs of the musician/self-employed life. This person became a spouse 9/10/1990 – and is still is around today – Jean. The union has produced one offspring in 1994 – Hannah. Hannah recently graduated from the University Of Illinois with a degree in Material Science and Engineering. She is now working in Baltimore, Maryland for Northup Grumman.
Thank you for your interest.