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Bobby belts the blues

“There have been times when time’s been tough,

I thought I had bad times enough.

You know they say, it can get worse

Well it got that way just like a burning curse.”

With a black shirt, fedora hat and pink tie, Bobby Taylor is singing the first lick he ever wrote.

Occasionally, other musicians would pull out their instruments and play along with him.

Taylor found the members for his first band, Spearhead, that way.

They played casual shows for friends, and Taylor started receiving complements for his harmonica blows and singing.

Eventually, he started carting his harmonica with him everywhere in one of his socks or a pant pocket.

He had stumbled upon his niche.

When Spearhead broke up, Taylor dropped out of college and ran with his suitcases to Springfield, Mo., looking to start a blues band.

He stepped into talent contests at the drop of a hat, and occasionally, he would win one.

“My primary purpose for entering the talent contests was I just wanted to check out the response from the audience,” he said.

The talent show promoters asked the contestants to bring their friends and family so they could get cheers from at least someone, but Taylor never brought a soul.

He wanted to see how appealing he was to strangers.

Then, after a couple weekend getaways to Nashville, Taylor moved there, looking to improve his talent, and perhaps even make it big.

“Nashville was just saturated with musicians. You could go and play different clubs every night of the week,” he said.

For six hours a day Taylor would shuck oysters for a liveable wage. But for the rest, he would wander the town and slip into clubs, bumping elbows with jazz, blues, country and rock stars.

He appeared in videos with Billy Ray Cyrus, and played tunes with Johnny Cash’s son. He tooted his harmonica with Rolling Stone’s sax player Bobby Keyes, and kicked a jam with some of the members of the Allman Brothers band. He played with the drummer from Elton John’s band and tooted his instrument in a Hank Williams video.

He went into the recording studio about 30 times for different bands.

One time, after some wheeling and dealing, he even got to walk out to home plate on a bright summer afternoon at a Nashville Sounds minor league baseball game. He spat out the national anthem through his harmonica to about 4,000 people.

It was one of his proudest moments, he said.

“Someone came up to me afterwards and said ‘the national anthem sounds like it should be played on harmonica,’ ” Taylor remembered.

Taylor loves the tiny instrument, and currently owns about 40 of them in different keys.

“Harmonica is such a versatile instrument. There’s something so captivating about it. You master it and you do things you are not even conscious of,” he said.

Taylor spent 15 years in Nashville, and spent about two or three hours a night just honing his music. Sometimes the evening would find him in his apartment practicing scales.

“I played so much sometimes my lips were bleeding. But I didn’t feel the pain. Music can really be like that,” he remembered.

Although Taylor never became a national household name despite all of the work he did in Nashville, he isn’t depressed.

His main purpose was to become a better musician.

“I was stubborn enough never to give up,” he said.

As for his final move, from Nashville to Bremerton, Taylor said he just wanted to be with his eight-year-old daughter, Kaylynn.

“As a result the music has been better than it’s ever been in Nashville,” he said.

He still plays as much as he can.

“If I don’t play in a while my clothes don’t seem to fit right and my food doesn’t taste the same,” he said.

Taylor just recorded an album with a band called the Slow Boys, and he still walks across the bridge to the Manette Saloon every Wednesday night to step up on stage and blow his little horn.

After playing a few songs in the smokey bar last week, Taylor plunked down on a seat closest to the stage and sipped a Red Stripe beer with a smile resting on his lips.

He’s smack dab in the middle of an art gallery during the First Friday Arts Walk.

About 15 people have stopped their conversations and are nodding their heads in agreement.

Back when Taylor wrote that song, the 47-year-old was in a deep pit of trouble.

A good friend had accused him of robbery, and when police made Taylor take a lie detector test to prove his innocence, he was so nervous, he flunked it.

Later the real culprit was found, but the song forever remains in Taylor’s memory.

After 30 years of playing, the slender man’s face is tattooed with his history. Smile lines snake from his eyes. He is missing a couple teeth, but he has gained a few great stories. He is quick to lay a hand on your shoulder. When he speaks to you he holds your gaze.

Ask him about playing music and his lips stretch into a smile.

Although Taylor picked up the harmonica in a third-grade music class, it wasn’t until years later, when he was spinning bluesy Jimmy Reed records, that he started seriously messing around.

“He knocked my socks off,” Taylor said. “I’d sit around the record player and try to copy his licks.”

Then, while his friends were tugging on bottles or puffing on joints at parties, Taylor whipped out a harmonica and started to jam.

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