Little Johnny Taylor

Little Johnny Taylor (1943-2002) was one of the major soul-blues singing stylists of the Sixties. Best known for “Part Time Love,” a single on the San Francisco–based Galaxy label that topped Billboard’s r&b chart in 1963, Taylor brought an urgent spontaneity to blues that was derived from his background in gospel quartet music. In an era when blues was rapidly passing from fashion in the African-American community, he offered a refreshingly modern, soulful approach to the genre that kept his records on the charts from 1963 to ’74.

Biographical details are sketchy and contradictory. He apparently was born Johnny Lamont Merrett (some contend it was Johnny Young) in Gregory, Arkansas. As a teenager, he sang around Los Angeles with the Stars of Bethel (with whom he made his recording debut) and an early edition of the Mighty Clouds of Joy. By the late Fifties he was performing blues at local clubs as Little Johnny Taylor. It’s been said that he adopted the last name out of admiration for vocalist Ted Taylor and even claimed to be Ted’s brother. Adding “Little” apparently was inspired by his fondness for the singing of Little Willie John, his other main influence.

Taylor cut his first secular sides in 1960 for the Swingin’ label but didn’t find success until he hooked up with producer Cliff Goldsmith and arranger Ray Shanklin at Galaxy. Besides “Part Time Love” (which another singer, Johnnie Taylor, added to his repertoire, further confusing matters), Little Johnny’s Galaxy hits included “You’ll Need Another Favor” and “Zig Zag Lightning.” At Ronn Records, he scored in the early Seventies with “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “Open House at My House” and also recorded an album of duets with Ted Taylor.