There's no denying the great string of classic albums the Rolling Stones issued during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s -- 1969's Let It Bleed, 1970's Get Yer Ya Ya's Out, 1971's Sticky Fingers, and 1972's Exile on Main St. But while Jagger and Richards received the lion's share of credit for these aforementioned albums, it was the guitar work, and uncredited songwriting contributions, of Mick Taylor that helped make these albums so special. Born Michael Kevin Taylor on January 17, 1949, in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England (but raised in the London suburb of Hatfield), Taylor first picked up the guitar at the age of nine -- inspired by his guitar-playing uncle. The early to mid-‘60s saw Taylor play with such obscure local acts as the Juniors and the Gods, during which time he thoroughly studied such blues guitarists as Freddie King and Albert King. Legend has it that Taylor was in the audience of a John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers show in his hometown during June of 1966, a concert which then-Bluesbreakers guitarist Eric Clapton failed to show up at. Taylor offered to sub for the missing guitarist, and left quite an impression on Mayall. But before the two could talk about possibly continuing to work together, the shy Taylor had already left the club (without leaving behind any contact info) -- leading to the band hiring Peter Green instead. But when Green left a year later, Mayall was able to finally track down Taylor via a music paper ad, and was immediately offered the gig. Taylor subsequently appeared on such late-‘60s Mayall albums as Diary of a Band, Crusade, Bare Wires, and Blues from Laurel Canyon.
By 1969, Taylor had grown restless in the Bluesbreakers (he'd lasted longer than any other previous guitarist in the group), and when the Rolling Stones inquired about his availability, the timing was perfect. The Stones had returned to their blues roots after a brief detour in psychedelia, and Taylor managed to play on a few tracks for an album which was already nearly completed, Let It Bleed. The guitar duo of Taylor and Keith Richards was quickly becoming one of rock's best, as evidenced by the concert recording, Get Yer Ya Ya's Out (and the turbulent concert movie, Gimme Shelter). But the best was yet to come from the Taylor-era Stones lineup, as evidenced by such classic studio efforts as Sticky Fingers (on which Taylor supposedly helped co-pen the songs "Sway" and "Moonlight Mile," but received no credit) and the double album Exile on Main St. (on which Taylor received one of his few "official" songwriting credits, for "Ventilator Blues"). But after reaching such a high point, there was predictably eventually going to be a fall-off, which came in the form of such not-as-stellar releases as Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock N' Roll. Although the Stones remained one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Taylor was growing restless (not to mention that the group's well-documented party-hearty lifestyle was beginning to weigh heavily on him), and in 1975, the guitarist shocked the music world by leaving the group.
Immediately after his departure from the Stones, Taylor joined the Jack Bruce Band, which didn't last very long. After spending the mid- to late ‘70s guesting on other artists' recordings (Ron Wood's Now Look, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, Gong's Expresso II, Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus, etc.), Taylor finally got around to launching a solo career. 1979 saw the release of his self-titled debut, which is often considered to be the finest of his solo releases -- but sunk from sight upon release (due to a changing musical climate). Taylor spent the early ‘80s playing/touring with others, including Alvin Lee, a reunited John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and even Bob Dylan. It was also during this time that the Rolling Stones issued Tattoo You, an album which included updated versions of unreleased tracks dating all the way back to the early ‘70s (a few of which included uncredited guitar work from Taylor). Up next for the guitarist was work alongside American roots rocker Carla Olson, as well as a return back to his solo career -- playing gigs regularly on the east coast and west coast of the U.S. As a result, a pair of live solo albums surfaced, including 1990's Stranger in This Town and 1991's Too Hot for Snakes. After relocating back to England during the middle of the decade, Taylor continued to issue solo albums (1995's Live at the 14 Below and 1999's A Stone's Throw), and teamed up with former Pink Floyd/Thin Lizzy guitarist Snowy White and bassist Kuma Harada -- performing with others on a "project-by-project" basis. ~ Greg Prato