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Tut Taylor

The man who gave the flatpick a new voice...

       It all began near the banks of the muddy Oconee River in Georgia about the time of the second World War. A young Tut Taylor, who didn't know any better, taught himself to play a dobro with a flatpick. The resulting sound was fresh and unique, and it became Tut's trademark. Folks called him the "flatpickin' dobro man". Through the years he became one of bluegrass music's most appreciated musicians for his contributions to the music, both on and off the stage.

       Having recorded or performed for decades with many other legends in bluegrass and country music, Tut is a rich source of historical information and anecdotes on the formative years of Bluegrass music, the growth of the music industry in Nashville, and the people that made it happen.  From his association with great musicians such as Norman Blake, Roland and Clarence White, John Hartford, and Vassar Clements, to playing in Roy Acuff's band on the last performance of the "Grand Ol' Opry" at the Ryman Auditorium, to opening doors for a young fiddler named Mark O'Connor on his first trip to Nashville, to his involvement with the Grammy-winning recording "The Great Dobro Sessions", Tut has been in the thick of bluegrass, old-time, and country music history for a long time.

       Today, in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains of North Carolina, the sweet sound of Tut's flatpicked dobro still resonates, catching the ear of a new generation of pickers. His insight into the music he loves has endeared him to many new fans who appreciate what he has to say as well as what he has to pick. He is often asked about the future of bluegrass and old-time music and his answer is usually along the lines of "Just pick it and keep on picking it." And that's his philosophy in a nutshell - just pick it, just let people hear it and come to love it, and the music will take care of itself.

       If he can ever break away from pickin' for a while, Tut will be adding some of his stories and personal photos on this website so that we can enjoy some of the rich musical history he has seen firsthand.  In the meantime, here is a little background information on "The Flat Pickin' Dobro Man"  himself,  Robert A. "Tut" Taylor.

"Tut has always been there, right in the middle of things" - Norman Blake


Tut, Norman Blake, and Curtis Burch

Tut with two friends, Norman Blake and Curtis Burch
all playing instruments made by Crafters of Tennessee.






The Early Years


       "I was born in Baldwin County Georgia up on the Oconee River near a little community called Possum Trot.  I was delivered by a wonderful old black lady called Lizzy Hubbard for some vegetables and other things to eat.   She delivered all the babies in the settlement for whatever folks could give her.  This was November 20,1923."



       "I came from a musical family, my daddy played a little thumpin' banjo, my mother played the fiddle, my older brother the guitar and my other brother the mandolin.  Two sisters did not play.  However, we never played together as a family.   Later in life I played some with my brothers.  I was nick-named "Tut" by an older brother who gave everyone a nickname.  How he arrived at "Tut", I'll never know.  He never even knew there was a "King Tut."  The name stuck and most everyone knows me as "Tut."


       Tut taught himself to play the dobro.   However, he didn't know that dobros were normally fingerpicked.   He thought it was played with a flatpick, so that's how he learned to play.  But he soon learned that he could hardly play tunes like the others that were playing with fingerpicks so he developed his own style and then wrote the tunes and arrangements to suit his flatpicking style.


       "I began playing mandolin when I was 12, having been influenced by a favorite uncle.   When he would visit us he would bring his mandolin and sneak into the room and wake us up playing "The Old Hen Cackle."   I regret I never learned this tune from him.   I have never yet heard anyone play it on the mandolin."

       "I don't remember the name of my first mandolin but the second one was a Gibson A model.   During these years I also had a Stella banjo-mandolin and a Dobro mandolin which I sent overseas to my brother in WW2.   It was during the first part of the war that I acquired my first steel guitar.   I bought it from a friend who was going off to war.   It was a six string National Dobro made by Supro.   I played it for many years, using a flat pick."

       "I got my first dobro from Buck Graves.   I don't remember the model but it had "f" holes instead of the round screen holes.   This got me started on collecting dobros and I eventually ended up with 67.   I played them all over the years and finally picked the Model 27 SN that I used on most of my recordings as the best.   I've never been disappointed in it.   In no way is this to be confused with a new so called Model 27."

       "I do use a flat pick, in the old days a Nick Lucas medium, but as I picked it would turn and I ended up with a lot of picks that would be worn on the side.   But as I learned, the pick turned on it's side created different tones which were nice.   Later I changed to a three cornered one that works really well. I've always used a "Steven's" steel or bar.   Now I find that a Ron Tipton suits me a little better. I also use and endorse D'Addario Bronze, my own gauges.   Now I play one of the "Tut Taylor Resophonic's" made for me by my son Mark (Crafters of Tennessee)."


Tut Taylor model Crafters of Tennessee resophonic guitars

"Tut Taylor" model Crafters of Tennessee resophonic guitars


Tut with three rare dobros

Tut with three of his rarest dobros, a Model 206 and two custom dobros with spruce tops
and brazilian rosewood backs and sides. Identical to D-28 Herringbone.






A Few High Points


       "I played quite a bit during the years from after WW2 until the late 50's.   Nothing professional.   My first professional endeavor was an album session with Porter Wagoner for "Bluegrass Story" on RCA.   I was backstage at the Opry one night and Porter walked up and asked Josh if he would work on a new album he was about to do.   Josh says "No I can't, the boys don't want me do anything else."   He then pointed to me and says "This fellow will."    So we did it.   On the session was Benny Martin, Buck Trent, Ray Edenton and the bass player, I forget his name and he has since passed on."


       Later, Tut recorded other albums like "12 String Dobro", "Friar Tut", "The Old Post Office", a "Flat Picking Dobro" instruction LP with a book to go with it, and "Dobro Country " with Clarence and Roland White, among other recordings.  After moving to Nashville in 1970 he bought the old Grammer Guitar factory.


       "My son Mark along with Bob Givens and I made Tennessee Banjos, dobros and mandolins.   Bob Givens was the very first person, to my knowledge, to make an A-Model with "f" holes and an extended fingerboard joining the body at the 15th fret.   He was by far, a genius, and set the standard for instrument craftsmanship.   Soon after, Bob left and went back home to California.  Later he moved up to Idaho to continue building his famous instruments."


       "When I moved to Nashville in 1970, George Gruhn, Randy Wood and I opened GTR.   I later sold my part to George.   Later George became rich and I was just Tut.   Randy and I went into partnership with Grant Boatright and opened the "Old Time Picking Parlor" with some sales, a whole lot of picking, and a repair shop."


        In the early 70's Tut met other Nashville newcomers John Hartford, Norman Blake, and Vassar Clements.  One night at a jam session they all decided to form a band.  They called themselves the "Aereo-plain Band.", went on to record the "Aereo-plain" album for Warner Brothers, and performed together for about a year all over the country.  They even performed with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Houston Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony.


       "During my career I've picked with a lot of folks, to name a few.... Norman Blake, John Hartford, Sam Bush, Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, Tom McKinney, Rual Yarbrough, Randy Wood, Jim Johnson, The Bluegrass Five, The Season Travelers, Leon Russel, The Aereo-plain Band, Vassar Clements, Porter Wagoner, Ron and Don Norman, Hughie Wylie, J.N. and Onie Baxter and many others over the years.   I played mandolin with Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mtn. Boys on the last night of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. I almost forgot to mention Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Charlie Collins, Scott Stoneman, Glen Campbell, Clarence and Roland White, Bill Monroe, Bennie Martin and Don Reno. If I do not mention any of my other friends please forgive me. Pickin has been a great part of my life, not financially rewarding but a lot of fun."

       "Oop's, I forgot Walter Butler, Don Humphrey, Larry Sasser, Autry Roland, Dave Dougherty, Grant Boatwright, Doug Green, Red Rector, Bobby Wolfe and all the folks over in Trnava, Slovakia, Bruce Cummings, Pete Netka, Gloria Belle, Pete Rowan, Don Humphrey and hundreds more.   As you can see, I've picked a long time.  Jon Sholle was there also along with Curtis Burch, Sr and Ricky too."

        All during this time Tut was recording other albums in the studio (see discography) as well as just about everything else he was involved in, including late night kitchen jam sessions.  His personal tape archives from these years number in the hundreds of tapes going back past the time of the first two dobro albums and include many well known musicians.

       Tut has also been a successful producer.  He produced Norman's, Brother Oswald's and his own albums for Rounder.  Then, in 1994, Tut, along with Jerry Douglas produced the classic album "The Great Dobro Sessions" for which they were presented a Grammy for the Best Bluegrass Album of the Year and, in addition, IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Instrumental Recording of the Year.


Grammy awarded to Tut and Jerry Douglas for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year

Grammy awarded to Tut Taylor and Jerry Douglas
for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year


Tut, Jerry Douglas and Sally VanMeter at the Dobrofest in Trnava, Slovakia

Tut, Jerry Douglas and Sally VanMeter at the Dobrofest in Trnava, Slovakia

        In 1996, Tut was awarded the coveted Dobro Player of the Year award by the City of Trnava, Slovakia at the DobroFest Festival held in that city each year to honor the Dopyera Brothers for their contribution of the wonderful instrument, the Dobro, to America.


Tut with Ed Dopyera, one of the five brothers

Tut with Ed Dopyera, one of the five brothers

       Through the years Tut has crossed career paths with of some of the greatest musicians around.   For example, this is how he helped Mark O'Connor get a foot in the door when he first came to Nashville as a very young but phenomenal fiddler.


       "I met Mark O'Connor out in the Seattle area while out there to attend a festival.  Later his mother brought him to Nashville.  Randy Wood and I had the "Ole Time Pickin Parlor" at the time and I invited Charlie Collins and Oswald down that night to hear this very young fiddle player.  I already knew what Mark could do, but they didn't, so I kinda played a game on them. It worked.  They got him to Roy Acuff, their boss and my friend, and the rest is history."


        Roy was so impressed with this young fiddler that he brought Mark and his fiddle to the stage of the Grand Ol' Opry just a few nights later. 






Tut Today

        These days Tut stays busy picking at festivals, conferences and venues close to home. But he has also taken time to do some new recording, too. Check out his recent release "Flash Flood" in the Tut Taylor General Store featuring Tut with a whole bunch of great pickers. Rounder Records has also re-released on CD "Friar Tut", the recording of which he is most proud. Originally recorded in the early '70's, this album features Tut along with his old friend Norman Blake. You can order this CD directly from Tut in the Tut Taylor General Store.

        Recently, Tut decided to release a series of three CD's as Tut Taylor Archival Releases, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.  The first in this series is "Flat Pickin' In The Kitchen" with Norman Blake and the second with guitar legend Clarence White is "Tut and Clarence Flatpicking".  Tut had the very good fortune to have recordings in his archives of him playing the dobro with another of the very best flatpickers of all time.  If everything works out you will be able to hear these recordings as well in the near future.


       "My last ambition is to release three albums of my picking the dobro, and some mandolin, with three of my heroes. Tut Taylor Archival Recordings, Vol. 1, 2, and 3.    Volume 1, with Norman Blake, was just released.   You can guess who the other two are."

        Tut and his "sweet wife Lee" have been happily married for over 50 years.  Recently, Tut and Lee picked up roots and moved to Wilkesboro, North Carolina from their longtime home in Maryville, Tennessee. His eight children are "scattered from here to breakfast".   His son Mark is well known among professional musicians for his line of hand crafted instruments, "Rich and Taylor" banjos and "Crafters of Tennessee" resophonic guitars and mandolins.  Visit the "Crafters of Tennessee". website and look around.


Tut and Mark Taylor

Tut and his son, Mark Taylor

       Tut also stays busy traveling all over to festivals and workshops, only stopping long enough to interject a little wit and wisdom in his favorite online discussion groups like the Flatpick-L and Bluegrass-L.  Subscribers to those lists have found he is just as adept at relating how to butcher and barbeque a hog as he is with the flatpick.

       In the Tut Taylor General Store on this website, Tut has a number of items available for purchase.  Visit there and order what you want directly from Tut!

       Ever wonder what Tut did with all the reel-to-reel recordings he has made through the years?  Just visit the fine folks at the Steam Powered Preservation Society to find out!

       Be sure to check out the page What's New Tut? to find out what else Tut is up to these days and where you can find him flatpickin' his dobro.  Or if you want, you can drop him a line by clicking here or you can leave him a message in his guestbook.

Tut On The Web

Here are some links to Tut on other websites:

http://www.nashvilleportraits.com/NPhtml/TutTaylor.htm

http://www.nashvilleportraits.com/NPhtml/VassarandTut.htm

http://www.picknparlor.com/tut_taylor.htm

http://bluegrassguitar.com/artists.htm

http://www.flatpick.com/Pages/News_And_Reviews/Reviews/Review.php?review=FP_Kitchen

http://www.dobroplayers.com/cgibin/interview/interview8.asp

http://www.greenmanreview.com/steam.powered.htm

http://ebni.com/byrds/memcw1.html

http://www.bluegrassingalax.com/gallery3.html

http://bcbrown.net/bluegrass/armuchee/arm99/narrative.html

http://www.gibson.com/whatsnew/pressrelease/1998/May5b.html

http://www.gruhn.com/articles/gginterview.html

http://bcbrown.net/bluegrass/armuchee/arm/arm.html

http://www.jerrydouglas.com/bio.cfm

http://www.milesofmusic.com/momzine/mzblue2000.html

http://www.rounder.com/Album.asp?catalog_id=6236

http://www.leroymack.com/

http://web.krugerbrothers.com/kb-gall.php?category_id=&parent_id=0&photo_id=84&countdisplay=1

http://www.thespps.org/

http://www.countryworks.com/artist_full.asp?KEY=TAYLORT


Tut's Discography

  • "12-String Dobro" , World Pacific 1816, 1963**

  • "Dobro Country With Clarence & Roland White" , World Pacific, 1964**

  • "Blues & Bluegrass With Dixie Gentlemen" , Tune 1001, 1966**

  • "Friar Tut" , Rounder 0018, 1971++

  • "Aereo-Plain" , Warner Bros, 1971, Reissued by Rounder, 1997++

  • "No Name Album" , Flying Fish HDS704, 1974**

  • "The Old Post Office" . Flying Fish 008, 1975**

  • "Dobrolic Plectral Society" , Takoma C1050, 1976** , Rounder

  • "The Great Dobro Sessions" , Sugar Hill, 1994

  • "Flat Pickin' The Kitchen" ,Tutlee TL1001, 1997

  • "Flash Flood", Tutlee TL1002, 1998

  • "Steam Powered Aereo-Takes", Rounder, ROUN0480, 2002

  • "Tut and Clarence Flatpicking", Tutlee TL1003, 2003

  •  "The HDS Sessions", HDS 701, 1975

 

**Out of print
++ Reissued on CD

 


" Remember, Tut spelled backwards is still Tut" - Tut Taylor


Tut Taylor model resophonic guitar by Crafters of Tennessee

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