Born on this date in 1915 in Natchez, Mississippi Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor moved to Chicago in 1942. While he had been playing guitar for more than 20 years it wasn’t until 1957 that he became a full-time musician. He was known for his electrified slide guitar reminiscent of Elmore James and his undeniable boogie beats that kept the crowd grooving. While popular in the local club scene Hound Dog remained relatively unknown until 1970 when he played a part in what would eventually become one of the most famous and influential record labels in the history of the blues….Alligator Records. The following excerpt is taken from Wikipedia.
After hearing Taylor with his band, the HouseRockers (Brewer Phillips on second guitar and Ted Harvey on drums) in 1970 at Florence’s Lounge on Chicago’s South Side, Bruce Iglauer – at the time a shipping clerk for Delmark Records – tried to get him signed by his employer. Having no success getting Delmark to sign Taylor, Iglauer formed a small record label with a $2500 inheritance and recorded Taylor’s debut album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, on his fledgling Alligator Records in 1971. It was the first release on Alligator, now a major blues label. It was recorded in a studio in just two nights. Iglauer began managing and booking the band, which toured nationwide and performed with Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton. The band became particularly popular in the Boston area, where Taylor inspired a young protégé named George Thorogood. A live album Live At Joe’s Place documented a Boston appearance from 1972.
Their second release, Natural Boogie, was recorded in late 1973, and led to greater acclaim and touring. In 1975, Taylor and his band toured Australia and New Zealand with Freddie King and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. His third Alligator album, Beware of the Dog, was recorded live in 1974 but was only released after his death. More posthumous releases occurred as well, including Genuine Houserocking Music and Release the Hound, on the Alligator label as well as some bootleg live recordings.
Taylor died of lung cancer in 1975, and was buried in Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.
Like many blues musicians before and after him Hound Dog Taylor enjoyed his fame and popularity late in life and while his star burned brightly he didn’t live long enough to fully enjoy it or his impact on the blues. It is a testament to the man and his music that nearly 40 years after his death his music still makes you want to get and dance along with the boogie beats whether you are in a juke joint or your living room. From the corner on Maxwell street, to the clubs of Chicago, or Blues Festivals (like the video below from Ann Arbor 1973) you always knew what you were going to get from Hound Dog Taylor. Raw, electric, funky, driving blues that was dripping emotion….No matter what tune (or whether it was in tune) you could feel Hound Dog’s heart and soul with every note. Happy Birthday Hound Dog – Enjoy!