The most prolific tenor saxophonist of the 1950’s who was a mainstay in studios throughout the decade and on multi-artist stage shows leading the band. The number of hits he played on is staggering and it was largely his economical, but still explosive, style that defined what role the tenor sax would play in vocal records in rock for years.

Sam Taylor was born in Tennessee in 1916 and like so many other musicians of his era he headed to Alabama State University and did time with the famed Bama State Collegians. Moving into the professional ranks in the 1940’s he tried his hand in jazz, still the dominant style of the day, but began to move in a more populist direction playing with Cab Calloway and then Lucky Millinder’s group. By the late 1940’s he found himself recruited to cut sessions behind others and along with drummer Panama Francis and later on guitarist Mickey Baker, they became the first-call musicians for the huge number of record labels in and around New York during the 1950’s, most of whom were hip-deep in rock ‘n’ roll.

Not at all snobbish about slumming in this less technically adroit style, Taylor solidified the formula that was required to pack as much excitement into brief instrumental breaks without upending the singers or the song itself. He supplemented his studio work by acting as the bandleader for Alan Freed’s stage shows which were huge events and which in turn led to him leading the band under Freed’s name on albums that the disc-jockey concocted as promotional material.

During this period Taylor had long term deal with MGM for his own singles but in spite of some quality outings they failed to make an impact as he had little name recognition with audiences who knew his work but not his name. By the 1960’s there was less reliance on session musicians in rock and Taylor began touring overseas where he built up a large following in Japan. He wound up cutting a number of popular albums there that were far more tranquil than his heyday as rock’s leading saxophonist.

Taylor passed away in 1990 at the age 74. Despite being the arguably most important session musician in rock during the 1950’s he hasn’t been inducted into The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, remaining all but anonymous in the afterlife as he was in life itself.
SAM “THE MAN” TAYLOR DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Abbey 62; May, 1949)
Hardly the best introduction to Taylor who is too pedestrian in his solo spots and gets lost in the cacophony of the other horns during full band interludes on a song with no real groove, melody or excitement. (3)

(Abbey 62; May, 1949)
After a fairly weak start and a dreadful trumpet led mid-section, Taylor redeems this with some increasingly gutsy playing showing why in years to come he’d be the go-to saxophonist for a wide array of rock artists, but ultimately the bad slightly outweighs the good here. (4)

(Gotham 178; June, 1949)
As a sideman… for Panama Francis. An early foray into rock for both Francis and Taylor, each of whom would become prolific sessionists in the field, but here their jazz inclinations are apparent in the first half, though they pick it up down the stretch. (3)