hip-hop generation sometimes seems infatuated with remixing. Sean
"P. Diddy" Combs has bragged about being the inventor of
remixes. Last year, he even released a CD with the boast as title,
P. Diddy and Bad Boy Records Present: We Invented the Remix. Remixes
braid old and new elements into existing songs, creating new and sometimes-attractive
musical weaves. Remixes can lure veteran musicians with possibilities
of multiple song rebirths and inspire newbies with dreams of longevity.
Myra Taylor's story has the same appeal. At 86, the Bonner Springs-born
swing singer still auditions and performs. Her career appears to be
in remix mode.
Last year, the festival king was Provine Hatch Jr. (Little Hatch),
now deceased. Lingering over a photo of the gaunt blues harmonica
player and singer, Gilley reminisced about how happy Little Hatch
seemed as he posed with a large cake. The cake marked the celebration
of Little Hatchs 80th birthday.
Myra Taylor steals the stage at the Unity
Temple on the Plaza. (photo by Evie Quarles)
In late October she appeared at the Mutual Musicians Foundation on
18th and Highland to audition for a spot in next summers Poconos
Blues Festival. She sat in the corner of the room nearest the white
grand piano wearing an elegant beige two-piece dress with sparkles
and gripping a microphone.
Accompanied by a trio of piano, bass and drums, Taylor interspersed
snippets of songs with conversation. Her love of storytelling was
One of the stories she told that night detailed how her husband proposed
to her in the 1930s. Hed taken her for a walk. During the walk
he sang a song hed written for her. Taylor launched into the
song, If you lova me like I lova you and we both lova the same
The song was a proposal, but she didnt get it at
first, she recalled with a laugh.
Taylors audition that night also included a rendition of the
standard Sunny Side of the Street, including a humorous
and very good Louis Armstrong impersonation. Taylor also performs
Sunny Side from her 2001 recording Myra Taylor: My Night
To Dream, along with other standards and original compositions such
as The Spider and the Fly and Take It Easy Greasy.
My Night To Dream represents another accomplishment in a career that
has spanned more than half a century. Taylor performed in Kansas City
during the 30s and 40s, and later in many international
During a recent interview at her home, Taylor reminisced about her
long career, which includes appearances in movies such as the 1970s
Dribble, stints on the television show The Jeffersons, and gigs in
Mexico, Germany and Zaire. For a time, Taylor owned a nightclub in
Pictures and awards dot the walls of her modest apartment. Among them
are Living Blues Magazine awards honoring her as 2002 Comeback Artist
of the Year and 2002 Best Blues Artist (female). On a coffee table
in her living room theres a bound book containing pictures and
newspaper clippings chronicling her career. The books cover
features the cover art of her 1946 Mercury recording The Spider
and The Fly.
Taylor performed in Mexico from 1949 to 1959 at The Chinese Palace
(Palacio Chino in Spanish). She says she still remembers many of the
people she met there and the pet names they gave to her, usually ending
with cito. The names sounded so sweet, she said. Then
in her witty and playful style, she admitted being highly amused to
learn that when translated to English most of those pet names didnt
seem very complimentary. For instance, she said, one of the pet names
given to her translated to pug nose, but with cito
on the end it didnt sound so bad.
She also performed for the USO. Taylor proudly announced that shed
performed for troops during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam
War. She said she joined the USO in 1944 and from 1944 to 1946, she
performed with pianist Eubie Blake. On one occasion, she sang before
With all of her experience traveling and living abroad, its
no surprise that now that shes home shed like to see a
more multicultural 18th and Vine district. Back in the 1930s, Taylor
said, the district was busy, busy, busy. Now, she said,
Its dead, dead, dead.
Taylor said 18th Street has nothing to offer today except the Blue
Room. In her opinion the area needs variety, meaning clubs that offer
various musical styles from various cultures and perhaps even a Chinese
In other words, the 18th & Vine district needs a remix, a shot
of new and a pinch of old to revitalize it. But based on her recent
experience, Taylor understands that successful remixes dont
always come easily. Her manager, Dawayne Gilley, said that its
been tough for her to get gigs in town. He partly credits the economy
for the downturn in club gigs.
Her biggest stumbling block, Gilley said, is that
shes outlived her generation of performers. He explained
that in the 40s, 10- and 15-piece bands backed Taylor. Because
of the economics of todays club scene, small combos are typical
now. Plus, the musicians that understand traditional swing have dwindled.
Still, Gilley would like to book one weekly gig for Taylor. In a recent
phone interview, he recalled the day in the mid-90s that he
discovered Taylor could still sing. They were in his car when she
started to sing one of her compositions, Mama Im in Trouble.
Gilley said he was driving at the time but had to pull the car over
because the song blew me away.
Theres nobody left alive who can do what (Myra Taylor)
does, he said.