King Size Taylor & The Dominoes (Liverpool Rock & Roll)

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Liverpool in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a true focus of musical talent. Billy Fury, The Beatles, The Searchers, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, The Undertakers, The Mojos, The Fourmost, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Swinging Blue Jeans or Cilla Black, are some of the most remembered names on the Liverpool music scene, but in addition to these groups and soloists, in Liverpool, there was an artist very forgotten today, but of great musical quality and pioneer of Rock & Roll and Merseybeat in his city, his group was voted the sixth most popular group in Liverpool, five places below the Beatles. He is Ted “King Size” Taylor.

Nicknamed “King Size”, Edward Taylor, for his great height and size, began his musical career as a singer and guitarist for the skiffle group, James Boys Skiffle, in 1957. Ted Taylor, Bobby Thompson and George James were the components of James Boys Skiffle, whose main inspiration was Lonnie Donegan. Taylor and James had known each other since the age of five, and Thompson was an old friend from school. In late 1957 the James Boys Skiffle coincide in a performance with a newly formed Rock & Roll group, calling themselves Bobby Bell Rockers. The group had previously been called The Sinners and were engaged in the Skiffle, but after watching the movie Rock Around the Clock starring Bill Haley & His Comets, they quickly evolved into Rock & Roll. This group was probably Liverpool’s first Rock & Roll group and was a quarry of great musicians from the Merseybeat scene, in which were the future All-Stars of Les Curtis, Pete Best and Wayne Bickerton (The Remo Four). After that performance, Ted Taylor and then Bobby Thompson joined Bobby Bell Rockers to dedicate themselves heart and soul to Rock & Roll. In the following two years the group changes formation, transforming into a sextet, an octet, a quartet, or a quintet. The Zodiacs would be born from one of the divisions of the band, which would later become Ian & the Zodiacs. During these years, Ted Taylor established himself as the leader of the band, which was first called The Dominoes, to end up being called, in 1960, King Size Taylor & The Dominoes. They made their debut at The Cavern Club in January 1961 supporting Cilla Black, who debuted at age 17, who became an unofficial fifth member of the group at numerous concerts over the next year. The fame of the group grew a lot, and Ted Taylor went on to be considered as one of the best Rock & Roll singers in his city.

During the summer of 1962, King Size Taylor & the Dominoes went, for the first time to Hamburg, where they quickly gained a loyal following, during the three months they were performing at the Star-Club. The King Size Taylor & The Dominoes line-up consisted of a pair of guitars, bass, drums, and a saxophone. Taylor also devoted himself, during the second half of 1962, to recording Beatles performances with his portable recorder. In that year Dave Lovelady left the band to continue studying architecture: Taylor made an offer to Ringo Starr, whom he considered the best young rock & roll drummer in Liverpool, Ringo rejected Taylor, since he had accepted an offer from The Beatles. There are a lot of legends about why Ringo chose The Beatles, instead of Taylor and his group, the truth is that according to Ringo himself he chose The Beatles because they paid him five more pounds. The release of The Beatles’ single “Please Please Me” in early 1963, made what had previously been mere curiosity on the part of record producers for the groups, of the newly named sound Merseybeat, become a business that aimed To very succulent hits, hundreds of ambitious executives went to work to capture boy groups with that new sound.

In 1963 King Size Taylor & the Dominoes signed with the Philips label, recording a single with the songs “Fortune Teller / Never In A Hundred Years”, which was released in Germany and England (by Fontana Records). Personally, I think this single is a true wonder, the version of “Fortune Teller” is one of the best that has been made of this song, and in “Never In A Hundred Years” it is more than clear, why Ted Taylor was considered one of Liverpool’s best vocalists.

Between 1963 and 1964 the group recorded three lp’s and a half dozen singles for Star-Club / Ariola, and under the pseudonym The Shakers a Lp for Polydor, which at the time did not belong to Philips. Also for Polydor they served as a study group for the recordings of Audry Arno and Alex Harvey, among others, these sessions for Polydor were held in Hamburg. During their stay in Germany they also performed in Kiel and Berlin. Polydor released three singles from The Shakers ‘album in the UK: “Money”, “Whole Lotta Lovin'” and “Hippy Hippy Shake”.

When they returned to Liverpool in 1964, King Size Taylor and his band, despite their reputation and the quality of their music, were not caught by the producers milling around the city, they were much more famous in Hamburg than in Liverpool, and They also did not compose, they only covered American R’n’B and Rock & Roll artists. Many Merseybeat groups did the same, that King Size Taylor, in fact, King Size Taylor already covered live, long before most of these groups songs like “Stupidity”, “Money”, “I Cant Tell” or “Hippy , Hippy, Shake ”but, although their versions were very good, the groups that began to compose their own material began to emerge. All the Liverpool groups were summoned to audition, regardless of their musical talent, at the same time the Merseybeat sound was being defined, the bass and drum guitar formations were the most common, although there were groups with piano, organ or saxophone, It was not the most usual. King Size Taylor & The Dominoes, they had two saxes in the group, that was something that distinguished them from the others but that was not in fashion, they offered a show full of rhythm with a very careful staging. They struggled to show off a Beatles-established image, with matching outfits and new haircuts, but they were very old-fashioned, musically for English producers. Still, they were chosen to accompany Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins on their 1964 UK tour.

Bobby Thompson left in 1964 to join Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, while guitarist and singer John Frankland and drummer Gibson Kemp, who had taken the place that Ringo Starr had rejected, left to form The Eyes over the summer. 1964. Following the breakup of The Dominoes in 1964, Taylor recorded the single “Somebody’s Always Tryin'” for Decca in London, with Jimmy Page on guitar.

Taylor, who had married a German girl, returned to Hamburg in 1965, where he continued to perform regularly backed by bands like Remo Four and Griff Parry Five, before organizing a new band, called New Dominoes, with musicians, English and Germans, who found in Hamburg. In 1966 King Size Taylor recorded a couple of singles for Decca and Polydor, as a soloist. Taylor finally left the music business in 1967, returned to his hometown where he took over the family business, a butcher shop, which he ran for 30 years, until his retirement. A decade later, his name began to be remembered in the music field thanks to a recording that Taylor had made to The Beatles, at the Star-Club in 1962. After a series of trials, this amateur recording was released to the public in 1977 and, For the next 21 years, its seduced fans with its content and outraged others for its quality. Aside from the fact that their sound is not a marvel, this recording is a true historical document that makes us understand why The Beatles managed to put the entire German audience in their pocket, and how they sounded when they were an authentic Rock & Roll band, dressed in black leather. Taylor returned to Germany in 2006, and has continued to perform with a band called The Brotherhood of Rock ‘n’ Soul. In 1999 Bear Family Records released the complete recordings of Ariola by Kingsize Taylor & the Dominoes as part of their box set Die Ariola Star-Club Aufnahmen.

In 2020 Bear Family has released a CD dedicated to King Size Taylor, within his collection “The Brits Are Rocking”, 31 songs with a magnificent script, with extensive information and beautiful photos, just as the German label has accustomed us.

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