By Michael WrightOne of the most influential guitarists of the late ’60s English blues-rock scene was Mick Taylor. His dazzling slide and searing lead playing propelled him to success at a young age. By the time he turned 18, he had already opened for Cream and had joined the legendary John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, taking the place of the departing Peter Green. Taylor played with the Bluesbreakers from 1966-69, at which time he joined “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World” – The Rolling Stones. Taylor’s tenure in the Stones is often hailed as a creative high-point for the band, with the recording of the seminal albums Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St. Taylor also played on the definitive Rolling Stones live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! He left the band in 1974, and embarked on a series of critically acclaimed solo projects and occasional high-profile gigs with the likes of Jack Bruce and Bob Dylan. Taylor still dazzles audiences around the world with the melodic grace and lightning dexterity that was integral to the magic of now-classic tracks, like “Sway” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
Gibson.com recently caught up with Taylor by phone from his London office, in between European shows. Ever the performer, the guitarist seems keen to get back on the road after having to cancel dates earlier in the year because of an illness.
How are you feeling? I understand you had pneumonia this past year.
I had pneumonia and a lot of nasty things, which is why I couldn’t fulfill my obligations and finish the tour I was booked to do. But I’m over that now. I’m still recovering and getting my strength back, but I’m over the worst of that.
And you’re back on the road now, right?
Well, not entirely. A couple of weeks ago, we did a show in Poland and we did three shows in Italy and we came home. And then a week later, we did a show in France and then a show in Suffolk, which is in England. And then we did a show two days later in France. So I’m keeping busy, but I’m not doing any major tours, yet. No, not ready to do that yet.
What guitars are you playing these days?
I’m playing a Les Paul, a vintage reissue. I’ve got two Les Pauls at the moment, neither of them are of that much intrinsic value, like the ones I used to play when I was with John Mayall and with the Stones, but they’re nice guitars. I’m most interested in trying to acquire an SG like the one I used to have in my last year with John Mayall and I used throughout my 1969 tour with The Rolling Stones. That I [used on] Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
What do you remember about that original guitar?
Well, I just remember loving that guitar – because I must have loved it a lot, otherwise I wouldn’t have forsaken a Les Paul to play that. I played both, but I think I preferred that SG because it had a very wide neck, and a very flat neck, and the action was absolutely superb. And the sound was good, too. And it had a Bigsby arm on it, which I didn’t use a great deal in those days, but I like that kind of effect, as well.