In 2010, a mutual friend hipped me to the ethereal vocals of KC jazz legend Myra Taylor. After a bit of digging, I was able to turn up some obscure recordings of Myra from the thirties and forties which eventually led to the inclusion of Myras Spider And The Fly and Quit Barking In My Rhubarb on two different Coal Train Railroad projects. My friend Katy Bowser and myself also conducted nearly an hour long interview with Myra, excerpts of which were featured on a CTRR podcast. It was during that interview that I realized the extent of Myras importance not only to jazz history, but also as a pioneer for women in the music industry.
Whilst in KC with Emmylou Harris in 2011 to play the Lilith Fair, I actually got to spend a day with Myra having lunch in the old Vine district, touring the American Jazz Museum and Negro Baseball League Museum, and then hosting her as my guest for our Lilith Fair performance that evening (she even got to talk baseball with Emmylou herself):
Undeterred by her wheelchair, direct sun, and the 90+ degree heat, Myra insisted on staying at the Lilith Fair from mid-afternoon until Sarah McLachlans set ended at almost midnight. When I found her after the show in the dim glow of the amphitheaters exit lights, she looked at me with huge tears in her eyes and said I will never, never forget this day for the rest of my life. I realized then how the concert must have closed a circle for Myra, who faced not only the normal challenges of surviving as an artist but did so as a woman of color in a segregated America, and was completely awe-struck.
Myra passed away in December 2011 at the age of 94.
Just today, a Kickstarter campaign has launched to raise funds for the first phase of All For A Song, a new theatrical production honoring the life and legacy of Mama Myra Taylor. I encourage you to consider supporting this project on behalf of a remarkable woman that I am truly honored to call a friend. Miss you, Mama!!