“Don’t hide your light under a bushel” is something your grandmother might once have told you.
Renowned singer/songwriter Chip Taylor (Wild Thing, Angel of the Morning) would heartily agree with this sentiment.
“I wonder how many people, with just a little bit of encouragement, would find out they are brilliant at some (talent) they thought they never had,” said Taylor, who performs at Red Deer’s Elks Lodge on Sept. 15 with singer/violinist Carrie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was one of those who needed coaxing to find her singing gift. When the Texas native started a music career, she only played the violin.
“She told me, she never sang — ever,” recalled Taylor. “The most she would do is hum in the shower, because she always thought she had an ugly voice.”
But after asking Rodriguez to join him on tour as a fiddler in 2001, Taylor encouraged her to harmonize with him on stage. He had always loved harmony groups, and thought it would be nice to combine voices with Rodriguez.
He had no idea now wonderful it would turn out to be.
“The chemistry was so magical between our voices,” said Taylor, that he and Rodriguez made three duet albums together — Let’s Leave This Town (2002), The Trouble With Humans (2003), and Red Dog Tracks (2005).
Their harmonies create “an emotional blend that gives me a chill,” he added. “You know how something can be so honest, it’s scary?”
The two toured together in Europe, performed on the TV show Top of the Pops, as well as numerous BBC radio programs. Taylor and Rodriguez were even featured together on U.S. National Public Radio, and in the New York Times.
After making the duet albums with Taylor, Rodriguez released her debut solo CD, Seven Angels on a Bicycle, and her career as a singer/songwriter was born. She’s since performed with Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos, John Mayer, John Prine, Patty Griffith, and Bruce Hornsby — but recently decided it was time to re-join voices with Taylor again on a new tour.
“There’s something very magical about her voice and mine,” said Taylor. “I’ve harmonized with other singers, but it’s not the same kind of blending of voices as with Carrie.”
Their Red Deer show will feature mostly their duets. The set list might include I Cry For Love, a tune that Taylor wrote for one of Rodriguez’s albums. She’s called it “a true gift. It came from one of our greatest songwriters of all time, in my humble opinion…”
Taylor, who last performed in Red Deer in 2014 (also for the Central Music Festival Society), built a long and storied career in music after an unsuccessful attempt to become a golf pro. He wrote hits for The Troggs, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Juice Newton, among others.
Born James Wesley Voight (his famous relations are niece Angelina Jolie and brothers actor Jon Voight and renowned geologist Barry Voight, who invented a formula to predict volcano eruptions), Taylor learned to play guitar as a teenager and began composing his own songs, inspired by the Delta blues and country music.
He broke into the music business as a singer/songwriter and was signed by King Records in the early 1960s. “I wasn’t selling enough, so I began selling my songs to other people,” he recalled.
After being asked to create a rock song he came up with Wild Thing, which was written in one day in 1965. It went to the top of the charts when The Troggs recorded it.
The tune was also famously covered by Hendrix at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix memorably lit his guitar on fire at its conclusion.
Joplin turned Taylor’s Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) into one of her signature tunes, while a number of artists performed his Any Way That You Want Me, including Juice Newton (who also made a hit of his Angel of the Morning).
Waylon Jennings took Taylor’s tune Sweet Dream Woman to the top of the charts, while Son of a Rotten Gambler was recorded by Emmylou Harris, The Hollies and Anne Murray.
His songs were also performed by Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Ike and Tina Turner, Johnny Cash — and even Kermit the Frog.
After turning his back on the “formulaic” music industry for a time to become a professional gambler (Taylor was so successful he was eventually banned from Atlantic City casinos), he returned to songwriting about 20 years ago after writing a song at his dying mother’s bedside.
Among his critically lauded recent albums is the three-disc The Little Prayers Trilogy (2014) of honest, reflective songs written in his stream-of-consciousness style.
His latest solo EP, I’ll Carry For You, was inspired by the special bond between golfer sisters Brooke and Brittany Henderson.
Taylor said the supportive sisters reminded him of his own relationship with his brothers while growing up. “We were always rooting for each other.”
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show, also with Van Morrison guitarist John Platania and standup bassist Mike Lent, are $40 ($300 for a table of eight) from www.centralmusicfest.com or by calling 403-886-5745.