Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor - © Photo by Christian Sahm

born on 30/7/1948 in Chicago, IL, United States

Otis Taylor (musician)

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Otis Taylor (musician)

Otis Taylor (born July 30, 1948,[1][2] Chicago, Illinois, United States) is an American blues musician. He is a multi-instrumentalist whose talents include the guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and vocals. In 2001, he was awarded a fellowship to the Sundance Film Composers Laboratory.



Taylor was born in Chicago and moved at a young age to Denver, Colorado where he grew up. He originally grew up playing the banjo, but his father wanted him to be a jazz musician. Upon hearing that the banjo was originally an African instrument turned almost exclusively into a white bluegrass instrument in part through the derogatory black-face minstrel shows of the 19th century, Taylor dropped the banjo and began to focus solely on the guitar and harmonica. He played music professionally both in Europe and the United States in a variety of blues-oriented bands until 1977, when he left the music industry for other pursuits, including becoming an antique dealer.

Taylor returned to music in 1995, and as of 2008, has released nine blues albums on several record labels. His music tends to focus on the hard realities of life, especially relating to the black community. Some common themes in his music are murder, racism, poverty, and the need for redemption. To date, Taylor has eleven Blues Music Awards nominations while White African was named 'Best Artist Debut'.

Down Beat magazine critics' Poll named Taylor's Truth is Not Fiction as Blues CD of the Year for 2002.

Living Blues readers' poll awarded Taylor (along with Etta James) the "Best Blues Entertainer" title in 2004. Down Beat named Taylor's Double V as Blues CD of the Year for 2005. Down Beat named Definition of a Circle as Blues CD of the Year for 2007. They also then named Recapturing the Banjo as "Blues CD of the Year, 2008."

His 2008 effort, Recapturing the Banjo, was an attempt to reconnect himself and the world with the true African origins of the banjo.[3] "There may not be," claimed Down Beat in a review, "a better roots album released this year or decade than Recapturing the Banjo."

Taylor was the support act on Gary Moore's 2007/8/9 European tours and played on his last album.

In May 2009, Taylor won a Blues Music Award for his banjo playing. He held the first Trance Blues Festival in Boulder, Colorado in November 2010.


  • Several songs used in "The Badge," a 2002 film with Billy Bob Thornton
  • In 2005, Purvis of Overtown featured a score by Otis Taylor
  • The song "Nasty Letter" from Taylor's 2003 album, Truth Is Not Fiction, was featured on the soundtrack for the 2007 film Shooter.
  • Michael Mann's 2009 film Public Enemies featured two of Taylor's songs, "Ten Million Slaves" and "Nasty Letter". The former was also featured in the film's trailer.
  • Otis' songs were in "The Least Among You," a 2009 film with Louis Gossett Jr., Lauren Holly, and William Devane.


  • The song "Ten Million Slaves" was used as the closing song to the episode titled "Blowback" of the FX show, Justified.
  • Crossing Jordan featured Otis' song Rosa Rosa
  • Songs in the science fiction series Surface.
  • An Otis Taylor song was played on American Idol as part of the 2008 "Idol Gives Back" show.
  • The song "Ten Million Slaves" was also played in the commercial for the 2011 Season of Sons of Guns.
  • "Nasty Letter" was used during the final episode of HBO series Luck.

Signature Instruments

  • In 2008 the Santa Cruz Guitar Company released an "Otis Taylor" model acoustic guitar.[4]
  • In 2007, Ome released the Otis Taylor model banjo
  • In 2003, Blue Star released the Otis Taylor Banjoblaster (electric banjo)


Taylor married Carol Ellen Bjork in 1985. They have two daughters, Cassie Taylor and Jae Taylor. Taylor's eldest daughter, Cassie, is featured on many of his releases. She also plays several instruments including bass and vocals.



  • Blue-Eyed Monster (1996)
  • When Negroes Walked the Earth (1997/Re-released 2000)
  • White African (2001)
  • Respect the Dead (2002)
  • Truth Is Not Fiction (June 24, 2003, Telarc International)
  • Double V (April 27, 2004, Telarc International)
  • Below the Fold (August 23, 2005, Telarc International)
  • Definition of a Circle (February 27, 2007, Telarc International)
  • Recapturing the Banjo (February 5, 2008, Telarc International)
  • Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (June 23, 2009, Telarc International)
  • Clovis People, Vol. 3 (May 11, 2010, Telarc International)
  • Contraband (February 13, 2012, Telarc International)
  • My World Is Gone (February 12, 2013)


  • Shooter - Music from the Motion Picture (2007) - "Nasty Letter"
  • Public Enemies soundtrack (2009) (the tracks "Ten Million Slaves" from Recapturing the Banjo and "Nasty Letter" from Truth is Not Fiction)

Compilation albums

  • Scramin' and Hollerin' the Blues, Shanachie, 2000
  • Get the Blues, NARM, 2001
  • The Future of the Blues, Northern Blues, 2002
  • The Blues Foundation Presents Blues Greats, Blues Foundation, 2002
  • Beyond Mississippi, Manteca, 2002
  • Harley Davidson Roadhouse Blues, The Right Stuff 2002
  • Roadhouse Blues, Capital, 2003
  • Exile on Blues Street, Telarc International, 2003
  • Blues Music Awards, The Blues Foundation, 2007

Guest artist appearances

  • Gary Moore: Bad For You Baby, Eagle Records, 2008

See also

  • List of blues musicians
  • List of guitarists
  • List of banjo players
  • Anne Harris (musician)


  1. Celebrity Birthdays - July 30, MuskogeePhoenix.com. URL accessed on 2008-08-21.
  2. Celebrity Birthday Round-up: July 30, HollywoodBirthday.com. URL accessed on 2008-08-21.
  3. Otis Taylor: Recapturing The Banjo, HonestTune.com. URL accessed on 2008-08-21.
  4. The Otis Taylor. Santa Cruz Guitar Company. Retrieved on 2010-05-26.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Otis Taylor

  • OtisTaylor.com - Official website
  • "Who is the King of Acoustic Blues?" (profile of Otis Taylor), by Ted Gioia, Jazz.com.
This page was last modified 12.01.2014 00:04:29

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