Blue Highway’s Wayne Taylor started playing guitar when he was 13. Due to some health problems he spent a couple years in a wheelchair.
Taylor had a cousin who played and he showed him a couple chords and he took it from there. After recovering from the health problems Taylor played in some garage bands. “Rock, country that kind of thing,” he relates. In his late teens was when he heard the original Seldom Scene and that got him hooked onto bluegrass music. In his early 20s Taylor was in a Gospel music group called the Christian Heirs.
After that Taylor started learning to play a little mandolin. “I was never a good mandolin player,” he confesses, “but every band I was in needed a bass player. He had learned to play some bass along the way so, consequently, that is what Taylor ended up doing. His first band was a group called the Black Diamond Edition. The next one was the Richlands Bluegrass Boys, then the Bluegrass Kinsmen before he joined the Tim Laughlin Band.
That’s when Blue Highway came into existence.
What would you like to drink, Wayne?
Do you want anything to eat as well?
“A blueberry muffin would be great.”
What’s your favorite food?
“Good home cooking. I am a meat and potatoes man.”
And what would you have to drink with that?
“Unsweetened ice tea. Got to watch those calories.”
What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had?
“Hard to say. Maybe wiener schnitzel in Lenz Austria. Great!!”
Let’s talk bluegrass….. Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music?
“Grew up listening to the first generation stuff as a kid. My dad was a big Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs fan. I didn’t get totally immersed in the music until I heard the original Seldom Scene. Was unlike anything I had ever heard called Blue Grass. I was hooked.”
Which of your own songs do you have a particular liking for?
“Probably Lonesome Pine. That was one of the very first if not the first song I attempted to write and has gone on to be somewhat of a bluegrass standard.”
What about a song written by someone else?
That’s a hard one. So many great songs out there. I guess any song that inspires me to want to write. Too numerous to mention.
Which particular album do you like best and why?
“May sound corny but the next Blue Highway album. I think we tend to want our next record to be the best we have ever done and continue to strive to make that happen.”
What’s your favourite bluegrass project of all time and why?
“The Seldom Scene Old Train record is one that never gets old to me. I can listen to that record and remind myself why I wanted to be a part of this music.”
You play an upright bass …. …
“I record with an acoustic upright and play and electric upright on the road.”
What model is it?
“My acoustic bass is a 1940 M1 Kay. My road bass is a Clevinger Bassic.”
Of all the instruments that you have owned what’s your favorite Instrument?
“I have a Blueridge dreadnaught that my mother in law and father in law bought me for Christmas the year before she passed away. That is the guitar I write with because of the sentimental meaning it has to me.”
What’s your favorite bluegrass memory?
“So many. This is probably not just a Blue Grass memory but music memory in general and that was the first time I stepped on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Needless to say I will never forget that.”
How do you keep fit and healthy when you spend so much time on the road?
“Try and watch what I eat. That can be a real challenge. Walk as much as possible.”
Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow?
“Somewhat. I am a Peyton Manning fan so I follow the Denver Broncos. Bit of a NASCAR fan, no particular driver. I have a friend who works for Hendrick Motor Sports so I do keep up with Jeff Gordon. That’s the car my friend Jay Smith works on.”
What hobbies do you have?
“Love to tour Civil War battle fields. Have been to several with lots more I want to see.
I actually have some Civil War relics including some mini balls both USA and CSA that I have been given over the years along with arrow heads and other native American relics.”
What is the last movie film that you watched?
“The latest Hobbit movie. My wife is a big Tolken fan so we try and see all those films.”
What is your favorite film and why?
“Probably Sling Blade for reasons maybe only true fans of that movie can understand. I truly believe it is a masterpiece.”
Do you get much time to watch TV?
“Way too much!!!! Ask anyone who knows me.”
What’s your favorite show?
“Well I love watching the History Chanel. Discovery… those type things. Probably my favorite like major network show is The Big Bang Theory.
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music?
“Well there is a good chance I would be gone from this world. I was a truck driver for 18 years before getting into music, and I firmly believe had I not gotten out of that it would have killed me. But if I were still around I would probably still be driving truck. I can say this with true conviction, I feel music probably saved my life. That may be a strong statement to end the interview on but that is truly how I feel.”
Blue Highway was formed in 1994, with Taylor a prime lead vocalist and a very gifted songwriter.
Taylor’s songs are consistently among the most requested at the band’s live shows: Keen Mountain Prison, Don’t Come Out of the Hole, Lonesome Pine, Riding the Danville Pike, Before the Cold Winds Blow, Seven Sundays in a Row and Homeless Man are perennial audience requests.
The band has released a dozen albums, the first of which, It’s a Long, Long Road, won the IBMA’s Album of the Year Award in 1996.
Blue Highway has gone from strength to strength since then and two later album have received Grammy nominations.
After 20 years, Blue Highway is indisputably one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass and Taylor is a very important piece in the Blue Highway line-up.
He has a solo album, It’s About Time, released in 2012.
Wayne Taylor lives in Bristol, Virginia.