Johnnie Taylor was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas but spent most of his time in Memphis. By the time he was ten years old his family had moved to Kansas City. As a teenager Taylor performed with a gospel group The Melody Kings which opened for Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers. In 1953 he moved to Chicago and joined the Doo Wop group The Five Echoes and they recorded one song for the Chance label. He was also performing with the gospel group The Highway Q.C.’s of which Sam Cooke was a past member. Ironically Taylor would soon replace Cooke in The Soul Stirrers after he left the group to perform secular music. Cooke started his own SAR record label in 1961 and made Johnny Taylor his first signed artist. Taylor released a few songs on SAR and another Cooke label Derby. His biggest success with Cooke’s secular label was the song “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day.” When Cooke was murdered in 1964 Taylor was without a recording home so he relocated back to Memphis in 1965 and signed a contract with Stax Records. It was at the Stax label where Taylor became a soul star with party favorites and hit songs like “I’ve Got To Love Somebody’s Baby,” “Testify (I Wanna,)” “Who’s Making Love,” “Take Care Of Your Homework,” “Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone,” “Steal Away,” “Cheaper To Keep Her” and “I Believe In You (You Believe In Me.)” Stax billed him as The Philosopher Of Soul and he was one of the performers in the Wattstax concert that was made into a film.
By 1975 Stax went bankrupt and Taylor joined the roster at CBS/Columbia. In 1976 they released his biggest selling single and first number one pop hit “Disco Lady” from the album Eargasm. He continued to record for CBS but there were no more hits and he left them and joined Beverly Glen in 1982. “What About My Love” comes from the lone album he recorded for them Just Ain’t Good Enough. During the ’80’s Taylor was also an on-air personality at KKDA a station based in Dallas/Fort Worth under the moniker “The Wailer, Johnnie Taylor.” Malaco Records signed him in 1984 and he was able to have artistic freedom he needed. Of the twelve albums he did for Malaco the eighth one Good Love went to number one on the Billboard charts and 15 on the R&B chart making it the most successful album in the label’s history. Malaco did a video recording of him performing at The Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, Texas and 1001 Nightclub in Jackson, Mississippi. Gotta Get The Groove Back released in 1999 would be his last recording.
Taylor died of a heart attack the following year in the month of May at Charlton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, Texas. It is rumored that Def Jam will release a remix project of his work later this year.