Cultural Percussionist

Hound Dog Taylor Day

Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor (April 12, 1915 – December 17, 1975) was an American Chicago blues guitarist and singer.

Taylor was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1915, though some sources say 1917. He initially played the piano and began playing the guitar when he was 20. He moved to Chicago in 1942.

He was famous among guitar players for having six fingers on both hands, a condition called polydactyly. As is usual with the condition, the extra digits were rudimentary nubbins and could not be moved. One night, while drunk, he cut off the extra digit on his right hand using a straight razor.

He became a full-time musician around 1957 but remained unknown outside the Chicago area, where he played small clubs in black neighborhoods and at the open-air Maxwell Street Market. He was known for his electrified slide guitar playing (roughly styled after that of Elmore James), his cheap Japanese Teisco guitars, and his raucous boogie beats.

In 1967, Taylor toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, performing with Little Walter and Koko Taylor. 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 (then a shipping clerk for Delmark Records) tried to persuade his employer to sign Taylor to a recording contract. In 1971, having no success in getting Delmark to sign Taylor, Iglauer used a $2500 inheritance to form Alligator Records, which recorded Taylor’s debut album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers.

Share this post

Leave a Comment