Bobby Taylor

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A San Francisco nightclub launched one of the most exciting bands to come out the Northwest. Tommy Chong and Bobby Taylor formed Four Niggers & a Chink from Little Daddie & the Bachelors, who originated…
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A San Francisco nightclub launched one of the most exciting bands to come out the Northwest. Tommy Chong and Bobby Taylor formed Four Niggers & a Chink from Little Daddie & the Bachelors, who originated from the Shades, a Calgary/Edmonton based group. Little Daddie & the Bachelor's recorded a couple singles, including "Too Much Monkey Business" out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The offensive name killed the fan base that Little Daddie & the Bachelors had built. It's unclear whether Bobby Taylor was a member of the Bachelors -- Tommy Milton, Donald Mallory, Chong, and Wes Henderson, but he was with the latter group who changed their name weekly around the same theme: Four Colour Fellas and a Chinese Lad...Four N's and a C, before settling on Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. The original Vancouvers, in addition to Chong and Taylor, were Wes Henderson (guitar), Robbie King (keyboards), Ted Lewis (drums), and Eddie Patterson (bass).

They rebuilt their fan base by doing spirited, rock-ish versions of Motown hits. Jimi Hendrix played with them at one point for a year (prior to his stint with the Isley Brothers), mainly at Seattle's Black and Tan Club, but was fired because his solos were too long and loud. Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard heard the band when they played at Chong and Taylor's after-hour joint, the Elegant Parlor in Vancouver; Berry Gordy was contacted and the group signed with the hot recording company. It turned out to be a horrible mistake, but if they hadn't, would they have ever emerged from the Northwest?

Taylor was a veteran when he inked with Motown in 1967, he was born February 18, 1936, making him 31 at the time of the signing. Born in North Carolina, his folks moved to Washington, D.C., where he grew up in a public housing project and sang doo wops with friends on the street corners, sometimes joined by a tall, skinny kid named Marvin Gaye. Taylor's father was a full-blooded Native American and his grandfather, who had a singing group, was Puerto Rican. The Taylors knew all the musicians and their home was used as a resting place and motel for many artists who came through the district.

Taylor and friends traveled to Brooklyn, NY -- the Fort Green Projects -- to doo wop with locals who became Little Anthony & the Imperials and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers; but nothing happen until he migrated West and connected with Chong.

Motown got Bobby & the Vancouvers' name out there, but things were never right. They suffered the same indignation as the Isley Brothers and were viewed as carpet bagging, newcomers, and were igged, by Taylor's account, by "90 percent of the artists." And to add salt to an open wound: Johnny Bristol didn't like Tommy Chong, who was married with a kid and a diehard pot smoker. Taylor left the group some time after the first album, which contained their hit "Does Your Mama Know About Me" (number 29, 1968), and two lesser smoothies: "Malinda" and "I Am Your Man." The Vancouvers were reduced to backing blue-eye soul singer Chris Clark on gigs. A Canadian, Chong needed Green Cards for himself and the bass player and was fired by Clark (actually Bristol) when he left in the middle of a gig for a Green Card interview.

Taylor "discovered" the Jackson Five who were billed with him for a ten-day stint at Chicago's Regal Theater. He took them back to Detroit and put them up in his apartment while he prepped them for an audition with Motown. He was living in a mostly lily white apartment building at the time and when management saw all the little black kids running around, they kicked Taylor and the Jacksons out.

Motown released his solo album, Taylor Made Soul, on Gordy; a good album that met with disinterest. Some of its titles, however, ("I've Been Blessed," "Don't Be Afraid," "Out in the Country," and "Eleanor Rigby") were bona fide. A second album was reportedly recorded but never issued.

The Jacksons passed their audition with distinction and Taylor was busy flying to Los Angeles to record them. His productions with the J5, except for some tracks that appeared on their debut album, were shelved for years. Taylor cut mostly old soul tunes with them to demonstrate their singing skills. But Berry Gordy wanted a contemporary sound that would cross over to all segments, so he created the Corporation with Deke Richards, Fonce Mizelle, Freddie Perren, Taylor, and himself. Taylor worked on the first three Jackson Five hits, but got no credit. He was out by 1970; according to many, Taylor was a bear to get along with.

The Jackson Five situation cause IRS problems for Taylor and he subsequently sued Motown for unpaid royalties, won the suit, but supposedly never got paid.

Tommy Chong hooked up with Cheech Marin and became comedians and actors who glorified marijuana use. The rest of the Vancouvers continued in bands and worked day jobs. After Motown, Taylor recorded for Epic, Playboy, and Philadelphia International Records (never issued) ; none were as successful as his Motown releases.

He developed throat cancer and relocated to Columbus, OH, where he lived with his mother for years before returning West and settling in the San Jose, CA, area. He was part of Ian Levine near 900-track Motorcity project, cutting one of the Britisher's best songs and tracks -- "Cloudy Day," a stupendous ballad. He has formed Bobby Taylor & the New Vancouvers and reportedly performs occasional gigs in the San Jose area.

Little Daddie & the Bachelor's tracks -- featuring Tommy Chong's rock guitar licks -- can be found on Northwest Killers, Vol. 2 1964-1965 ("Come on Home"), and History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, 2, which features "Junior's Jerk." Another track, "Valley of Tears," is also floating around on a compilation.