February 26, 2001 Billy Taylor Kicks Off His 80th Birthday Celebration by Donating His Archives to the Library of Congress
Collection Is the Largest of the Library's Jazz Holdings
Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Performing Arts Reading Room (202) 707-5507
The Library of Congress Music Division has become a renowned repository for American jazz collections in recent years, including the archives of such notable artists as Duke Ellington (the Valburn/Ellington Collection), Charles Mingus, Louis Bellson, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Mulligan, Charley Barnett, Supersax, and now versatile jazz pianist, composer, arranger, author, educator, and television personality Dr. Billy Taylor.
Dr. Billy Taylor celebrates his 80th birthday this year and his 57th year as a performing musician. To mark the occasion, he has donated to the Library of Congress his collected archives of original music manuscripts and printed music written by himself (he has composed more than 300 songs) and others; correspondence, both business and general; awards and certificates of honors; news clippings and articles; radio and television scripts; sound and video recordings; and photographs and other memorabilia. Dr. Taylor has written 12 books on music and music theory during his fruitful career, and the manuscripts of these as well as the manuscript of his doctoral dissertation are also part of the collection.
Born in Greenville, N.C., William E. "Billy" Taylor began his music career at the age of 7 in Washington, D.C. In 1944, shortly after graduating from Virginia State College, he made his way to New York, where he played piano with tenor saxophonist Ben Webster's quartet at the Three Deuces. During the 1940s and '50s, he also performed with many of the jazz greats of that era, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Stuff Smith, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and many others.
In the 1960s, in addition to his nightclub dates and concert appearances, Billy Taylor became a popular disc jockey on one of New York's only black-owned radio stations, Harlem's WLIB, where a few years later he became the station's general manager.
In an effort to deliver jazz to inner city youth in New York, he and a fellow board member of the Harlem Cultural Council proposed the creation of Jazzmobile, a float borrowed from a beer company that served as a platform for free summer concerts on the streets of New York. It featured be-bop jazz by the major artists of the day and brought live jazz to New York's young people. The idea of delivering jazz directly to inner city youth soon spread to other cities across the United States, and then around the world. Billy Taylor has served as Jazzmobile's president and leading spokesman since its beginnings in 1965.
In 1969, Billy Taylor became the first black music director of a major television series, "The David Frost Show." The show was the first in a string of associations for Billy Taylor in television. He later served as music director for Tony Brown's "Black Journal Tonight," and his original music was heard on segments of the PBS series "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company," as well as on countless television and radio commercials. In the early 1980s, he became art correspondent on the "CBS Sunday Morning Show" with Charles Kuralt.
In 1994, Dr. Taylor was appointed to the position of artistic adviser on jazz for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where his knowledge, expertise and influence are in demand. In 1997, Dr. Taylor was responsible for the launching of the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, where free jazz concerts are often featured.
The Billy Taylor Collection is the largest in volume and broadest in scope of the Music Division's jazz collections. It will be a rich resource for researchers in the Performing Arts Reading Room, where it will be available once it is fully processed.