James Taylor appeared in concert at the Sports Arena 50 years ago. The October 30, 1971 show marked its first appearance in San Diego. His current tour stopped at the same location, now called Pechanga Arena San Diego, on November 1.
Extract from the Evening Tribune of Saturday, November 6, 1971:
Taylor’s low-key approach earns him top marks
By JOE CROMWELL
James Taylor, 23, has recorded two million sold albums and three gold singles.
Folk singer, guitarist and songwriter Taylor has marked these accomplishments over the past two years. Her debut album, Sweet Baby James, was released in early 1970. A clip from it, “Fire and Rain”, was included in the year-end National Top 10 survey. Another, “Walkin ‘on a Country Road,” made it into the National Top 40. His second album, Mud Slide Slim, still tops the national charts. A track from that collection, “You’ve Gota Friend,” was ranked # 1 earlier this year and will likely finish at the top of this year’s poll.
Only a handful of performers have evolved as quickly as Taylor into the upper echelon of pop artists. His songs – his own versions and those recorded by stars like Andy Williams and Shirley Bassey and bands as important as Blood, Sweat and Tears – are considered a major force in the revival of folk-rock as a form of popular music. .
Taylor’s style is based on his theory that pop doesn’t have to be strong to be good. The secret of his success, in concert as on record, lies in his cold reserve and his discreet approach.
On stage, Taylor projects a sense of intimacy. He sings things close to him with such a feeling that he seems to sing to each listener individually.
Last Saturday night, Taylor brought her sounds home here for a show at the Sports Arena. Sitting in the center of the stage, he performs his own hits and a few arias that are not usually associated with him. They included “The Night They Drove Old Dixie’Down”, “On Broadway” and an instrumental version of “Greensleeves”.
Taylor was the star, but shared the limelight with his backup men, giving everyone the opportunity to show off their talents during the show.
He is accompanied by musicians Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar.
Taylor’s association with Kortchmar is long. They have been together since the late 1950s and formed their first group, The Flying Machine, in 1966.
“I went to New York and joined Kootch, Zach Wiesner and Joel Bishop O’Brien. We were a good group. Taylor said. “But New York was tough on me, and after a year the Flying Machine broke up and I went home.”
Originally from Massachusetts, Taylor grew up in North Carolina. He was the second oldest of five children, two of whom are also involved in music. James is the most successful, but his brother, Livingston, and sister, Kate, have recently turned pro. Livingston has toured with Jethro Tull and Kate made her debut almost a year ago at the Back Door at San Diego State College.
Taylor’s musical skills are mostly self-taught. “The music just seemed to happen to me,” he said.
When he was younger he played the cello and took music theory lessons at school. He learned to play the guitar on his own.
“Formal studies have never been okay with me,” he said. “At school I had friends, but I was often sad. Music was an escape. I have found solace in writing, projecting and thinking about the seasons and the sea, things over which I have no control.
Taylor was discovered by Peter Asher, formerly half of the Peter and Gordon duo.
“Peter and I met in London,” Taylor said. “I was planning on traveling but ended up recording for Apple. Peter and I are now at Warner Bros. but I owe my first album to the Beatles.
Taylor judges his success by what the public accepts of him, musically, and not by the money he has made.
“I like success almost as much as I don’t like it,” he said.
“I am the product of a random musical environment which I guess makes me a folk artist.
“My music is just an extension of me,” he said. “This is how I feel and who I am.”