Little Johnny Taylor 11/02/1943 to 17/May/2002

Once again a true soul great has departed this world for soul heaven. LJT’s claim to fame was his original hit recording of the soul standard 'Part Time Love', along with an extraordinary output of some real class soul music.


Born Johnny Lamont Merrett in Memphis Tennessee (debatable) 11 February 1943. He moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was seven. It was in his early teens that his professional singing career began, firstly singing with various local gospel groups, then with the respected gospel group The Mighty Clouds Of Joy, whom he was with for five years. During his time with the group he changed his name to Johnny Taylor, loosely based around Ted Taylor, who he had befriended, and was enjoying some success in the late fifties. Being the youngest member of the group he was tagged with the prefix of Little. He recorded with them, as he did with another gospel group the Stars Of Bethel.  




Following the normal path he moved to the more lucrative secular field in the late fifties, initially playing the California blues circuit, before joining the Johnny Otis Revue, which brings him to the attention of renowned Los Angeles disc jockey Hunter Hancock, who also owned the Swingin record label based in Hollywood. He jumped at the chance to join the label, resulting in 1960 his first disc, a blues, 'I Tried To Understand' / 'Looking At The Future'. His second in 1962, and last Swingin release 'One More Chance' / 'One Pound'. Both releases didn't sell nationally, but did fairly well locally.

In 1963, LJT signed for Galaxy Records, based in San Francisco. His debut for that label was 'You'll Need Another Favour', which was a top thirty R&B hit. Following this was the classic, unforgettable, 'Part Time Love', penned by Clay Hammond, LJT takes this by the scruff of neck, making full use of his gospel roots, soaring to great falsetto heights, he moans, agonising wails and whoops as he passionately pleads his case. The disc reached the top of the R&B charts, and top twenty pop. The follow up 'Since I Found A New Love' was a minor hit, 78 R&B. Despite some further superb soulful releases on Galaxy, in a similar mould, he was never able to match the success of 'Part Time Love' and national success proved elusive, until late 1966 when 'Zig Zag Lightning' stretched into the R&B top 50. In 1967 he bowed out from Galaxy with 'Double Or Nothing'. Although lacking any major chart success he still remained a large draw on the chitlin club circuit.  

In 1969 Ted Taylor's manager Nat Margo was responsible for placing LJT with Stan Lewis Ronn Records, out of Shreveport, where he began to produce a further steady output, making little attempt to compromise into a more commercial format. His reluctance to radically depart from his personalized formula pays off, as in late 1971 'Everybody Knows About My Good Thing' found LJT once again with an R&B and Pop smash on his hands. Other hits followed including 'Open House At My House' in 1972, and over the next couple of years he was floating in and out of R&B charts.  

In 1973 an album of duets and solo performances with long time friend, and label mate Ted Taylor THE SUPER TAYLORS was released. He continued to release material on Ronn through to the late seventies, sort of riding the disco storm, but LJT as a marketable artist had waned. 1978 he disappeared from the recording scene, until 1988 when he successfully reappeared on Ichiban with a contemporary blues album STUCK IN THE MUD, spending ten weeks in the R&B album chart. In the same mould the follow up album UGLY MAN, in 1989, didn't repeat the minor success of the last album, so he was dropped by Ichiban. Both albums showed the voice a lot weaker than his peak work. 1997 seems to be his last recorded work with the album YOU'RE LOOKING GOOD Nasha Records.  

A vastly under-rated gifted soul blues singer who never achieved the heights that he richly deserved. His excitingly gospel drenched, uplifting emotive voice will always be just an arms length away. An in-depth LJT was part of future plans, in fact the first scribble is laying open in the soul pantry.