This issue, Jim Clark takes a look at the early playing career of Mick Taylor who, before joining The Rolling Stones, cut his teeth as a John Mayall ‘ Bluesbreaker’.
THE GUITAR SPOT in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers has been something of a career springboard for some of the UK and America’s blues guitar masters. US greats including Walter Trout ( thankfully on the mend from major surgery), Coco Montoya and of course Buddy Whittington have held the chair since Mayall relocated to America. But it was Brit legends Eric Clapton and Peter Green who, having tasted fame in Mayall’s band, went on to super- successful careers. Due to a lucky twist of fate – and a precocious talent – Mick Taylor, found himself following in their hallowed footsteps.
In 1965, at age 16, Taylor attended a Bluesbreakers gig in his hometown, expecting to witness Clapton in full flight. To his surprise, ‘ God’ was a no- show. Seeing Clapton’s gear set up onstage, Taylor approached Mayall during the interval to ask if he could pop up and play one of his guitars, as he knew a few of the band’s tunes. Surprisingly, Mayall agreed – and Taylor ended up playing the second set with the band. After gaining Mayall’s immediate respect, the two exchanged numbers.
This encounter would be crucial, as a year later, Mayall was on the hunt for a new guitarist to fill Peter Green’s vacancy. He contacted Taylor to offer him the gig, and Mick made his Bluesbreakers debut at Manor House, an old blues venue in North London. The gig created quite a buzz throughout the blues scene, with many wanting to attend purely to see this 17- yearold kid try and follow Eric and Peter.
It was quite nervewracking to follow in the footsteps of Peter Green and Eric Clapton. But after about six months, I felt very confident and had developed my own sound. Mick Taylor
Taylor remained with Mayall between 1967 to 1969, before joining The Rolling Stones after the untimely death of Brian Jones. He would play with Mayall again between the years 1982 to ’ 83, and again in 2004.
Taylor’s style is a combination of blues with elements of jazz, Latin and even country guitar present. His rhythmic phrasing can be rather frantic and jagged, with a fiery delivery, as demonstrated in the two solo studies that follow. Both are in the key of C, and follow a standard 12- bar blues format, with a quick change to the IV chord in bar 2.
Due to the slow tempo and 12/ 8 time signature, the rhythms may be tricky to follow for readers who aren’t overly comfortable with standard music notation, so be sure to listen closely to the audio.
Mick Taylor with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
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