Thursday, August 3, 2017

A00777 - Bobby Taylor, Soul Singer Who Mentor the Jackson 5


Bobby Taylor, left, with Tommy Chong, above, and Wes Henderson of Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers in 1968.CreditJames Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images

Bobby Taylor, who had a hit in 1968 with his own soul group but made his most lasting impact when he helped the Jackson 5 secure a contract with Motown Records, died on July 22 in Hong Kong, where he lived.
His friend and fellow producer Susan Michelson said the cause was cancer. His daughter, Donielle Artese, and public records say he was 78, though Mr. Taylor had, for reasons that remain unclear, claimed to be 83.
Mr. Taylor and his band, the Vancouvers, had been signed by Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, and had had a Top 40 hit with “Does Your Mama Know About Me?” when he encountered a group of up-and-comers called the Jackson 5.
The Vancouvers were in Chicago performing in support of that hit, a ballad about an interracial relationship, and the Jackson 5 were on the same bill.
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By Mr. Taylor’s account, he was stunned by the Jacksons and especially taken with the lead singer, a child phenomenon named Michael.
“He was singing like James Brown,” Mr. Taylor said on the NBC program “Dateline” after Jackson’s death from a drug overdose in 2009. “He was dancing as well as James Brown.”
Mr. Taylor said that after the show he told Michael and his brothers that he wanted them to audition for Motown in Detroit, where Mr. Taylor lived. He said he then spent several days coaching the group, letting them stay in his apartment before their audition.

Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers - Does Your Mama Know About Me (1968) Video by PilotOfTheAirwaves1

Mr. Taylor was prone to embellishment, his friends and family have said, and others have been credited with discovering the Jackson 5, including Diana Ross. (The title of the group’s 1969 debut album was “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5.”)


Bobby Taylor, left, and Berry Gordy Jr. onstage in 2010.CreditYumfun Liang

But in a Twitter message after Mr. Taylor’s death, Jermaine Jackson, one of the group’s members, wrote that Mr. Taylor had “put J5 on the path,” and Mr. Gordy himself suggested that it was Mr. Taylor who had guided the band to Motown’s studios.

In his autobiography, “To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown,” Mr. Gordy recalled that he had first heard of the Jackson 5 through his creative assistant, Suzanne de Passe.
“She told me she had first heard about them from Bobby Taylor,” he wrote.
Mr. Gordy signed the Jacksons soon after the audition.
Mr. Taylor helped produce the first Jackson 5 album and worked on their second, “ABC” (1970) before his involvement with the band waned.
Robert Edward Taylor said he was born on Feb. 18, 1934, in Washington, though his daughter said that the year was actually 1939, as Washington census records indicate. She was not sure why her father had added five years to his age, she said.
His mother, the former Ethel Mae Kemp, was a beautician, and his father, Raymond Taylor, left the home when Bobby was young. As a teenager, Bobby moved in with relatives in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from high school there.
An aspiring singer, Mr. Taylor, who had a working knowledge of several instruments and a supple, silken voice, toured with the Four Pharaohs, a doo-wop group based in Columbus, then studied at San Jose State University in California. He was working as a musician at a San Francisco nightclub when he met a guitar player named Tommy Chong.
Mr. Chong, who would gain fame as half of the stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong, worked with Mr. Taylor for a time in San Francisco before returning to his native Canada. There, in the early 1960s, he invited Mr. Taylor to join the band that became Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. The group mainly performed covers of Motown songs.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Chong described Mr. Taylor as an outgoing, outspoken person who “could sing everybody else’s songs better than they could themselves.”
“He had a higher range than all the singers there,” Mr. Chong said.
He also mentioned Mr. Taylor’s penchant for exaggeration, which led to rumors that Jimi Hendrix was a Vancouvers regular. Hendrix sat in with the band for one night, Mr. Chong said, after which Mr. Taylor “told everyone that Hendrix toured with us.”
“I think he used to say the Beatles were with the band,” he added.
Mr. Gordy signed the group after hearing them perform in the mid-1960s. In 1968, they released an album, “Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers,” whose tracks included “Malinda,” written by Al Cleveland, Terry Johnson and Smokey Robinson, and “Does Your Mama Know About Me?,” by Mr. Chong and Tom Baird.
That song was the band’s biggest hit, peaking at No. 29 on the Billboard Top 40 chart. The band broke up soon afterward.
Mr. Taylor released “Taylor Made Soul,” a solo album on the Motown subsidiary label Gordy, in 1969 before leaving Motown in the early 1970s. He later worked with labels including Playboy Records, formed a production company and performed, most recently, near his home in Hong Kong.
In addition to his daughter, his survivors include a sister, Dorothy Murray, and a brother, Jerry Burton.
Mr. Taylor once joked that he was amazed, but not humbled, by Michael Jackson’s singular talents.
“He’s the greatest entertainer who’s ever been on the stage,” he said. “But he still can’t out-sing me.”


Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers were a Canadian soul band from VancouverBritish ColumbiaCanada. The group recorded for the Gordy Recordsdivision of Motown Records in 1968, where they had a top 30 hit single, "Does Your Mama Know About Me". As a producer and solo artist, Bobby Taylor contributed to several other soul recordings, both inside and outside of Motown. Taylor is most notable for discovering and mentoring The Jackson 5.[1] Tommy Chong was a member of Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers before he became famous as a comedian.

Bobby Taylor, born February 18, 1934 in Washington, D.C., was raised in Washington.[2] As a young man, he moved to New York City and sang in doo-wop groups with singers who later joined successful acts such as Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Little Anthony and the Imperials.[1] In 1958 he began his music career as a member of The Four Pharaohs, who released a few locally-selling recordings in the Columbus, Ohio, area.[3]
In the early 1960s, while they were in San Francisco, Taylor met Little Daddy and the Bachelors, made up of vocalist Tommie Melton, guitarist Tommy Chong, bassist Wes Henderson, pianist Bernie Sneed, drummer Floyd Sneed (later the drummer for Three Dog Night) While in Calgary they were known as the Calgary Shades. The word Shades in the group's name referenced the fact that the band was interracial. Chong (later famous as one-half of comedy duo Cheech and Chong) is half Chinese.[4] The other members were blackwhite, and Aboriginal.[1] Taylor was of African-AmericanPuerto Rican, and Native American heritage.[1]
"Little Daddy & The Bachelors", recorded a single, "Too Much Monkey Business" / "Junior's Jerk". Melton and Chong opened a Vancouver dance hall in 1962 called the Blues Palace, which was formerly a movie theatre. They brought in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue who had never been to Vancouver before. They drew a small crowd and Melton and Chong broke even on that one.
Although Little Daddy & The Bachelors built up a small following, they decided to change their name to Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers.[1]In 1965, Supremes members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard heard the band — whose repertoire consisted primarily of Motown covers — at the Elegant Parlor in Vancouver, and alerted Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Jr.. Gordy brought the Vancouvers to Motown Records in DetroitMichigan, and signed them to his Gordy Records imprint.[1] By this time the evolving lineup consisted of Taylor, Henderson, and Chong along with guitarist Eddie Patterson, organist Robbie King, and drummer Duris Maxwell (aka Ted Lewis), the latter three having come as a package when the original Vancouvers merged with another local group, the Good Shepherds. Claims have been made that future star guitarist Jimi Hendrix played with them in those early days, but Chong has been quoted as saying that any such appearance is a product of Taylor's "imagination."[5] Hendrix and Taylor knew each other from their early days in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and Hendrix's summers with his grandmother in Vancouver. Hendrix later jammed onstage with the Vancouvers in Europe.
The group recorded its debut album, an eponymous release, and their debut single, the Tommy Chong co-composition "Does Your Mama Know About Me," peaked at number 29 on the BillboardHot 100,[1] and #44 in Canada.
For a July, 1968, engagement at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers had a local-area family band, The Jackson 5, as their opening act.[2][6] Impressed with the group, Taylor personally brought them to Detroit and the Motown offices, arranging an audition for them with Motown executive Suzanne de Passe. de Passe and Berry Gordy were impressed with the Jacksons, and the group was signed to the label within a year.
They released two further singles, "I Am Your Man," (US #85, US R&B #40, Can. #80) produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, and the Smokey Robinson-written and produced "Malinda" (US #48, US R&B #16, Can. #59).The Vancouvers ended up performing in support of Motown artist Chris Clark. Tommy Chong and Wes Henderson were fired by Clark and Motown producer Johnny Bristol for missing a gig to apply for Green cards.[5] The group broke up shortly afterwards, when Chong attempted to have the Vancouvers' contract halved, so that he, Taylor, and Henderson would constitute the group, while Robbie King, Eddie Patterson, and Ted Lewis would simply be regarded as sidemen and session artists. Taylor auditioned for the then-vacant lead singer position in The Temptations (following David Ruffin's expulsion from the group), but was turned down.[3]After the Jackson 5 signed to Motown in March 1969, Taylor became the group's first producer. He supervised the bulk of their first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, recording the Jacksons on a number of soul covers, including The Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You".[1][7] Berry Gordy would later move the group to California and take personal control of their sound. Although Taylor would briefly join the Jacksons in California, he did not receive credit for working on the group's early singles such as "I Want You Back" and "ABC" alongside Gordy's team known as The Corporation.[1] In addition to those, he produced most of their covers of older rhythm and blues songs.
As a solo artist, Taylor was shifted to Motown's V.I.P. label and continued as a solo artist. Although his "Oh, I've Been Blessed" later attained a cult status,[1] Taylor's solo singles failed to sell well. By 1971, Taylor had departed Motown because of a financial dispute, recording sporadically into the mid-1970s.[1]
Taylor later successfully sued Motown for a substantial amount of money.[2] Despite that, the group's recording of "The Bells I Hear", the song they recorded Marvin Gaye, who produced the track, shelved and reformulated into two separate tracks by The Originals' "Baby I'm For Real" and "The Bells", found on the two-volume CD Motown Sings Motown Treasures, has become increasingly popular. Moving to the United Kingdom, Taylor started an offshoot group, Bobby Taylor & the New Vancouvers, and recorded an album for Ian Levine's Motorcity Records.[2] His later musical efforts were tempered by bouts with throat cancer, which he had treated by various holistic doctors.[2]
As of 2014, Taylor resided in Hong Kong.
On 22 July 2017, Bobby Taylor died from cancer in Hong Kong, aged 83.[

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