Rockin' Dave Taylor, The Biography (by Stella Silver)
  

The well-known pianist, composer and performer, Dave Taylor, has created a unique blend of Big Band Rock 'n' Roll, Rhythm & Blues and Jump Jive rolled into one. A critic once said: "I don't for one minute think that Dave has sat down and contrived the history of Rhythm & Blues, but he has succeeded in doing so nonetheless. There are plenty of Blues, Jump Jive and Big Bands about but nothing comes close to this for being difficult to categorise. Dave's musical roots can be clearly heard in the likes of Merrill E. Moore, Louis Prima, Wynonie Harris, Moon Mullican and Count Basie."

A prelude to the honky tonk train blues
In the early years of the 1960's, he began to show an interest in the piano located in the sitting-room corner. This grew into an ambition, and Dave would eventually have to be dragged away from the keyboard. Dave always played the only way he knew how and one day an 8-year old Dave asked his mother what his style of playing was called. She told him it was Boogie Woogie. She was also of the opinion that Dave should learn to play 'properly', and so Dave was sent to piano lessons. In his early teens, Dave played with local amateur groups, including local favourites, The Earthquakes, while working on the assembly line at Raleigh Industries in Nottingham with fame nothing more than a dream.

A classical start
By the age of 17, Dave had left his day job and made a living playing in various Rock 'n' Roll bands in the Midlands. He went on to study classical music for a six-year period, which helped teach Dave his inimitable Boogie Woogie playing technique. The last year of his studies culminated in the students' piano competition, featuring a compulsory classical composition as well as a second, optional piece. Dave chose Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata as his first number and, faithful to his conviction, Honky Tonk Train Blues as his second number. Due to the conservative attitude of the panel, this, however, brought a brisk end to his studies at the classical institution!

In 1975, Dave replied to an advertisement in the 'Melody Maker' for an audition at the Adam & Eve, a well-known Rock 'n' Roll venue in Homerton. At the audition, Dave was snapped up by the then popular Rock 'n' Roll group, the Hellraisers, who were in fact looking for a saxophone player! Having tried out a plethora of sax players, the band decided to give the job to Dave, and the very next day he found himself sailing out to Denmark to perform at the famous Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen. Two years of hard touring followed and, as well as working with the likes of Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King and Shakin' Stevens to name but a few, the following years consisted of tours throughout Europe and Scandinavia together with continuous session work.

Dave performed with The Hellraisers at The Pickett's Lock Festival on 15 May 1976, and their live recordings were featured on the compilation album Rock 'n' Roll is Still Alive released on Charly Records. This was Dave's first record release and featured his own number, Dim Light Boogie. Since then, Dave has penned a catalogue of over 200 songs. Eventually, the experience Dave obtained led him to front his own band, Dave Taylor & Dynamite.

BBC Radio One
In January 1977, Dave was asked to attend a recording session for the Dutch label, Rockhouse, with Little Tina & Flight '56. The album contained two tracks written by Dave - Don't Ever Go and Twelve O'Clock Rock, as well as his first release of Honky Tonk Train Blues. (Dave's first recording of this number was on BBC Radio One in 1976, during his guest appearance on 'It's Rock 'n' Roll', hosted by Stuart Coleman.)

The road then led Dave from extensive bookings in France and Holland on to Portugal, where he spent several months playing the Casinos of the Algarve whilst negotiating with Bobby Boulter, the owner of the Solar Penguin Hotel, who had been involved with the organisation of Dave's first tour of Finland with the Hellraisers. (Later Bobby was to become Dave's Road Manager and long-time friend.)

The Finnish Connection
Dave was only 20 when he took up an invitation to return to Scandinavia. Dave loaded his piano into the back of his Thames van and headed for Finland, where he spent the first six months playing piano in local bars. In 1978, Dave became an overnight sensation while performing at The Culture House in Helsinki where the biggest Rock 'n' Roll event, 'The King of Rock', took place. Dave was immediately signed by Levytuottajat Oy, one of the largest Finnish record companies. When the authorities discovered that Dave was working without a work permit, he was deported to the nearest non-Scandinavian country, Germany, where he stayed for two weeks, grappling with the Finnish Government officials in order to obtain a work permit. Fortunately, this meant spending two weeks in the notorious Reeperbahn area of Hamburg. "That was the hardest two weeks of my life - not to mention trying to obtain a work permit", recalls Dave.

With the assistance of record company executive, Vexi Salmi, Dave was able to return to Finland and in the following months recorded the singles Dim Light Boogie/Mona Lisa, Peggy Sue/All By Myself and Cadillac Car/Rockhouse as well as his first solo album, Rockin' in the Same Ol' Way, featuring such tracks as Cadillac Car, Don't Want Tyin' Down Girl, Dave's Boogie and a revised version of Twelve o'Clock Rock. The album also contained Hey Little Girl which, some 18 years later, has seen the addition of a full orchestra! The album was licensed to Charly Records in the UK and sold around the world. Cadillac Car became a hit among the Rock 'n' Roll circles and its sales were boosted by the feature of the track in the Finnish film release 'Life, Here I Come' ('Täältä Tullaan, Elämä').

1980 saw the release of Dave's new single Lonely As I Can Be/I've Lost Her Again and his second solo album, entitled Countrybilly - or perhaps better known as Jive Jive Jive, as it was called on its UK release. The album was inspired by Dave's interest in Rockabilly and Western Swing as well as Dave's own favourite, Merrill E. Moore. His combination of these produced the unusual, dynamic sound of the recording. Later in 1980, Dave was commissioned to write the theme to the film Midnight Rock, in which he was also due to star, although the film project was never realised.

By 1981, Dave was firmly established in the Scandinavian music scene, doing regular TV appearances and radio interviews and driving audiences wild with his inimitable act - playing his full size piano with virtually every part of his body. Standing on his head. Tilting the 200 kg instrument across his body while lying on the ground. Or perhaps performing an acrobatic somersault off the top of the piano. He was not named the 'Acrobat Pianist' without good reason! The ecstatic audience would often carry Dave's piano, with him standing on it, around the auditorium - sometimes with hilarious consequences, not least the long cable to the microphone becoming entangled around the audience! Dave tells of one occasion when his piano was taken through the auditorium and out onto the street, with Dave hanging on and still playing. This caused bewilderment among the local police, who forced the audience to set him down, although Dave continued playing the piano! "I was about 400 yards from the band who were still on stage in the auditorium and I was probably playing 4 seconds behind them because of the time delay", recalls Dave.

Having gained extensive knowledge in all aspects of the music business, Dave formed his own record label, DT Records, to gain total control of his career. It played host to such releases as the LP Mr Rock; 1982 (DTLP100), single Mind Your Own Business/Rock Me; 1982 (DTS001), EP Steppin' Outa' Line; 1986 (DTEP100), LP Happy Birthday Boogie Woogie; 1988 (DTLP200) and single Won't You/Under the Moonlight; 1988 (DTS002).

English society's best kept secret
After spending five years in Finland and having performed in every venue from Helsinki to the most Northern tip of Lapland, Dave decided to return to the UK in 1983 to form a 10-strong Show Band line-up, which featured some of England's top musicians. The group toured extensively in the UK and Europe and, whilst performing in a London club, was approached by a Royal Aide offering a season of private bookings in the Society party circuit. Dave topped the bill at the wildest of all night parties, offering the ultimate in showmanship to impressive guest lists, which could have been copied directly from the pages of 'Who's Who'.

One year later, Dave appeared as a guest for the British tour of an American Rock 'n' Roll group, Big Daddy, who achieved a Top 10 hit in the UK charts. Dave appeared in radio and TV shows, such as the 'Kenny Everett Show', the 'Old Grey Whistletest', 'Pebble Mill at One' and 'Razzmatazz'. A booking was also arranged for the 'Top of the Pops' but the arrangement was cancelled at just one day's notice due to a new chart entry by Sir Paul McCartney!

It should be mentioned, too, that Dave was sworn in as one of Screamin' Lord Sutch's Savages, as well as being one of Brian Poole's Tremeloes. Brian Poole also recorded his own version of Dave's Hey Little Girl.

From the Midnight Sun to the Rising Sun
By 1985, Dave's reputation had reached the Far East, where he was offered a six-month contract by the Hong Kong agent, Crazy Larry. The tour proved a great success, adding to Dave's record sales throughout the world and leading to a succession of Oriental tours, taking in such exotic locations as Japan, Macao, The Philippines and of course, Hong Kong. Back in London, Dave could again be found in the recording studio, featuring on trombone Dave's friend of many years and star of the '6-5 Special', the late Don Lang.

Dave was subsequently invited to open ‘Joe Bananas’, one of Hong Kong's top night clubs, in 1986. To commemorate the event, Dave's gold lamé drape jacket and blue suede shoes were placed on permanent display in a glass cabinet inside the club! While in Hong Kong, Dave obtained rave reviews by the Hong Kong public and a great deal of press coverage, for example, in the 'Hong Kong Standard' and 'TV Times', as well as appearing in a number of TV and radio shows, such as Edward Bean's 'Fizz Bizz'.

1987 found Dave in Barcelona, performing an outdoor concert to his largest ever audience, totalling in excess of 100,000 people. Dave is said to have been the first Western Rock 'n' Roller to hit the Soviet Union in 1988, headlining a concert for the Youth Communist Party... Dave returned to Russia on the collapse of the communist regime to perform for the Reformed ex-Communist Youth Party!

Despite leaving Finland, Dave continued close collaboration with his Finnish arranger colleague, Paul Fagerlund. Tragically, Paul Fagerlund passed away on 3 July 1994. The fruits of this collaboration can be heard in some 50 memorable Big Band and Orchestral tracks recorded by Dave.

In 1992, Dave toured the U.S. for the first time - travelling from New Orleans to Memphis and Los Angeles, and even across the border to Vancouver. The Boogie Woogie instrumental CD, Boogie in the City, was recorded by Dave later in the year, following a suggestion by Joop Visser, record executive, to produce a 'modern' Boogie Woogie album. Dave performed in the country of another of his favourite artists, Louis Prima, in 1995, the venue being the Forli Rock 'n' Roll Festival, Italy. Hooked on Jive, containing 20 non-stop Dave Taylor jiving tracks, was released by K-Tel in late 1996. A further Hooked on Jive release of Dave’s material took place on the Emporio label in the latter part of 1998.

In October 1998, Dave was engaged to play at the Cannes TV Festival by a US cable TV network, HBO. He performed there with the 8-piece Italian band ‘The Good Fellas’. The show was such a success that Dave and The Good Fellas were booked to appear at the launching of Austin Powers’ "The Spy Who Shagged Me" at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1999, performing to VIP guests including a host of Hollywood stars and producers; Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Val Kilmer, Charles Bronson and Richard Branson among others.

Midnight Rock Records & Midnight Rock Studio
Dave has since established the Midnight Rock record label and continues to produce recordings at his Midnight Rock Studio, taking time off to tour the world. Dave's songs have been licensed to companies worldwide and appear on countless compilations, including promotional albums for Coca-Cola and the Co-Operative Bank, among others.

In celebration of Dave's 25 years as a 'Professional Rock 'n' Roller', a comprehensive collection of his recordings will be released by Midnight Rock Records in a 6 CD ‘Good Time Series’. Vol. 1 of the collection, Cadillacs & Moonlight, was released in the summer of 1997. Vol. 2, Shotgun Boogie, came out in June 1998 and vol. 3, Still Rockin’ in the Same Ol’ Way was released in 2000. Vol. 4 is scheduled imminently.

Apart from a busy touring schedule in the UK, Spain and Italy over the turn of the Millennium, and a party on Millennium Eve being hosted by Sir Dai Llewellyn, at which Dave was performing, in December 1999 Rockin’ Dave also released a limited edition special Millennium CD - "Time for Rock & Roll".

In the summer of 2003, Dave bought a property in Spain adding to his existing UK portfolio, where he is later planning to relocate, together with his Midnight Rock Studio and Midnight Rock record label operations.

The Ultimate Jump & Jive
As part of his show, Dave has parachuted to various venues with his Skyjivers parachute display team. When booked, in July 1990, at the Imatra Big Band Festival in Eastern Finland, Dave challenged fate by skydiving from 10,000 ft. onto the roof of a multi-storey building in the town centre. Having successfully landed on a roof (albeit not the roof designated as landing area!), he climbed down a skylight and, to onlookers' surprise, found himself behind the bar of a local pub! Unperturbed, with the parachute over his shoulder and still dressed in his skydiving jumpsuit, he casually placed his order for a pint of beer! So, for Rockin' Dave Taylor, the sky's not the limit....

By Stella Silver for Midnight Rock Records
Used with permission

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