Once heard, the exciting tenor voice of Ted Taylor can never be forgotten or mistaken for any other. With his elaborate pompadour hairstyle and pencil-line moustache, he looked a lot like Little Richard, his label-mate at Okeh Records for a spell (although Ted was far from little). Onstage he wore flamboyant pink suits, his manicured fingers heavy with ornate rings. This and his androgynous singing voice led many to conclude that Ted was gay, but appearances can be misleading: when out of the spotlight, he was a quietly-spoken family man.
He started out as a member of the Glory Bound Travelers gospel group. By 1955 he was singing with the Santa Monica Soul Seekers, soon to morph into dual identity secular combo the Cadets/Jacks. Turning solo in 1957, he notched up releases on the Ebb, Dena, Duke, Top Rank, Laurie, Top Rank, Warwick, Apt, Gold Eagle, United Artists and Soncraft labels. He then landed contract with Okeh, where he remained from 1962 to 1965, before joining Atlantic Record’s Atco subsidiary for a few singles. That brings us to the fantastic music on this CD, which stems from Ted’s lengthy tenure at Stan Lewis’ Ronn imprint out of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Ted Taylor fans have been well-served with CDs over the years, but even those with a full collection will find much new material to enjoy on this collection. Pride of place goes to eight previously unissued tracks – ‘Farewell’, ‘I’ll Be Here’, ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’, ‘A Lick And A Promise’, ‘Got To Have A Woman’, ‘Let Me Fix Up Your Feelings’, ‘Why Do I Have To Suffer’ and ‘(Long As I Got You) I Got Love’ – all of which are first-rate with Ted in fine wailing form. Also included are four unreleased takes/versions, four great cuts from Ted’s 1971 album “Taylor Made”, a quartet of killer duets with Little Johnny Taylor from their shared “The Super Taylors” LP and a whole lot more – over 79 minutes of soulful music in all.
A solitary hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 paints another misleading picture. Between 1960 and 1976, a further seven Ted Taylor singles hovered just outside the pop charts and six others were R&B hits, a lack of label continuity depriving him of the commercial success he richly deserved. Ted spent 30 years touring the chitlin’ circuit, usually travelling by air when performing far from home, but in 1987 he decided to drive himself to a gig in Baton Rouge and was killed in a collision on the return journey to his home in California. He left behind a wealth of great recorded work, to which “Keep What You Get” is a vital addition.
By Mick Patrick