Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ladies And Gentlemen: presenting Shooby Taylor, The Human Horn!


One of my closest friends (and former bandmate) Chris Eudy owns and operates Third Coast Guitar Service, which is the premier place for guitar repair in Chicago. The shop now has 12-14 guys working there, depending on the time of year, and of course, they listen to music all day long on a boombox while they repair instruments. As you can imagine, picking out music that 12-14 musicians can agree on can be somewhat of a challenge.

The shop has always gone through phases of music that they listened to. For a while, it was all Guided By Voices or music that was as good as Guided By Voices, there was the obligatory metal period, there's usually a certain amount of old-time country in the rotation, and there was a while there where it seemed like all they listened to was "Gang Bang" by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. You get the idea.

Eventually, as these things go, they wore out all the stuff that they liked.


Because then they deliberately started listening to things that were awful. Terrible. Customers who would hand off their demo tapes of their band's first practice suddenly became listening gold to the guys in the shop. They actively began to seek out the worst music ever, to see who could out-awful who. Every day became a clash of the bad music titans.

Finally, RD, resident guitar repair wizard and collector of all things truly weird, brought in something that brought the shop to its collective knees. He had found the holy grail of bad music.

His name was Shooby Taylor, The Human Horn!

The easiest way to describe Shooby is to call him a jazz scat singer, but, quite honestly, this description does not do him justice. His voice is what you might call..... uh ...... untrained. Oh hell, why am I even trying?

Here! Listen to this right now! This is Shooby's version of the gospel standard Lift Every Voice And Sing.

I know.

I know!

Amazing, right? Well, it's something, anyway.

The story of Shooby Taylor is somewhat of a mystery, but here's what we know. Shooby Taylor was born in Indiana Township, PA, on September 19, 1929. Shortly thereafter he moved with his family to Harlem, where he spent the majority of his life. He worked 21 years as a New York City postal worker.

In homage to his hero Babs Gonzales, who died in 1980, Mr. Taylor began honing his scat stylings in the mid-1950's after serving in the Army. After his shift at the post office ended at midnight, he frequented jam sessions at Manhattan clubs, but most musicians shunned him. Despite the negative feedback, he persevered.

In the early 1980's, Mr. Taylor recorded dozens of tracks at Angel Sound, a walk-in studio then in Times Square and now on West 57th Street.

''The place was just bedlam and wackiness,'' said Craig Bradley, an engineer at the studio who enjoyed Mr. Taylor's music so much that he transferred 14 songs onto cassette.

''We had a lot of characters come in, and Shooby was one of the tops,'' Mr. Bradley said. "He was eccentric and boisterous and had a great personality. He really enjoyed what he was doing, but he took it seriously; it wasn't tongue-in-cheek for him at all.''

How was Shooby received by the general public? Well, this quicktime clip from his appearance on Amateur Night At The Apollo Theatre pretty much says it all.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bradley passed copies of the Shooby tape around after he took a job in 1989 at WFMU-FM, an alternative music station in Jersey City.

''I had listened to the station before I worked there and figured they would love something like that,'' he said. "What else could I do with it?''

Enter Irwin Chusid, host of the Incorrect Music Show as well as a famous music archivist of Raymond Scott (my personal musical hero), The Shaggs, The Langley Schools Music Project and many others. He began playing the songs on his show, and people who were so astonished by what they heard that soon Shooby began developing a fan base. Not long after, a website dedicated to Shooby Taylor called came into existence, and was not only dedicated to the music of Shooby, but also dedicated to finding him, as he had dropped out of sight in the early 90's.

Eventually, Shooby was found, and, in his final years, got to connect with many of his fans and enjoy a small amount of the success that he had always dreamed of. He died in a home for the elderly in Newark, NJ on June 4, 2003 at the age of 74.

But the story does not end there! Absolutely Kosher Records (yes, that is their name) plans to release a double CD of Shooby's Greatest Hits in the Spring of 2006! In the meantime, head to to hear more mp3's and learn more about the amazing Shooby Taylor, The Human Horn!

Before you go, check out Shooby's "duet" with Johnny Cash!



Anonymous Alex said...

There are no words.

Who the hell IS this guy??? I mean, what was he thinking? I don't get it. I'm wandering aimlessly in a land of Not Getting It. His Johnny Cash duet is sheer brilliance. I love how he basically just "scats" the tune and then ocasionally doe s a "DWEEB!" or a "Shundul-la-lool-loo" at the end of each phase.


This post was the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.

1/10/2006 12:19 PM

Anonymous Lilly said...

Shooby Taylor, the Human Horn or Manchild So Earnest It Hurts.
Only on the set (not control room) of Barney would "I blow me" go over as intended.

1/10/2006 7:00 PM

Anonymous Sara said...

Ho. Ly. Crap.

I couldn't adore this guy more.

la da da SHREE!

*plays air sax*

1/11/2006 10:59 AM

Anonymous Nick Keenan said...

Now the only question is....

How to fit this into a show...

1/13/2006 1:24 PM


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