This interview was conducted with the harmonica legend Greg “Fingers” Taylor on September 1, 2006 in Northeast Georgia. Taylor released a total of five studio albums including “Harpoon Man,” “Chest Pains,” “New Fingerprints,” and “Hi Fi Baby,” as well as two compilation albums “Greatest Hits” and “Back to the Blues.” Taylor was also a singer and played keyboards. He was one of the original members of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band and continued on until 2000.
Taylor wrote the song “Big Rig,” which Buffett recorded and also co-wrote the song “Miss You So Badly” with Buffett. In addition to appearing on the majority of Buffett’s albums he has recorded with James Taylor, Chris LeDoux, Jerry Jeff Walker, Mac McAnally, Little Milton, Al Kooper, Jimmy Hall, Tim Krekel, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Michael Nesmith, Bo Diddley, Larry Raspberry, Debbie Davies, Don Nix and The Tams.
In this interview, the story of Greg “Fingers” Taylor is told in his own words.
PAUL: I’ve waited a long time to interview the legendary Greg “Fingers” Taylor. Here we are on the eve of my twenty-fifth birthday, and I sit down with the Harpoon Man. How ya doin’ Fingers?
FINGERS: I’m doing good! Out here in the hills of Georgia, playin’ some music for some people and eatin’ some good food. It’s good to see you.
PAUL: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it. I wanted to get back to your roots. You come from Jackson, Mississippi.
FINGERS: That’s right. I wasn’t born there. I was born in Wichita, Kansas. I was in Wichita basically until I was fourteen years old. I’m 54 now. Wichita was actually a pretty good R&B town at that point. There was a guy named Mike Finnigan who played the organ, who was my hero. Played the B3 Organ. I used to go see him play all the time. Lots of great musicians came through Wichita, R&B players like Sam and Dave and Wilson Pickett. They played the Cotillion Ballroom there. Before I moved from Wichita, I became a big Beatles fan. I had me and my two compadres: Dave and Dan. We tried everything to meet girls. We joined the track team. We weren’t very good at that. We played some baseball and we weren’t very good at that. We began to hear these Beatles guys, the Dave Clark Five, and a lot of the English invasion bands on the radio. They were all basically all R&B based units. You know what I mean? So, I was hearing that, especially the Dave Clark Five. They had a sax player; they had a real big sound. The drums were turned up loud, and I liked that. So, I formed a band with my guys and we met girls and we had fun. I don’t know how good we were at that point, but we sure loved the music a lot. Somewhere in there, when I was about fifteen or sixteen I started listening to Blues records. Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson…one and two. There were two of them. I just loved the way the music sounded, got deep off into the blues. I ended up in Jackson, Mississippi. I was fourteen when we moved. I was so excited because I was going to where the Delta Blues came from. To the Mississippi Delta, right around Jackson, Mississippi. Anyway, I learned to love the Blues. I started a little blues band when I was in high school in Jackson. Just sort of went from there. The instrument that I really liked to hear was the harmonica. I thought it was a very expressive instrument and it was a little different. And also at one of the battle of the bands we had, the guy in the band that won blew a little harmonica and drove everybody crazy just by the sound of it. Didn’t play very good, but I filed that away. Once I got down to college at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, I was pretty well blowing the harmonica all the time, and I carried it around with me. That was another thing, because my nickname, “Fingers” came from being a keyboard player back when I was in high school. But then I largely became a harmonica player, so I kind of got the wrong name. Should have been “Lips” or something like that. Down at Southern, I learned how to play the harp. I sat around in like the stairwells on the weekend at the University. There weren’t many people there on the weekend. I would play and practice and I formed a little band down there and just one thing lead to another. This guy Jimmy Buffett came through one time when I was in my sophomore year and he was playing what we called the Union Building there, which was basically a couple of soda machines, a PA that didn’t hardly work, and a couple of old beat up microphones. By that point I was jamming with a lot of the groups that came through at Southern, at the big coliseum we had there. I played with Delaney and Bonnie and the Dirt Band, Black Oak Arkansas, just about anybody who came through town. I got up on the big stage for the first time, and so then I was definitely hooked. Buffett was playing that night at the Union Building, one night and I sat down and there were three little old ladies on break from night class and that was it…and Buffett with a big ten-gallon hat on, and back then he had lots of hair. We all did. He was singing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and…” to three little old ladies. For Hattiesburg housewives, on break from quilting class or something, I don’t know. Anyway we hooked up over the next week. He had a weeklong gig there and I started playing every night with him and by the third or fourth night we were selling the house out. We kind of realized that we had something together that neither one of us had apart, and that it was a good combination. He wanted somebody who could play more solos. He was never a solo guitar player. He was a folkie strummer, and a good one, but he didn’t play lead guitar. So I took up the lead spots on the harmonica. More time ensued. I went back to Little Rock. Jimmy eventually wound up in Nashville. I wound up in Memphis, where I was a part of a band called Larry Raspberry and the High Steppers. We were on Stacks Records and we did one album. Stacks, was unfortunately getting ready to go bankrupt, by the time we hooked up with the company. Anyway, I went on the road with Larry Raspberry and the High Steppers, left college. Started up in about 1972, was when we first hit the road. We toured the United States, had a ball, played with a lot of great musicians. We almost, kind of, made it big. Stacks like I said, was going under. Meanwhile, Jimmy and I had kept up with each other and I had gone on a few gigs with him. Acoustic gigs, just the two of us, while I was still in school at Southern. He would, even when I was with Larry Raspberry and on the road all the time, when he got ready to do his records for ABC/Dunhill, the first three or four records, he called me up for all those sessions. No matter where I was, time for a new album, he would fly me into Nashville. And I got to play with all the great Nashville players, Vassar Clements, just a bunch of great players. So, anyway in about 1975 or late 1974, the High Steppers were about to breakup, Stacks was going under, the record company. But Buffett was just getting cranked up. He had three albums behind his belt by then, and he said, “Do you want to go on the road? I got a bus.” It wasn’t like a real fancy one, like we wound up with years, decades, later, but it was a bus. And it had bunks in it so we could sleep and just keep moving. So I quit college all together and hit the highway. And I’ve been out there ever since. I took a couple of breaks, at points, just to get off the road, and get my health back every now and then. It’s a grueling existence. At any rate, I continued to just pursue the harmonica in a whole lot of different ways. The guy who really made a difference for me and for a lot of other Chicago-style Harmonica players was a guy named Little Walter Jacobs. I totally got off into Little Walter. He’s still the King. Nobody ever really beat what he did in the Fifties. He was actually a star back then, which was unusual for a harmonica player to be a big star. At any rate, it just kept on rolling and I worked on Buffett through many, many more albums. I decided to leave him in 2001 to be with my family. I had two new baby boys. They’re now seven and eight years old, Hunter and Steven. I just wanted to be home more. I think Jimmy and I were both a little tired of each other. It was a good time to take a break. Just recently I went back and played with Buffett for the first time since 2001. I did a show with him in Cincinnati, at Riverbend Coliseum. I would up in the studio with him in Mussel Shoals, Alabama where they were working on his new record, one that will be out in October 2006, and also for a soundtrack called “Hoot,” it’s a children’s movie that he was in and produced. So, I’m going to be seeing him in a couple weeks in Detroit. I’ll probably get up on stage again. He has some things he wants to talk to me about. He’s breaking ground for a casino in Las Vegas, his own casino. There’s a chance I might get to have a little piece of that deal as a little Fingers Taylor type of club, and have my buddies come through. I don’t know anything about running a club, but I could have somebody who did know and I could just sort of be the figurehead. And I’d know who to hire and who not to. I know who’s good. That may happen. We’ll see. We’ll know something more in a few weeks. What do you want to ask me? Ask me questions.
PAUL: All right. Well, I wanted to ask you, what is it that you think makes the blues, the blues? For me, it’s always been a feeling.
PAUL: It’s a feeling. I told you this in Key West one time, your music has gotten me into a lot of trouble, in the past.
FINGERS: (Laughs). Good.
PAUL: Because, ya know, I live in Athens. It’s hard to go to class when you hear the blues.
FINGERS: Mhmm. I know. (Laughs).
PAUL: Because you feel like drinkin’ another beer.
FINGERS: That’s right.
PAUL: You feel like maybe smackin’ the backside of a woman you’ve never met.
FINGERS: Well that’s true. (Laughs)
PAUL: So what is it that attracted you to the blues?
FINGERS: Man, I don’t know for sure. I think that I identified with the soul and feeling that is involved in that music. I love the simplicity of it. The expressiveness. When I was still fourteen and fifteen, I went through kind of a traumatic time, with a girlfriend of mine. I felt really down. When I listened to the blues records, I felt better. So I said, hmm, this is kind of cool. I guess I was trying to drown in my own sorrow or something, but then later I began to appreciate the blues as a happy music. Regardless of it’s a sad song. I’m talking about the way the beat goes, the jump. I want to get up and dance, I want to have fun, I want to blow my harp. I want to listen to the blues, dance to the blues. I think it’s therapeutic music. (Laughs.) It’ll cure your blues.
PAUL: It’s like the Keith Sykes song, “Advanced Medication for the Blues.”
FINGERS: There ya go! That’s right man.
PAUL: Well, tell us about Keith. You and Keith are buddies. And he certainly is a hell of a songwriter. So tell me about Keith.
FINGERS: Well, ya know Keith came on board as a Coral Reefer. He was always, like a friend of Buffett’s and Jerry Jeff Walker’s down in Key West, and the inner circle that Buffett had down there. And a great songwriter always, but he joined up with the band about 1976 or 1977, about the time we did “Volcano.” He went down to Monserrat at George Martin’s studio with us and James Taylor, and Hughie Taylor and Livingston Taylor…all the Taylor brothers. We made the album “Volcano,” which was like one of the great times of our lives. It was a real special time; it was like being a cave man again. You wanted to go around in a loin cloth (Roars). We made a lot of good music down there. It was a real inspiring place. Keith was in on all that, and of course he wrote the great song “Coast of Marseilles.” I just saw Keith in New Orleans, like two weekends ago. They were having a songwriter convention. I have a guy that I play with in Columbus, Ohio named Ken Moore, who’s a folk-singer, acoustic player. He got us booked down there at the songwriter’s convention this year and Keith was working down there, the same deal. So we all ran into each other and Keith and I played together for the first time in many years, just the two of us. We did “Coast of Marseilles,” and the whole nine yards. It was great, we had a ball. He’s doing good. One of the great songwriters. And a great Memphian. And he could be a real rocker too. He did some rocking stuff. A lot of his solo records were rock and roll records. He’s also the first guy who ever introduced me to a song called “Jackson Police.” It was written by a friend of his, north of Memphis, named John Kilzer. Still a great songwriter. He’s still around. He brought the song in, and we cut it in one take. I had done it a couple of different ways. The one that Keith produced has never really truly been released. The one I did that was released was on my solo record called “Chest Pains,” that was produced by Mike Utley in the early 1980s. Anyways, Sykes is fine. I hear there’s going to be a big time in Key West this year. Jerry Jeff Walker’s coming down. I think Buffett is maybe coming down. It’s called the Meeting of the Minds. Keith will be there, Buffett, Jerry Jeff, Hugo Duarte, I’m sure Jeff Pike, all of the Parrot Head singers and people will be there. It’s going to be a good time.
PAUL: There’s a guy I’ve been listening to, that you kind of ran with for a while and I really started appreciating, and his name is Tim Krekel.
FINGERS: Oh yeah! (Excitedly)
PAUL: You’ve written some songs with Tim, and you two have a lot in common, I guess.
FINGERS: Yeah, we do. Tim entered the Coral Reefer Band about 1976. I had been hanging out with him in Nashville some, so I knew who he was and I talked Buffett into hiring him. He was a great asset to the band, a great rocker. Tim and I are actually playing together in a couple weekends at a blues festival over in Kentucky. So we’re going to get to do it all over again. Have a little fun for a couple of days. Krekel’s doing great, man. He still writes a lot of songs in Nashville. He’s got a new song with Danny O’Keefe, the guy who wrote, “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues.” It’s going to be released on an Alan Jackson record, and it came at a good time because he just lost his publishing deal, his long time publishing deal. Krekel’s got him a cut now, got him a cut! Got him a hit! So that’s good news.
PAUL: What kind of music, in your spare time, what’s the stuff that’s in your collection? What do you like?
FINGERS: Well, man I like a lot of areas of black music. Of course I like the blues and soul and funk. I just listen to a lot of stuff. I listen to a lot of hillbilly music, white country music, very old timey stuff. I love bluegrass. As long as it’s roots music. I can identify with that. In fact when I was in college for a while, way back, at the University of Little Rock, my first brother-in-law to be was a banjo picker. He turned me onto bluegrass and got me started on the whole deal and on the weekends we’d go up to a place called Mountain Home, Arkansas. All the great bluegrass players from miles around would come every Saturday and play at the courthouse on the lawn. So I got into bluegrass, learned how to play all that kind of stuff. You know, I still go back and listen to the blues a lot. It’s kind of my schooling. I’m probably going to be doing a lot of that wood-shedding kind of stuff, coming up before I go play in Wilmington, North Carolina and Richmond. That’s going to be with Magic Dick, the guy who was with the J. Geils Band. Great harmonica player. Also another great harmonica player from the west coast named Mark Hummel, and his band are going to be the backing band. The three of us are going to do a couple of shows in that part of the country. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve got to get my chops together. These guys don’t fool around.
PAUL: As far as harmonica players go, as a blues harp player, who would you have to give the respect to?
FINGERS: Oh, it would definitely be Little Walter and as far as living harmonica players, it would be Kim Wilson with the Fabulous Thunderbirds who’s also the stepfather to my boys and a good friend for many, many years. He’s as close as you’ll get to Little Walter of anybody alive. An incredible harp player. There’s all kinds of harmonica players. We were talking earlier about Howard Levy, he is just a monster harmonica player. He’s not a blues player, but he can take one C harmonica and blow up and down it and do all the scales. He over-blows, sort of like the guy in Blues Traveler, John Popper. Levy can take it and walk it up all the way. That means you’ve got to over-blow the low notes, which is almost impossible to do. A lot of those high notes, like that you hear me doing, like on “Tampico Trauma,” that’s over-blowing. But that’s on the higher four or five notes, and that’s an easier bend. But Levy, bends them on the bottom and probably gets two or three scales out of one tiny blues harp. There’s new guys coming up all the time. There’s guys around and it’s still a very vital instrument. People’s personality comes out; it’s such a small instrument. It really does assume someone’s personality, or vice versa. You know what I mean? It’s a real personal kind of instrument. I liked it originally because I got my nickname “Fingers” from being a keyboard player. I told you the story about hearing the guy blow the harp at the battle of the bands. Later on I got so tire of lifting big B3 organs and pianos upstairs so that we could go play. That was before we had portable stuff. It became a lot easier for me just to stick that harmonica in my pocket. I could practice anytime I wanted. It was easy, it was portable.
PAUL: As far as the future goes, do you intend to put out another record?
FINGERS: Yeah. It’s in the very, very, very beginning stages, but I have several ideas about who I want to use. There’s a great blues band in Nashville, Mike Henderson and the Blue Bloods. I’m thinking about using them for the basic band. I’ll probably have several of my buddies come in. Kim Wilson produced my last record. We did that in Ann Arbor and I might fly him into Nashville to produce part of this one. I’m just slow to do it. I’m really lucky that this summer, and the spring and the fall is turning out to be such a busy time. The money has been good, which we all need, as players. I’m glad for that, but it takes me a long time to get an album together. I have to think about it and do this and that. I don’t write a whole lot, so I have to get together with co-writers and I already have plans to do a lot of that. Plus, I know a lot of the songwriters in Nashville. They’ll send me stuff that they think might work for me. I need to go in there and write some more of my own tunes.
PAUL: I want to ask about a couple of my favorites, of your tunes. One of my favorites is “Good Rockin’ Woman.”
FINGERS: Really! I wrote that one.
PAUL: So tell me about that one.
FINGERS: Man, when we were getting ready to do the “Chest Pains” record, I wanted to put a shuffle, a blues shuffle. Let’s see, which wife was I with? My second one, but the song is not really about any woman in particular. It’s just a blues song. That’s what I kept trying to tell my exes. It’s not about her; it’s not about you. It’s a damn blues number and I wrote lyrics like the old guys. “Good rockin’ woman, shake it all night long, blah, blah, blah.” I just used the idiom as it’s meant to be used. That was a fun track. I had the great Anson Funderburgh on guitar, and then I had Wes Starr, a great, great shuffle blues drummer from Texas. I had a lot of great players on that cut. A lot of the “Chest Pains” record was actually done on machines, because that was the first age of the drum machine. It was cheaper for us to use the drum machine. That’s just an old blues song. I kind of like it though. I still like it. I listened to it in the car coming up here. Paul O’Daniel played it for me.
PAUL: There’s the one song that you co-wrote with Jimmy Buffett, Tim Krekel, and Michael Utley, it’s one of your signature songs, “Some White People (Can Dance).”
FINGERS: We were at Buffett’s studio in Key West and we were all just kind of hanging out. We were getting ready to go to Australia. It was the whole Buffett band and a lot of our buddies and stuff. We were in Buffett’s studio and I said, “You guys need to write me a song.” They started writing it actually and then I got in with them. It was Krekel, and me and Buffett, and who else? Maybe Utley. Mike Utley. They were always making fun of me because I was like the guy who listened to the blues all day, and all that kind of stuff. The white people, black people stereotypes and that kind of s—t. That’s where that came from. Then we took it to Los Angeles, when we were on the way to Australia, we stopped in LA, and cut it. We cut it with Bonnie Bramlett and Larry Raspberry, different players, Steve Cropper on guitar from Memphis, the legendary Steve Cropper. Then we cut it, then we went on to Australia and hung out for about a month and came back. We still had the track, the track still sounded good so I just kept it until the rest of the album was going to be put together. Anyway, that’s the story of that one.
PAUL: Didn’t Ed Bradley have something to do with that song?
FINGERS: You know he might have. I think he was in the studio playing tambourine or something. He liked to show up at our shows a lot, probably still does, take his tambourine and beat it all over the place. He always liked hanging out with us. We liked hanging out with him.
PAUL: Nice guy?
FINGERS: Great guy.
PAUL: What was he like?
FINGERS: Just a real cool cat. You know, obviously very intelligent and well-spoken, worldly and all that kind of stuff, but he loved to get down and have a little fun. You can’t imagine what was his name, Ted, what’s his name? The newscaster.
FINGERS: No, you can’t imagine Ted Koppel hanging out with, uh…
FINGERS: No. Ed, I’m sure Ed still shows up at some of the shows.
PAUL: There’s a couple of songs where I thought when I heard it, that sounds like Fingers’ voice. I know you had a hand in helping produce the Margaritaville Café New Orleans Late Night Gumbo album, on the Iguanas song “I Like Eatin’ with Fingers,” is that you that says, “Don’t get greasy now”?
FINGERS: No, no. I think that was probably Joe Cabal, the sax player. He sang that one. Totally. That was funny, man. Did you ever hear that whole CD?
PAUL: Oh yeah.
FINGERS: You know, I found one more copy in New Orleans when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I picked it up. Most people don’t even know about that record. I was real proud of what me and Utley did with the stuff. It was so much fun bein’ the A&R guy, discovering these new talents. These people that nobody knew about. The Iguanas were just super, man. They just decided one day to write that thing, it was pretty funny. I’ve been a lucky guy. I’ve had a lot of fun, man. I’ve made a lot of records. Buffett’s new record is in the can and ready to come out. We finished that up in Muscle Shoals.
PAUL: What did you think of the new album?
FINGERS: I love what I’ve heard of it. I absolutely did. It’s been a while since one of Jimmy’s records just absolutely knocked me out. I think a lot of his later output has been very good, but it didn’t sell that well. Of course the Alan Jackson thing came along. This was sort of a combination of what he was doing before, the country stuff again, and a little bit of the country kind of deal. He’s got a great song about the Florabama, I think that’s going to be a hit. The production is excellent. Utley and Mac and their engineer Alan just did a fine job. Very strong, big sound. So, I’m looking forward to that. I’m on three cuts. Not playing a whole lot, but we got one rocker on there. It’s called “Everybody’s on the Phone.” It’s about cell phones. I got to blow a little of my Little Walter style harp on that one, instead of the acoustic, Buffett-style. I always like to get a couple of those in. (Laughs).
PAUL: Did you ever think you would be back doing anything with Buffett, or did you think that probably wasn’t going to happen. I have to say, I was a little surprised. Do you know what I mean?
FINGERS: Surprised that I’m doing things with him again?
FINGERS: Well I am too. It was at this gig I was telling you about in Cincinnati at Riverbend, a guy that I work with, Ken Moore, from Columbus, Ohio…he had booked us a gig at this huge complex, a Koney Island kind of place, and they had a small amphitheatre. We played a couple of sets with the damn sun; I was about to keel over. So we went backstage and said, well we just got to rest for a while before we drive to wherever the hell we were going. I get a phone call, on my cell phone, it was Mac McAnally. He said, “We know you’re there. (Laughs). Don’t go anywhere. We’ll send the roadies down from the big stage. The big stage was just over the hill. He got his roadies to come down to come and get my amplifier and we had to go through the crowd to get to the big stage, but we made it. Then I got up and played “Fins.” I played organ on “Margaritaville.” They were the encore. That’s when Jimmy said, “We need to sit down and talk. Because I have something that I want to talk to you about.” I believe that’s probably the casino deal. So we’ll see. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks. I called McAnally and told him that I would be in town and that I would be there and to get me some tickets and then hopefully he could ask Jimmy, hopefully if he had a minute to sit down and tell me what’s going on. That would be great. I think he’s thinking about retirement for me and for everybody else, finally. We never had any kind of regular retirement, but he’s thinking about us. You know, he’ll probably get it to us in different ways.
PAUL: Do you mean Jimmy retiring?
FINGERS: Well no, we’re talking about retirement for our old asses. (Laughs)
PAUL: But, do you think he’s getting ready to?
FINGERS: You never can tell with Jimmy. I would have thought he would retire by now. I mean, he’s not a young guy anymore, but do you know what he takes care of himself, he’s vibrant, His mind works well. He’s writing great, he’s singing great. So who knows? And he likes to make money.
PAUL: Yes, that’s the truth.
FINGERS: But I think when you get to that point, you have to make a lot of money. Just to cover your bases. To fuel your airplanes and take care of your boats. He has a big pile of money he has to make each year. I really can’t predict how much longer he’ll do it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it until he was 65.
PAUL: I’m sure you get tired of answering this, but do you ever think you would play bunch of tour dates with Jimmy again?
FINGERS: That’s a good question, man. I think that’s why he’s thinking about me. He knows that the road is whippin’ my ass. He came up to me on stage in Cincinnati and said, ‘Man you don’t have to keep doing this the rest of your life.” I would certainly do it. I’m still a road dog, I can go out there and play all night if I have to. I might hurt a lot more after the gig, but I can still do it. But he’s got a cool little band right now. Do you know who Sonny Landreth is?
PAUL: Oh, yeah.
FINGERS: He’s got Sonny Landreth on slide guitar. He’s got this little guy from Hawaii and I don’t know his name. Jake…
PAUL: Jake Shimabukuro.
FINGERS: Yeah, yeah! Jake the Snake! And he’s cool man; he plays that ukulele like Hendrix. Dances all over the stage, he’s great energy. He got rid of the dancing girls. He’s got it honed down to a really good tight band. I think he’s having a lot of fun with it. I think he’s glad that a lot of the show biz stuff, all of the dancing girls and the horns and everything, I think he’s glad that they’re gone. I think he really wanted to pair it down, and he’s got a unit that can do it. Everyone on that stage is top-notch. They give him what he wants and they won’t give him any trouble. He doesn’t have any f—in’ losers or drug addicts.
PAUL: I’ve interviewed just about all of the Coral Reefers, and it seems like inevitably they’ll start talking about you. Utley, all of them really… Is there any person in the band that you feel that you are closer to than the others? You feel kind of a kinship.
FINGERS: Yeah, sure. I had several good buddies in the band. Mac McAnally of course is a good friend and I’ve known Mike Utley for many, many, many years. Amy Lee was a good friend of mine too. I miss seein’ her on stage with Jimmy, but she’s still up there in Atlanta somewhere. Still flyin’ out and doing gigs and working Parrot Head stuff. Me and Utley always hung out. Been a lot of good folks come through the band. They were all buddies, friends of mine in one-way or another. You don’t spill out your guts every night, go down the highway, and airplanes and not get close to people when you work with them. In that kind of situation. They were all a real nice bunch of folks. There were a couple of people who came in the band that were pretty crazy. Hell, I was pretty close to them too.
PAUL: Are there any memories from the old days, back in the 1970s or any of the decades really, any memories that stick out in your mind? Not just with the Coral Reefers, but in music, in general or in your life.
FINGERS: You know, I mentioned that James Taylor and his brothers Hughie, Livingston and Alex, who’s now gone. Alex was a good friend of mine, and a blues man. I got to know James in Monserrat, when we were recording. He and I immediately struck up a friendship of craziness. (Laughs). He was still pretty crazy at that point. He’s doing really good now, but we were both nuts. He ended up taking me out with his band. I toured a whole summer with Buffett, and then went right from Buffett’s tour to James’ tour, which was another three months. So I was toast by the time it was over with. Playing with James and the quality of musicians he had, Leland Sklar on bass guitar, Russ Kunkel and Rick Moratta on the drums, Don Grolnik, who unfortunately passed away a few years, back. Great keyboard player, very nice man. He produced a lot of James Taylor’s later records. That was a real treat. I was really working with some serious, serious players. All of them crazy, but I think sometimes the serious ones are the crazy ones.
PAUL: I like asking this question a lot. When you were out on the road with the Reefers, and you weren’t playing music, the down time…what was your favorite thing to do?
PAUL: If it’s suitable for airplay.
FINGERS: Well, I don’t know. I like to go out on a few dates. We used to imbibe a little bit, out there on the road. Have a few rum drinks. We were especially bad in the 1970s. Even other substances were involved back then. It made for a very crazy mix. Somehow we lived through it, and we had a good time…and we never got arrested. (Laughs.) Which could have happened at any point.
PAUL: Is it true that the women like the harmonica players more than the other band members?
FINGERS: I don’t know, man. It all depends. I will say that the tongue is involved in harmonica playing quite a lot. It’s easier to do your little dances, your little tribal dance with just a little harp in my hand. Who knows? I’m getting too old for all of that s—t. Women don’t look at us anymore. Who are those old guys? It’s the young man’s business now. We would actually go do really cool s—t. We played a lot of times in Chicago. I just loved going to Chicago. Going on Michigan Avenue. Going to record stores. Going down by the lake and the whole thing. Frisco was especially cool back in the 1970s. We had a lot of fun in San Francisco, Los Angeles. LA was always fun to me, I liked it. I still do. There was always something to do, man. Not all of it was real good for us. We actually did do a lot of sightseeing. We saw a lot of the world. I got to tour Europe a lot, not with Buffett; he never went to Europe and played. Maybe Paris a couple of times. He never was a European phenomenon. We went to Australia—twice, and that was very cool and New Zealand. You know it was funny; we didn’t sell that many tickets when we were there. He’s really an American phenomenon. I’m sure that’s just fine with him. He’s done quite well for himself, here in the States. We had a lot of fun. We did.
PAUL: You were talking earlier about some of your favorite harmonica players—past and present. Are there any of the young kids out that caught your eye that made you think, this kid’s going to be big?
FINGERS: You know there are several of those little guys, and I don’t know them by name. Kim Wilson, my buddy, does know some of them. In music or any art, there’s always going to be somebody that comes up when you least expect it, and when you think that you’ve seen everything, here comes the guy from Hawaii playing Hendrix on a ukulele. You never know, and that’s one of the fun things about it. There’s always somebody lurking back there that nobody knows about that’s going to be big in the next few years.
PAUL: Out of all of the songs that you’ve written, what’s one that you feel you are the most proud of?
FINGERS: Ohh! I haven’t written very many! I like “Miss You So Badly.” It was a co-written thing with Buffett. I wrote it in the back of a bus, missing my wife back in Nashville in the 1970s. Jimmy sort of helped me figure it out, finish it. I’m real proud of it. “Big Rig,” was a song that was on Havana Daydreamin’ that was kind of one of those things about missin’ home again. I wrote it more like a bluegrass song, a country song. When we did it in the studio with Jimmy for Havana Daydreamin’ it turned into kind of a funky R&B deal. This is the great thing about it, I preferred it more country and there was a great bluegrass band, they were all like professors from Washington DC. They were great bluegrass players. They, on one of their little albums, cut “Big Rig,” and they did it exactly like I had written it originally.
PAUL: What was their name?
FINGERS: The Seldom Scenes. I was real proud of that one, when they cut it. Of course not many people heard it that way. I was happy somebody got it. …But, anyway there’s a lot of great harmonica players that people just don’t know about. Like Junior Wells. There was a guy named Papa George Lightfoot that’s just completely off the wall. He was from Natchez Trace, Mississippi. He’s still one of my heroes. He blew more like a trumpet with his phrasing. And also my good friend, who just passed away. I called him my daddy…he called me his son, Sam Myers. Great harmonica player, he used to play drums with Elmore James in the 1950s. Just an incredible style of harmonica, it was more like a trumpet or a horn, and he taught me how to do that and think in those terms. Anyways, we had Sam for a long time. He finally got sick. Got old and died. All of the blues players in Jackson and the surrounding parts of Mississippi came down for the funeral and we all did our favorite Sam Myers songs and it was a good tribute. Junior Wells, he was a great, great blues harmonica player with his own style. In his later years he played a lot with Buddy Guy. Junior passed a couple of years old. We’re all getting old. I’m next in line, me and my buddies. (Laughs)
PAUL: Somebody told me about this thing called “Fingers Taylor and the Lady Fingers.”
PAUL: Tell me about that, I’m so intrigued.
FINGERS: Well, we were doing a tour; I’m not sure which one it was (Editor’s note: It was Outpost— 1991. ) Jimmy wanted me to open the shows for the tour with an all-female blues band, and call it the Ladyfinger Revue. So, I said “Well, that sounds fine to me. I’m not going to ride on the bus with them.” (Laughs) They’ll gang up on you! But I opened the shows; they were all really good players. Debbie Davies on guitar, Janiva Magnus who’s a real popular blues singer in LA now, has been for years. It was a really good crew of players. They were female, and it was kind of a gimmick, but they held their own in any arena, especially playing blues.
PAUL: Were there any live recordings that surived? No?
FINGERS: I don’t know. There’s got to be. There was a lot of film taken, in the last couple decades. I’m sure they’ve got some Ladyfingers bootlegs somewhere.
PAUL: So what do you look for in a woman?
FINGERS: (Laughs) In a woman? Money. (Laughs). No man, I don’t know. I like down-home girls. I like southern girls by and large. That’s what I like about the south. That old song. In my older age, I have grown attracted to older women. I didn’t think I ever would because I was always going for the young girls, when I was a younger man. Loved each and every one that I spent time with, lived with, married and whatever. Now days I see the old gals, and you know what, I’m an old guy. I need to stay with my own kind. I’ve got a couple of real good ones that take care of me wherever I’m at.
PAUL: When you’re not playing blues, and we’ve talked so much about the music side of you…I know you were journalism major. Tell me about some of the other things you do when you’re not playing music.
FINGERS: Things that I do for hobbies, you mean? I have a gigantic CD and record collection and I love to make compilations for my friends. That’s kind of what I like to do. I don’t do it for money or anything; I just do it to turn people onto music. That’s all I ever wanted to do in the first place, I think. If I could be a DJ for the rest of my life, I think I’d be more than happy. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get one of them Sirius radio gigs.
PAUL: I’ll tell you, I love being a disc jockey. It’s so much fun.
FINGERS: Yeah I know, I do too. I’m sure you like turning people onto stuff they haven’t heard and you think they might like it, and if they don’t at least they heard it.
PAUL: They’re wrong.
FINGERS: You’re wrong you mother-f—er!
PAUL: This is going to go out all over the world, so my question for you Mr. Greg “Fingers” Taylor, the Harpoon Man, the man with the movement below the belt. The man who can…what would you, Fingers Taylor like to say to the world?
FINGERS: Y’all quit feudin’ and fightin’. Get rid of your bombs. Try and figure it out. Trim back on them religions a little bit and we won’t have so much trouble.
PAUL: Well, Fingers, thank you very much.
FINGERS: Thank you man. I appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure. Indeed.