Mel Taylor – The Jazz King

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Mel Taylor was one of the few drummers who have made their name through their dedication to improving the music industry. As the first child of Grace and Laurance Taylor, Mel was born on September 24, 1933, in New York. His mother came from a Russian/Eastern European Jewish origin, while his father came from Tennessee, bearing Dutch/Cherokee origin.

Mel Taylor spent most of his childhood days in Brooklyn before his father relocating with the whole family back to Johnson City, TN.  It’s easy to see why Taylor would turn out to be a great musician, considering that his father, grandfather, and uncles were too. They played guitar, or banjo, which encouraged him to take over the family business.

mel taylor
mel taylor

In New York, Taylor joined the Police Athletic League, where he performed very well. He was described as a man of many talents, being that he also developed a passion for the Dodger baseball team. He had always been a person who tried different things that could make him happy. His interest in drums started early in his life. 

His mother would find him banging pots and pans with knitting needles. He later started using drum sticks. It was not long before he joined high school and became a drummer and bugle corps member. Through this team, he matched in Macy’s Parade, crowing him as a favorite drummer for many of his fans. He got inspired by big bands in his era, including Gene Krupa, which he would hang around the radio listening to.

Mel later moved permanently to Tennessee in his early teen year for his high school education. He tried out football, but it never sunk as a passion, like when he did join the band. At the age of 17, Mel joined the Navy, achieving his basic training in the Great Lakes region. He was posted to Pensacola, setting up a crew for the training facility for Navy Pilots.

He left the Navy after a while and returned to Tennessee. Furthermore, he started playing music through local media. Mel inspired his younger brother Larry Taylor, who later became a bass player. Larry remembers how Mel’s rhythm guitar would ring on Rockability TV. He even appeared on Ed Sullivan Show for a while, where everyone would hear his playing. In 1958, Mel relocated with his family to California. He worked at LA Grand Central Market as a meat cutter during the day and played drums in different clubs at night. 

mel taylor performing
mel taylor performing

He later quit his day job to become a session drummer in different studios. Some of his early works include “The Moon Mash” with “Boris” Pickett and “The Lonely Bull” with Herb Alpert. Mel became a renowned drummer in the late ’50s and early 50s. Then, everyone in the music business frequently visited the Palomino, allowing him to meet and play with many great artists. He became known as “The Ventures” drummer in 1963.

He played for more than 32 years, touring different parts of the world and making great music. He was diagnosed with pneumonia in July 1996 on his tour in Japan with his band. And a tumor was discovered in his lungs. His cancer developed faster, bringing him down suddenly on August 11, the same year. Mel left a remarkable legacy for hundreds of fans who continue enjoying his music.

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