Carlye Archibeque: So where have
you been, since the last time I saw you in February?
Otis Taylor: I went home since you saw me. I went to Vancouver,
back to Colorado, Toronto and then I went to Ottawa, and now I'm
back here and then I go up to San Luis Obispo to play the BB King
CA: Very cool.
OT: Yeah, I'm appearing Monday night.
CA: Is that your usual rugged tour schedule?
OT: You never know. I've had worse. I'm like...you know how
in Russia musicians would go to Siberia, and then when they got
real famous they would go to Moscow...I'll go anywhere.
CA: So you just like to play?
OT: I guess I like to play. Well, I don't know if I like
it. People say, "do you enjoy playing," and I say "no,
does a line baker enjoy getting hit when he gets a little pass...not
a line backer, a receiver. He's three feet up in the air and his
feet are off the ground and they take him to the hospital. Does
he really like that?
CA: Yeah, but you go back. I'm a writer and it's painful
while I'm writing but I always go back.
OT: It's called a salmon.
CA: The salmon swimming up stream?
OT: Yeah, why do you have to swim up stream to die. You can
just die where you are.
CA: So why do you swim up stream?
OT: Cause I'm a salmon.
CA: OK then.
OT: Yeah, you gotta watch me, I'm real cute with interviews.
CA: Yeah, yeah. I did a Walter Trout interview and he kept
saying he wanted to be a brain surgeon, so you're a salmon.
OT: He's a little too aggressive to be a brain surgeon.
CA: So would you be a good brain surgeon?
OT: No, hospitals make me sick.
CA: Your song "3Days and 3 Nights" about the sick
little girl whose father can't afford to take her to the hospital,
where did that come from?
OT: Well, my daughter was born with optiatrisha (sic), it's
called. She was in the hospital for four and a half months from
the day she was born. She had six operations, and we didn't have
CA: What is it?
OT: Her intestines weren't connected. One part gets real
big and the other part's nothing. They have to stretch one part,
shrink the other and hook it back together. It's very complicated.
CA: That's horrible.
OT: No, the thing is she's healthy now, she's an athlete.
She does gymnastics. She's a very beautiful healthy girl, but for
one procedure we only had insurance for eighteen months because
my wife was laid off and if we didn't get it done in eighteen months
we probably would have lost our house.
CA: So you just thought about what might have happened?
OT: I don't know how much I think about it. It's in my subconscious,
I write a lot of things.
CA: That's what's great about your songs that a good blues
writer has where it seems like every story happened to you even
though you know it didn't.
OT: Well, it's happened to me or to somebody I know, or it's
history. Or, it's really, I'm a storyteller. That's what they make
movies and soaps about. Soaps are like, where'd they get this material
from, it's just life. Life is so full of strange things and depressing
things. I'm a little bit better with the depressing stuff I would
have to say. There's like endless material.
CA: People like to hear a good depressing story.
OT: I don't know if they do, but it's what I'm good at. It's
just endless, I don't even have to go to Europe, I can just stay
CA: When did you write your first song?
OT: Probably when I was like seven or eight.
CA: Seven or eight? What was it about?
OT: It was about, "any got a nickel or a dime or a penny
CA: Did you grow up poor?
OT: Oh yeah, oh yeah, I guess poor...
CA: In Chicago?
OT: Well, I was born in Chicago, raised in Denver. My father
worked for the railroad, we were poor because we owned our own house,
my friends were on welfare but they had food, sometimes we didn't
have food because we had to pay a mortgage. It was a different kind
of poor. But poor is different now than it was then. I'm fifty-two
so, things are a lot different.
CA: What did you do with that song, did you perform it anywhere?
OT: No, no.
CA: So how did you come to perform for people?
OT: Well, I was a very ambitious little kid. I had a job
sweeping floors in a bar.
CA: How old were you?
OT: Maybe ten. So I was sweeping the floor and they were
playing a song, "Rockin' Robin," and I started dancing
and people started throwing money and I made like ten dollars. It
was like, 1959 it was and I was eleven years old, cause it was the
Colorado Centennial. So I went to this Centennial fair and bought
all this candy and stuff and went home and told my father and I
got a whuppin.
CA: For spending all the money?
OT: No, for dancing in the bar.
CA: Was your family religious?
OT: No, it just was not cool. My father couldn't adjust to
that. But I think I must have sensed it like a shark. I sensed the
CA: You made the connection.
OT: So it was my first performance and I made a lot of money,
that was a lot of money for an eleven year-old kid in the fifties.
CA: That's pretty good, you must have been a good dancer.
CA: Cute kid?
OT: I had charisma.
CA: So what does music do for you? Obviously you're drawn
to it. Does it make you feel good, make you feel bad?
OT: It makes me feel good when I'm playing at home. It doesn't
necessarily feel good when I'm on the stage. When I'm at home I'm
doing things. I get in a very hypnotic kind of trance. I don't know
if I get high...
CA: So if you like playing at home more than in clubs and
you don't like playing for people, then why do you do it?
OT: Cause I'm a salmon, I told you.
CA: The titles of your albums are great, WHEN NEGROES WALKED
THE EARTH, WHITE AFRICAN.
OT: I'm a poet.
CA: I'm a poet too.
OT: No, I hate poetry. I'm a poet in the sense of ... I'm
just a poet. I like The Black Poets (a poetry group from the 60's.)
They were like part of the Black Panther Movement. "Wake up
nigger before it's too late, wake up nigger before it's too late,
my sister's on the street, my baby's being eaten by rats and whitey's
on the move." You know stuff like that. It's real graphic.
I love that stuff. It's really graphic...not a lot of words and
I like that style. Just bam right there, "whitey's on the move."
CA: Your stuff is a lot like that. You approach a lot of
OT: Yeah, people like that.
CA: Do you do it because people like it or do you want to
make a point?
OT: No, I'm not trying to make a point, It's just easy to
write about that. It's like, hungry people has nothing to do with
race, but everybody thinks it's a race issue.
CA: It does seem like that.
OT: It has nothing to do with race it has to do with like
a bag lady, the bag lady song, could be a white bag lady, a black
CA: The first song on your CD?
OT: That's about race. The second song is about death, it
has nothing to do with race, it's actually about a friend and his
wife, he's not black, but somehow... It's only fifty percent race...but
a lot of songs are white, so if I'm at fifty it's a high level.
CA: Your liner notes on the new CD has pictures of black
men from the late twenties who were picked up for vagrancy, so it
has that air to it.
OT: That's cause I collect photos.
CA: And your CD titles WHEN NEGROES WALKED THE EARTH, which
is a great title...
OT: I think WHITE AFRICAN is a great title...
CA: It is, and what a great cover photo. Who did that?
OT: Len Irish, he does all my photos, he's an old friend
of mine...he's white.
CA: Do you listen to rap at all?
OT: Not much, my kids do.
CA: I've been asking everyone what their opinion of all the
Eminem controversy is. Do you know who he is?
OT: My thought is just that white people get to make all
the money when they do what black people do. Before Eminem it was
Vanilla Ice, Mick Jagger, and Elvis. That's my thought, you know
what I'm saying.
CA: What kind of music do you give to other people when you
want them to hear the blues.
OT: I don't cause I don't listen to the blues, I listen to
Irish music, I listen to other kinds of music. I take in the other
influences and make them part of the blues. The blues are part of
CA: So blues music is just a job for you is that what you're
OT: Hey, I'm just a salmon.
CA: But salmon are swimming upstream to mate, to carry on
the species, are you carrying on the blues species? Maybe without
even knowing it?
OT: Maybe. I don't know. I try not to think about it.