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Otis Taylor Fuses His Blues With Folk Roots10:22

This article is more than 8 years old.
Musician Otis Taylor. (Len Irish)
Musician Otis Taylor. (Len Irish)

Otis Taylor, an American blues musician known for his storytelling and distinctive electric blues sound, is back with a new CD, "Contraband," that's filled with tales of love, loss and inequality.

Taylor has a history of addressing race relations and social injustices in his songwriting, and the title song of his new album takes listeners back to the Civil War when Union soldiers held slaves as contraband.

"I just find these things fascinating - that people don't know that, " Taylor told Here & Now's Robin Young.

Otis Taylor used to play his banjo while riding to high school on his unicycle. (Courtesy Otis Taylor)
Otis Taylor used to play his banjo while riding to high school on his unicycle. (Courtesy Otis Taylor)

Born in Chicago in 1948, Taylor grew up in Denver where he fell in love with music at the local folklore center.

Taylor's' first instrument was a banjo, which he used to play while riding his unicycle to school!

60s And 70s Legacy

Taylor built his music career in the 60s and 70s, performing with jazz luminaries like Deep Purple singer/guitarist Tommy Bolin, as well as his own groups, the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band and the Otis Taylor Blues Band.

After taking a hiatus from music in 1977 to become a successful antiques dealer, Taylor returned to the stage in 1995. He began releasing albums at a steady clip, notably 2003's "Truth Without Fiction," which forged the "trance blues" style he is now known for. Taylor describes the style as a "Mississippi hill country" type of music that has no chord changes.

"There's no instruments, just congas, you know? And so you lose the sense of time," he said.


  • Otis Taylor, musician

This segment aired on February 14, 2012.

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