Mohawk bluesman Jimmy Wolf has released A Tribute to Little Johnny Taylor, a collection that honors the blues and soul singer who died in 2002. Taylor's notable chart successes were the 1963 single "Part Time Love," which topped the R&B chart, and "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing," which cracked the top 10 in 1971, although among blues aficionados Taylor is better remembered as a hard-working touring musician whose career spanned 40 years. ICTMN caught up with Wolf to discuss his latest release. To learn more about Wolf or order this album, visit jimmywolf.com.
What did Little Johnny Taylor mean to you, musically speaking?
His singing and songs always knocked me out.
There are pictures of you on the back cover and the interior of the CD with Taylor, who died in 2002 — how well did you know him?
Johnny and I hit it off immediately when we met. We exchanged numbers and had long conversations on the telephone. Just talking about life and music, also trying to set up some future plans for recording and touring.
Did you ever play live with Taylor?
No, we didn't get a chance to play live. We were making plans, and then his health started to fail. This is the reason I did the tribute CD.
Do you think Taylor gets his due credit and appreciation these days?
He's more well known to a black audience because he played the chitlin circuit, but the blues lovers know who he is. I'm surprised that I'm the first artist to do a tribute to Johnny. I hope that my CD turns some new people on to Little Johnny Taylor.
Taylor was not a Delta bluesman and didn't get his start in Memphis — he was from Arkansas. Do you see him as an outsider?
No, he was not an outsider. He was a soul man, and his music will stand the test of time.
What is on the horizon for you — any gigs/festivals coming up, or plans for your next album?
I'll be playing the Harbor Fest in Oswego, New York, on Friday July 26th from 7:30 to 9:00 PM. I have many songs written for the next album. I have an offer to record in Memphis, Tennessee, but I'm not sure of an exact date.
Blues music, more than some other genres, seems to have a sense of genealogy and DNA — there is the sense of knowing where you came from and paying tribute to your elders so to speak. If you were to make more tribute albums, who else's catalog(s) would you attempt, and why?
That's a hard question, Larry Davis comes to mind because he was a friend and I worked with him. Otis Redding because he is a favorite singer and I love his songs.