Remembering the life of Larry Taylor, legendary bassist for Canned Heat, Tom Waits and more
Following a twelve-year battle with cancer, Canned Heat’s boogie-inspiring bassist, Larry “The Mole” Taylor, passed away in his home on August 19, 2019.
Boasting a biography that reads more like a who’s who and what’s what of rock ’n roll history, the bassist — whose older brother, Mel Taylor, was the longtime drummer of The Ventures — got his start as a teenager, touring and playing bass with Jerry Lee Lewis and taking his place as the resident bassist for The Monkees before joining Canned Heat in 1967, only two years into what is almost a six-decade career for the group.
Known for session work with such names as Albert King, Buddy Guy, Ry Cooder and John Mayall, Taylor was also a longtime fixture in Tom Waits’ touring band, playing upright bass on stage and recording on Waits’ career-defining records Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. But his illustrious and often eclectic career didn’t stop there: alongside Canned Heat, Taylor performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the 1969 Woodstock Festival, launching the group to stardom at the height of the hippie movement.
His introduction to the music world was seemingly effortless, as he recanted it to Blues Junction Productions in an interview three years ago. After growing up under his musician older brother’s influence, skipping school and using his lunch money to play records on a local cafe’s jukebox, he took to the stage, almost entirely by chance. “One night I was at the Sea Witch, and there was this long haired guy named Wesley Reynolds playing. When I got to the gig, there was an electric bass leaning up against an amp. On the break, I asked him if I could pick up that bass and play it during the next set.”
As fate would have it, the gig’s regular bass player was struggling with health issues and couldn’t make it out to the show. Taylor performed alongside the group, and was met with a proposition after the show. “At the end of the first night, [Reynolds] asked me if I could come back the next night,” he said. “I did. And that’s how I got my first gig.” The rest, as they say, is history, made even more evident by the legacy and memories Taylor leaves behind.
Taylor’s death was announced by manager, friend, and producer Skip Taylor. “Larry told great stories, funny jokes, was a foodie, wine, record, and rock poster collector, computer whiz, and a special human being who really lived for the music,” Skip Taylor wrote in a statement. “Music was his religion. He influenced many of us in different ways, and he will be missed by many throughout the music industry.”
AUDIO: Canned Heat at Fillmore West 1970