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Taylor - The soul survivor

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NOT FADE AWAY: Mick Taylor (second from left) with the Rolling Stones in 1969

NOT FADE AWAY: Mick Taylor (second from left) with the Rolling Stones in 1969

NOT FADE AWAY: Mick Taylor (second from left) with the Rolling Stones in 1969

HE is the other Mick of the Rolling Stones. Perhaps one of the most influential guitarists of the late Sixties English blues-rock world, Mick Taylor, born January 17, 1949, in Welwyn Garden City, England, started playing guitar at the age of nine.

As a callow teen, he stood in for deity Eric Clapton one night on stage and would later join John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers from 1966 to '69 -- replacing a certain Peter Green. Then, ironically, he effectively ruined his life and his career, when in 1969, he joined The Rolling Stones after Brian Jones died.

Taylor played with them on the band's best albums, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, and is credited with being the creative energy that brought the band to a high that they have never reached subsequently. On the omnipotent Exile album, he co-wrote Ventilator Blues and made songs like All Down The Line and Soul Survivor fly.

He had so much promise. Cyril Connolly said that the enemy of promise was the pram in the hall. For Mick Taylor, it was drugs and the biggest band in the world. He infamously left the Stones in 1974 to save his soul. "People are always asking me whether I regret leaving the Rolling Stones," Mick said a few years ago. "I make no bones about it -- had I remained with the band, I would probably be dead."

Over the years, Mick has played with everyone from Jack Bruce to Bob Dylan and still tours sporadically, but his life has never quite been the same since stepping off the Stones nuclear-powered rollercoaster in the mid-Seventies penniless -- and virtually a junkie.

" My life is so much better now than being a drug-ravaged member of the Stones," he would say years later. "So no, I don't regret leaving."

Taylor will play the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival 2012 in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal on May 31 to June 3, with his band. Others appearing include Dr Feelgood, Horslips and Brian Robertson.

"By the time I was about 15, 16 years old," he said last year, "I was very much heavily influenced by blues music. I used to listen to the same kind of rootsy American black rhythm-and-blues music that the Stones used to listen to. For example, Chuck Berry. But I used to concentrate more on the guitar players, like B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Buddy Guy."

When Taylor was 16, as legend has it, guitar god Eric Clapton didn't show up for a gig in London, but his Les Paul guitar was there. So young Mick just went backstage and asked John Mayall if he could do the second part of the show with him. "I know all the songs on your Beano album, so I'm sure it will sound better with a guitar player than without one," he told Mayall, who was impressed by the young kid's gusto.

Taylor recalls that he didn't get the call to replace Eric Clapton, Peter Green did. "But when Peter Green left John Mayall, that was when John Mayall got in touch with me and asked me if I'd like to join the band."

In 1969, Mayall, who decided to break up that particular line-up of the Bluesbreakers, gave Mick Taylor's number to Mick Jagger.

Taylor, who was younger than the rest of the band, played a few overdubs on Let It Bleed. "There was one track that we did live at Olympic Studios, which I remember very well, and it was called Live With Me," he recalled recently. "And that was kind of the start of that particular era for the Stones, where Keith and I traded licks."

Naturally, Jagger asked him to join the band. Of the 1971 album Sticky Fingers, Jagger said: "We made [tracks] with just Mick Taylor, which are very good and everyone loves, where Keith wasn't there for whatever reasons."

There is some talk that with the Stones due to reform in 2013 for a farewell tour that Mick -- and Bill Wyman -- will be asked to play on it. "It would be nice if they did," Taylor said recently. "I just know that when I play with them, all the stuff that I used to do in the past -- even now -- it's just such an instinctive thing for me and I fit into that role quite easily. I mean, you know, there's not too many people like Mick Jagger as a frontman, so I don't get a chance to play that type of rock and roll very often. I really enjoy it, because it's a different aspect of my playing. It brings out a different side to my playing."

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