“There was something about Taylor’s approach that harked back to the early days of the blues. It was simple and uncomplicated. But Taylor’s style wasn’t entirely old school. Instead, his sound seemed to straddle musical eras. He had a foot in yesterday and a foot in tomorrow. Taylor was like a bridge between the old blues of the Mississippi Delta and the new blues of today. He peeled back the blues to just its core components, honing it to whatever was necessary for groove, swing, and grit—and that alone. He did what punk would do with rock ’n’ roll. He found ferocity in simplicity—and as a result, created a new way of going at it."
Author Matt Rogers– Goodnight Boogie – A Tale of Guns, Wolves and the Blues of Hound Dog Taylor (BMG).
Mad passion must be in play when approaching a project so off most people’s radar. Who is Hound Dog Taylor and what is his role in the evolution of the blues? Why a book?
There is a book here, a very good book. Well researched and written with care and loving prose. It’s also the way the story is presented. Magic realism. Author Matt Rogers takes you as close to the bones of the man and his weary travels as one can get.
Hound Dog Taylor made guitars howl and hips shake. A founding father of lo-fi blues rock—that gritty, stripped-down sound played on cheap guitars with no bass—Taylor and his band The HouseRockers played loud, wild gut-bucket boogie that was raw and ferocious, earning them a reputation as “The Ramones of the blues.” Though his influence continues to be heard in the music of contemporary musicians such as Jack White, The Black Keys, and others, Hound Dog Taylor’s story has never been fully explored.
Off stage, his life was as wild as his music. From his childhood in 1920s Mississippi to his final years in 1970s Chicago, he was surrounded by racism, crime, and violence. The threat of bloodshed was constant, whether from the Ku Klux Klan, South Side gangs, or even fellow musicians. From drunkenly slicing off his sixth finger with a straight razor, to becoming the artist whose music launched the now-legendary Alligator Records, Goodnight Boogie is the first in-depth biographical study of the Blues Hall of Famer whose life was as compelling as his music. This is the story of a brilliant and unforgettably original musician who struggled for success while fighting to survive. The foreword is written by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.
Matt Rogers is an award-winning writer and musician who started his career in journalism, focusing primarily on music. He went on to work in advertising, eventually becoming a creative director at an internationally-recognized agency, while continuing to pursue his musical passions. He currently lives in Toronto, where he completed his first book, Goodnight Boogie.
Matt and I had a good conversation, and this is where we begin on this week’s FYI Music News.ca podcast.