In July 2014, I found a comment on JAZZ LIVES on a post I had written about the 1929 Vitaphone short film Red Nichols and his Five Pennies had done — the personnel including Nichols, Tommy Thunen, John Egan, Pee Wee Russell, Herb Taylor, Eddie Condon, and others. The commenter, one Patsy Ann Taylor, was someone I did not know personally, but she wrote, “The full name of the Herb Taylor who played trombone is George Herbert Taylor. More often known as Herb, he played with the Dorsey Brothers, Abe Lyman, and others during his long and successful career as a musician, arranger, and composer.”
I love new information, especially when it pertains to some unknown area — a musician whose name was most often offered in discographies with a question mark — so I contacted Patsy Ann, and found out that she and husband Lee were living in a California town about thirty minutes from where I was staying, and we made arrangements to meet.
But first — here’s the Vitaphone short, for those who have never seen it:
I knew about the short, and I knew something of the jazz recordings Herb Taylor had participated in — 1929, with Nichols, but what came before and after was news to me. So the Taylors very kindly sat on their living room couch in front of my camera, and here is what I found out:
Part One — ALL ABOUT HERB:
Part Two — VIOLA / JUNE:
After the interview, I showed Lee and Patsy Ann the Vitaphone short, which they’d never seen (and they recognized Herb instantly). Later, Patsy Ann, a diligent researcher and genealogist, provided some information about Herb’s early life:
Circa 1912: Age 6, Began to play cornet. Herb’s father, Herb Sr., was his teacher.
Circa 1914: Age 8, Began piano lessons with Prof. Glaymeyer, which continued for seven years.
May 19, 1917: First Record newspaper route 20A
Circa 1917: Joined the Record Boy’s Band. Herb played cornet, piano, drums, piano, trombone, or any other instrument the director, Charles D. Smith, asked him to play.
Circa 1920: Age 14, Admitted to the Musician’s Union by special dispensation from James C. Petrillo. He started playing for dances and other social functions.
1922: Married Viola Mae Gofield and began playing in San Francisco under Max Dolin at the California Theater and later with Ben Black’s orchestra at the Alexandria Theater. He also played with Henry Halstead’s Hotel St. Francis orchestra. He broadcast his piano solos from the St. Francis Hotel studio.
Halstead took his orchestra to Los Angeles when the contract with St. Frances Hotel expired. Herb went with him. After that summer, Herb returned to the Bay Area and in January, 1926 performed with Herbert Meyernik at the Lowe’s State Theater in Oakland, California.
These details are taken from the January 28, 1917 edition of the Stockton Record Family Log, which was published monthly for the newspaper’s employees.
And now, if you don’t mind, I am going to fix myself a Bloody Mary — even though Herb and June sold the company, it still has a deep sentimental meaning for me.
May your happiness increase!