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Six-Fingered Bluesman Hound Dog Taylor     

Theodore Roosevelt "Hound Dog" Taylor was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1915 (some sources say 1917). He originally played piano, but began playing guitar when he was 20 and moved to Chicago in 1942.

He became a full-time musician around 1957 but remained unknown outside of the Chicago area, where he played small clubs in the black neighborhoods and also at the open-air Maxwell Street Market.

He was known for his electrified slide guitar playing, his cheap Japanese guitars, and his raucous boogie beats. He was also famed among guitar players for having six fingers on his left hand.

After hearing Taylor with his band, the HouseRockers (consisting of Brewer Phillips, second guitar, and Ted Harvey, drums) in 1970 at Florence's Lounge on Chicago's South Side, an idealistic young white man named Bruce Iglauer attempted unsuccessfully to get him signed by his employer, Delmark Records. Iglauer then decided to form a small record label with a $2500 inheritance and recorded Taylor's debut album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, on his fledgling Alligator Records in 1971. It was the first release on Alligator records, now a major blues label. It was recorded live in studio in just two nights.

Iglauer began managing and booking the band, which toured nationwide and performed with stars like Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton. The band became particularly popular in the Boston area, where Hound Dog inspired a young protege named George Thorogood.

Their second release, Natural Boogie, was recorded in late 1973, and led to greater acclaim and touring. In 1975, Taylor and his band toured Australia and New Zealand with Freddie King and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. His third Alligator album, Beware of the Dog, was recorded live in 1974 but was only released after his death. More posthumous releases occurred as well, including Genuine Houserocking Music and Release The Hound, on the Alligator label as well as some bootleg live recordings.

Hound Dog Taylor was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.

Hound Dog Taylor is best known for his raw vocal style and searing slide guitar, using a cheap Teisco guitar and Sears Roebuck amplifier to great advantage. He was not a smooth virtuoso on either of his instruments (guitar or vocals), and was known to say, "When I die, they'll say, 'He couldn't play s**t, but he sure made it sound good!'" The HouseRockers were also unique in the fact that they had no bass player; rather, Taylor and Phillips would take turns playing the rhythm/bass line while the other soloed. Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers have been called "The Ramones of the blues".

Freddie King admitted when interviewed that his classic, "Hideaway", later covered by Eric Clapton, was inspired by an unnamed Hound Dog Taylor instrumental he had heard Taylor perform at the south side Chicago club Mel's Hideaway in the late 1950s. Stevie Ray Vaughan also covered Taylor's best known song, "Give Me Back My Wig", both in concert and in studio.

Hound Dog Taylor died of cancer in 1975 and was buried in Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

Hound Dog Taylor sported a small sixth finger on each hand (polydactyly), but amputated the extra digit from his right hand with a razor blade while drunk.

George Thorogood dedicates "The Sky Is Crying" to "the memory of the late great Hound Dog Taylor" on his Live album.

With a name whose inspiration is obviously taken from Hound Dog Taylor, Swedish band Hot Dog Taylor, play similar if updated style of 'juke-joint' blues.

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