JESSE TAYLOR AND THE STEREO CHICKENS
by Mick Shelton of Derby, United Kingdom
What would a Texas troubadour have in common with a musical
Good question and the answer is a long story.
The tale begins in 1997, Joe Ely had released 'Letter to Laredo'
two years earlier and was touring the United Kingdom.
A bunch of guys from Derby with forty years of musical history
under their belts were approaching their half century of years
on planet earth. To their amazement a local promoter of 'Americana'
music has pulled off the coup of the century and booked the 'Letter
to Laredo' tour for the Festival Inn at Trowell, a venue more
famous for its 'grab a granny' night and the punch ups in the
It's early March, the scene is set, its cold outside but packed
and hot inside. The Joe Ely line up could only be described as
a cross between the Texas Tornadoes and a Mariachi band, the
result was awesome, a searing memory that won't go away and one
that you don't want to go away. Joe Ely was brilliant, his timing,
his direction, the delivery, true story-telling to music. What
else could stir the senses?
Stand up Jesse Taylor. Now there are guitarists and there are
guitarists, from every musical persuasion, many levels of genius
in their own field but when it comes to Americana and Country
Rock, Jesse Taylor is one of the best. Typically well built,
as any Texan would be, with big strong hands and fingers that
would challenge his dexterity, Jesse stood up that night and
gave a display of acoustic and electric guitar work that we have
rarely seen equaled. It was a night we would never forget or
stop talking about and for more reasons than Jesse's performance.
This was the night that the 'Stereo Chickens' were born and
as if by magic it took the name of a song written by the great
Tom Russell and forming the center-piece of the 'Letter to Laredo'
album. The song was 'Gallo Del Cielo' a story about a fighting
cockerel. As the boys hugged the bar taking in copious amounts
of the local brew, a guy from Rotherham known only as 'Reckless
Eric' issued the immortal phrase "Wow, a song about a fighting
cock, sounded more like a stereo chicken". The name struck
a chord and Graham who had been secretly planning a celebratory
musical tour to America in celebration of our fiftieth year,
decided that this was the name for the 'Rock n Roll Seniles'
tour, 'The Stereo Chickens' were up and running.
From this night on we would check the musician listing on
almost every CD we would buy to search for confirmation that
Jesse had played on the recording sessions, it was the final
endorsement to the quality of the album.
What followed for the next five years was in itself a full
length feature of musical extravaganza's across the 'States',
Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Austin and one unforgettable
night in San Antonio. The night in question was Wednesday May
2nd 2001 and after flights from London via Chicago the 'Chickens'
checked in at the Marriott River Center hotel on the first stage
of the 'Amazing Tour'. First impressions of San Antonio were
not much to shout about and we hoped the 'Alamo' city would produce
something special. Well, the normal procedure was to scour the
local papers for the entertainments page which at first sight
appeared to be uninspiring apart from the mud wrestling which
has a strange appeal for me. Then tucked away amongst the debris
was the name Billy Joe Shaver. Performing live at the 'County
Line' and sponsored by Coors Light, it was the answer to a prayer.
We took a stroll along the river walk, pleasant enough but not
a heart breaker and took some dinner at a place called the Old
Coffee Pot, there must be many more like this but good value.
Then it was a cab ride to find the 'County Line' and believe
me it took some finding.
The place turned out to be a diner on the outskirts of town,
bags of atmosphere and memorabilia, a large tabled patio with
a makeshift bar at one end and a similarly made up stage at the
other. Billy Joe was already in full flow but it was not this
amazing man's voice and lyrics that took our attention from the
lipstick pink sunset that lit up the Texan sky and turned the
back drop of the neon strip to a mere work on part in a Broadway
show. It was a sight that I will never forget, even greater than
the leather clad 'Coors' girls handing out the free beers. It
took a while to regain control and refocus on the task in hand,
that being Billy Joe who was still weaving his magic spell. Suddenly
an electric guitar chords up from the band to open the next number
and Billy Joe announces, "on guitar, Mr. Jesse Taylor,"
the crowd went wild and so did we. Jesse was truly brilliant
that night, as was Billy Joe and I cannot recall the number of
encores but it was getting light as we made our way to our temporary
Jesse Taylor that night showed us the joy of Texacana country
rock guitar work and after the show he talked with us and so
many of his fans, making sure his wife and family were introduced
to all, a true gentleman, a great Texan and a wonderful guitarist.
He recalled the night with Joe Ely back in '97 and was amazed
that people still remembered and took such an interest.
Jesse Taylor passed away in March 2006 after falling on hard
times through illness during the last couple of years. His passing
will be mourned by few but the few will understand what it takes
to be a musical legend.
Rest in peace, Jesse, the 'Stereo Chickens' will never forget
(c) Mick Shelton, 2006
return to Jesse